International schools on the rise in Rio de Janeiro

Video posted April 26, 2012 in Brazil by Catherine Marvin.


Despite its booming economy, Brazil lacks strong public schools and ranks only 31st in English proficiency. Private schools may be better academically, but for many students in either system, learning English is not a priority. This flaw has caused major communication gaps in the business world. In order to improve global operations, international schools are becoming a popular education choice in Brazil.

Public schools are supposed to offer a foreign language starting in the fifth grade, but the classes are minimal and instructors are often not qualified to teach the language.

Students who attend private schools have the option of learning a foreign language at an earlier age but this takes hard work and often requires after school tutoring. Many parents cannot afford this in addition to private school tuition.

For those who can afford private education, international schools like American schools and British schools, are frequently the choice because classes are taught in English.

Joy Ernanny is Brazilian and attended the American School of Rio de Janeiro. She continued her education at New York University and now works as a television news producer for Globo in Rio de Janeiro. She says her English language skills have been a key ingredient to her to success in the workforce.

According to Global English, a company that specializes in teaching language skills for business, speaking and understanding English is a vital component in the global marketplace. Brazil scored below average on the Business English Index which grades English language fluency on the business level.

A score of 10 indicates a native speaker and 1 indicates no knowledge of the language. Brazil received a grade of 2.95. The average score for the world is 4.15 out of 10. The Philippines and Norway received a 7.0 and 6.54 respectively. These two nations have seen their GDP rise as their English fluency has improved, showing that English is vital in the business world.

José Ricardo Noronha represents Global English in Brazil. He says that it is bad news that the index is so low because as one of the world’s fastest growing economies, English in Brazil should be crucial to business

“Much of Brazil tends to be closed in terms of U.S. culture, which makes it more difficult to learn the language. The challenge for Brazilian companies that want to compete and thrive on a global basis is to enhance their English capabilities,” Noronha says.

In other countries with growing economies there is greater focus on learning English, which benefits the business world. 

In China, English is mandatory beginning at six years of age, and some parents choose to start their children with lessons earlier. Additionally, English is key on many standardized tests.

Oren Perlin is Brazilian and is the director of the Rio Midrash Jewish Cultural Center. He's also a parent. He says he likes the idea of international schools because they teach students foreign languages. He also likes that they put more focus on extracurricular activities and make sure students are well rounded.

People who have attended or worked at Rio's international schools say this educational opportunity gives Brazilian students an advantage over their peers. Exposure to multiple languages and cultures provides students with the opportunity to thrive in an economy that is on the rise to becoming a world super power.