Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will sign into law a bill raising the number of years children must go to school to nine years.
The practical effect of this is that a high school graduate who presently goes to school for eleven years in Brazil, will have gone to school for twelve years.
In order to make the new law work, state and local education officials will have five years to implement it so that in 2010 all Brazilian children will begin school at the age of six.
At the moment, 12 states and 1,000 municipalities, where an estimated 8.1 million children study, are already putting children in school at the age of six.
Lula will also sign into law a scholarship program for elementary and high school teachers who work in public schools.
Despite the progress that has occurred in education in recent years, illiteracy persisted among 10.5% of the Brazilian population aged 10 or more in 2004. This index was 10.6% in 2003.
Among those aged 15 and over, 11.4% were unable to read and write. These data are contained in the National Household Sample Survey 2004 (PNAD-2004), released at the end of last year by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).
The survey also showed that 2.9% of children and adolescents between the ages of 7 and 14 did not attend school last year. In regional terms, the lowest indices of children who did not attend school were in the Southeast (1.9%) and the South (2.2%). The highest indices were in the North (5.1%) and the Northeast (3.9%). In the Center-West, the index stood at 2.8%.
The majority of students aged 5 and over were enrolled in public schools last year (80.9%). At university level, public institutions accounted for only 26.1% of the student population. That is, three out of every four university students attended private institutions.
At the high school level, public schools concentrated 85% of the student population, and in fundamental education, 89%. At the pre-school level the public school system handled 75.7% of the total number of children enrolled in 2004.
Among the population aged 10 or more, the percentage with at least 11 years of schooling (equivalent to having completed high school or more) was 26%. For the IBGE, this finding reflects the higher level of schooling among women, since the percentage of females with at least 11 years of schooling was 27.7%, 3.6% higher than the corresponding figure for males.
Among working women, 40% had at least completed high school, an index 10.8% higher than the corresponding figure for working men.