Primary education is free and compulsory for children aged 7 through 14. Adequate facilities are lacking in some areas, however, and the law is difficult to enforce. The government maintains some secondary schools, but the majority are private. Many students enroll in vocational secondary schools to prepare for commercial, industrial, or agricultural jobs. The literacy rate is about 80 per cent.

Brazil has both public and private universities. The Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (founded in 1920) and the University of São Paulo (1934) are the largest.