As in other areas of social life, education in Brazil is marked by great inequalities, with a highly developed university system at one extreme and widespread illiteracy at the other. Despite considerable progress in coverage, serious problems of quality remain. In 1995 the federal government was spending almost twice as much on the universities as on basic education, which is the primary responsibility of states and municipalities. Local governments often paid teachers wages that were well below the legal minimum.
In 1990 there were 37.6 million students, as compared with 10 million in 1964. Of the 1990 total, 3.9 million students were in preschool, 29.4 million in elementary school, 3.7 million in secondary school, and 1.7 million in university. Despite this progress, less than 40 percent of the high school-age population was enrolled in school.
Because of the economic and social changes that have occurred in Brazil in recent decades, parents now place high value on education for their children. Availability of schools has become an important factor in deciding where to live and how to make a living, even in how many children to have.
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