In "Education: Way Behind but Trying to Catch Up", Claudio de Moura Castro discusses the state of education in Brazil. While Brazilian basic education has been quite poor in the past, steps are being taken to correct this source of embarrassment. There is something extremely perplexing about Brazilian education, and that is its impact on the country's economy. While the country had an illiteracy rate of 31% among its elderly population, Brazil's economy grew in absolute terms more quickly than either Japan or Korea until 1980. After 1980, economic growth began to falter somewhat. It became very apparent that the country would need more educated workers in order to compete on a global scale. .
There have been significant efforts made to increase the literacy rate among children. While there are fewer children who are classically illiterate, there is still a problem with basic education. Children simply do not have the knowledge base that most literate children in other industrialized nations have. The quality of instruction in primary schools is so inadequate that 18.4% of children repeat grades with 44% repeating the first grade. Because so many children have to repeat grades, it takes an average of 11.2 years to complete primary school. Reasons cited for the poor quality of education are the rapid rise in enrollment that exhausted reserves allotted to basic education, and the lack of priority placed on education.
Secondary education has had even less attention due to the fact that there have been so few students graduating from primary schools. In 1994, only 52% of students were enrolled in secondary education. However, there has been an 85% increase in secondary education in enrollment between 1991 and 1998. This is due to the increasing need for a high school education within the job market. 55% of these students have jobs and go to school in the evenings. These rapid increases in enrollment will put more pressure on small budgets and a system with a shortage of teachers.