Research shows why Brazilians drop out of school

Lack of conditions and need for work are the main causes

May 26
– 2:09 pm

(updated at 2:10 pm)

Female students represent 86% of people who are not enrolled in any teaching unit, followed by men with 84%.

Female students represent 86% of people who are not enrolled in any teaching unit, followed by men with 84%.

Photo: iStock

When she left Araioses, in Maranhão, by bus and traveled more than 2 thousand kilometers to Brasília, in 2017, Maria de Fátima Santos, then 18 years old, dreamed of getting into a profession in commerce and going back to her studies. At the age of 15, Maria de Fátima had dropped out of school, in the fifth grade, to help out at home.

She worked in the interior of Maranhão as a day laborer. Books had no space, nor were they a priority in the young woman’s routine. Today, in Brasilia, school is just a distant dream. Currently, almost 25 years old, she lives by collecting objects from the garbage of condominiums to get some money, pay the rent and send at least R$ 50 to her mother, who stayed in Araioses.

From school, Maria de Fátima says she misses math classes. “I liked it and it would help me in my life today.”

Leaving school in full youth is not uncommon in Brazil, as shown by a survey carried out by Sesi/Senai (Social Service of Industry/National Service of Industrial Learning), in partnership with the FSB Research Institute. After age 16, only 15% are in classrooms.

”The data is strong. Only 15% of the population currently studies. Of course, at school age, the number rises to 53%”, said Senai’s general director and Sesi’s superintendent director, Rafael Lucchesi.

Of the people who do not study, 57% said they left the classroom because they could not afford it. The need to work is the main reason (47%) for interrupting studies.

“A very high number of people drop out of school due to lack of interest in school, which often lacks attractive elements for young people, and these numbers have certainly worsened during the pandemic,” said Lucchesi.

The survey showed that only 38% of people over 16 years of age who currently do not study have achieved the schooling they would like.

For 18% of young people aged 16 to 24, the reason for dropping out of school is pregnancy or the birth of a child. School dropout due to pregnancy or the arrival of a child is higher among women (13%), residents of the Northeast (14%) and capitals (14%) – double the national average of 7%.


The survey also reveals that the majority of young people over 16 years of age consider that the majority of those with secondary or higher education consider themselves poorly prepared or unprepared for the job market.

The survey was carried out with a sample of 2,007 citizens aged 16 and over, in the 27 states of the federation. The interviews were conducted between December 8th and 12th last year.

Among the people who answered the survey, 23% said that literacy should be a priority for the government, followed by the institution of daycare centers (16%) and the emphasis on secondary education (15%).

Public education is seen as good or excellent by 30% of the population, a rate that rises to 50% when talking about private education.

Among the factors to increase quality, the most cited are the increase in teachers’ salaries, more training for teachers and better conditions in schools.


At least 23% of the people surveyed evaluated public education as bad or terrible and only 30% considered it excellent or good. Private education is evaluated as good or excellent by 50% of respondents.

For Rafael, Lucchesi, the research brings a hard reflection on the need to increase the quality of education and also the attractiveness of the school and, “as a general result, to improve the productivity of people in society”.

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