Brazil’s Secondary School Crisis and Its Victims


  • Maria Helena Guimarães Castro Fundação Sistema Estadual de Análise de Dados, Brazil
  • Haroldo da Gama Torres Fundação Sistema Estadual de Análise de Dados, Brazil
  • Danilo França Centro Brasileiro de Análise e Planejamento, Brazil



Public policies, Secondary education, Student drop out, Vocational and technical education, Educational evaluation


Public secondary schools continue to be uninspiring and often disorganized, unsafe places. This article looks specifically at the issue of Brazil´s secondary school education, which is showing clear signs of stagnation in terms of coverage and quality. Only half of Brazil´s young people aged 15 to 17 attend secondary school and the proportion of students dropping out of school has doubled over the last ten years. Those who neither work nor study account for 24 % of 18 year-olds and 25 % of 20 year-olds. Furthermore, the majority of those who neither study nor work come from households with incomes of under 2 minimum wages. Addressing this issue involves inter alia revising of the curriculum, integrating secondary with vocational education and introducing policies to diversify secondary education.


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Author Biographies

Maria Helena Guimarães Castro, Fundação Sistema Estadual de Análise de Dados, Brazil

Maria Helena Guimarães de Castro is a sociologist and retired professor of political science of the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP). She is also an associate researcher in that university´s Centre for Public Policies (NEPP). Since June 2012, she has been the executive-director of SEADE, an organisation responsible for data production and public policy evaluation within the São Paulo State Government. Since 2009, she has been a member of the São Paulo State Board of Education, the Technical Committee of the NGO Todos pela Educação, the Academic Committee of the Brazilian Association of Educational Evaluation (ABAVE), the Management Boards of Abril Educação and the Instituto Natura. Prior to activity mentioned above, she was state secretary for education (2007- 009), state secretary for science and technology (2006) and state secretary for social development (2003-2005) in the São Paulo State Government. From 1995 to 2001, she was president of the National Institute of Research on Education (INEP) and deputy minister of education (2002) in the Brazilian Federal Government.

Haroldo da Gama Torres, Fundação Sistema Estadual de Análise de Dados, Brazil

Haroldo da Gama Torres is an economist and demographer with particular expertise in social policies. As a specialist in quantitative socioeconomic research, Dr. Torres has provided professional services to over 200 clients on a wide variety of topics, including education, business intelligence, banking, small businesses development, environmental impact evaluation, health, housing and public sanitation. He has published extensively and collaborated with several government agencies, international organizations (IADB, UNDP, ECLAC, UNFPA and the World Bank) and private companies. He is currently director of analysis and dissemination at the Seade Foundation (, a consulting body within the São Paulo State Government.

Danilo França, Centro Brasileiro de Análise e Planejamento, Brazil

Danilo Sales Nascimento FRANÇA holds a master´s degree in sociology awarded by the University of São Paulo and is currently studying for a PhD at the same institution. As a research assistant at CEBRAP, his particular interests include the sociology of race relations, urban education and sociology and housing segregation issues.