Open Education Brazil – a view from eMundus

Our next post on Open Education from Around the World comes from Brazil. With over 204 million people, Brazil is the 5th most populous country in the world. Its territorial area covers 48% of the total area of South America and it has the 8th largest economy on the planet.

The post is authored by  Vera Queiroz and edited on to the blog by Paul Bacsich.


Vera holds a PhD in Education from USP (University of São Paulo). At present, she is  participating in the E-mundus Project – an international collaborative Project on Open Education, funded by the European Union. Brazil is a partner in the Project. The project’s main objectives are to map the state of art of  MOOCs in higher education and contribute towards the sharing of knowledge, tools and practices of MOOC and VM developed mainly by and in Brazilian universities


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Education in Brazil is controlled by the Federal Government, by means of the Ministry of Education, which defines the rules and demands for the organization of educational programs in the country. The local governments are responsible for establishing and implementing the programs which use the funding supplied by the Federal Government.

The Brazilian tertiary education system is not compulsory. Higher education is offered by private, public universities, colleges, higher institutes and educational technology centers.

To pursue higher education in Brazil, it is mandatory that students have secondary education. In addition, students must also pass a competitive entrance examination (Vestibular) to be able to take the course of their interest in higher education. Similarly to Vestibular, the National Examination of Secondary Education (ENEM) is another type of higher education entrance examination adopted by a number of public universities in the country.

To improve equity and opportunities for tertiary education, the Government of Brazil has launched the ProUni program to help place academically qualified low income students into private education institutions. Also attempting to give underprivileged Brazilian students a chance of getting free higher education and, thus, access to better jobs, a new law was approved in 2012. The so called Lei das Cotas n. 12.711/2012] (a polemic law) guarantees 50% of the places in Brazil´s federal universities and institutes to students coming from public schools, low-income families and who are Afro or indigenous descendent.


Due to Brazil´s territorial extension and the number of people wishing to have access to education, Distance Education was considered a feasible and interesting way of providing education to our population.

In June, 2006, the Open University of Brasil System [] – which is composed of public universities – was created under Decree 5800. Through distance education methodology, it aims at expanding and democratizing access to higher education courses and programs for the population at large and in particular for primary teachers living in areas far from big urban centers. The UAB System supports researches in innovative technological higher education methodology and stimulates collaboration between the Union and its Federate members. It also encourages the creation of centers for permanent training in strategic poles located in the countryside, thus trying to curb the migratory movement towards the big centers by those seeking higher education opportunities.

At present, 88 institutions (among federal and state universities, and federal education, science and technology institutions (IFETs) compose the UAB System. UAB System is the articulator between the higher education institutions and the municipal and state governments in attending to local demands for higher education.

In 2008, Carolina Rossini launched the OER project in Brazil. It was the first attempt to suit the international discussion on OER and on Open Education to Brazilian reality. At present, the REA Brazil Community gathers whoever is interested in discussing about and or reflecting upon OER and Open Education.

Despite the fact that Brazil still has a long way to go in its awareness of the importance of Open Education, several initiatives have popped up and are popping up in the country. To mention a few initiatives from universities, we have, for instance:

Virtual University of the State of São Paulo (UNIVESP) [] is the newest and most innovative public university of the State of São Paulo. Created under Decree No. 53.536 on October 9th, 2008, the program of the Government of São Paulo aims at expanding access to free quality public higher education for the population of the State of São Paulo. To achieve the objective, the program counts on three universities – University of São Paulo (USP), Campinas State University (UNICAMP) and University of the State of São Paulo (UNESP) – and on Technological State Center Paula Souza (CEETEPs). The program receives grants from the Research Aid Foundation from the State of São Paulo (FAPESP), Paulista Administrative Development Foundation (FUNDAP) and Padre Anchieta Foundation (FPA). While the universities are responsible for the academic project itself, UNIVESP guarantees the material; financial and technological conditions for the courses and does the follow up of the students´ development and performance. Associated with face-to-face activities in the learning poles (settled in several regions of the State), the virtual learning environment includes pedagogical materials, articles, videos, forum and chats. Besides the internet, UNIVESP counts on UNIVESP TV – a digital channel from Padre Anchieta Foundation directly linked to UNIVESP courses.

Also aiming at democratizing access to information and knowledge Paulista State University “Júlio de Mesquita Filho” (UNESP Aberta) [] launched the first MOOC initiative in June 2012. The courses with videoclasses, texts, activities, animation, educational software from various areas of knowledge were open, free of charge and available to anyone via Internet. There was no certification, tutoring or evaluation of the activities done along the course.

To contribute to better the quality of education in Brazil and to promote access to many courses from renowned universities (both from Brazil and from abroad), edtech companies came up as a solution.

In June 2013, Veduca [] – an edtech company that provides business to consumer and business to business solutions in education and professional training – in partnership with the University of São Paulo (USP) launched two MOOCs: Basic Physics, and Statistics and Probability.

From then on, other renowned Brazilian universities also started to offer courses at Veduca. Among them, we find Brasília University (UNB), Campinas State University (UNICAMP), Paulista State University (UNESP) and Santa Catarina Federal University (UFSC).

Little by little, more and more universities and institutions are offering their courses and materials for free at the platform. All the content at Veduca is free of charge. However, not all courses hosted at the plataform grant an official certificate. When they do so, student wishing to earn a certificate must pay for it, after proving the competences and knowledge acquired in the course. The certificates are issued by the Brazilian Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC).

In September, 2014, Coursera (a for-profit educational technology company) was launched in Brazil hosting Portuguese language MOOCs from University of São Paulo (USP) and Campinas State University (UNICAMP). Similarly to Veduca, the courses offered by Coursera are free of charge and some give the option to pay a fee to join the “Signature Track”, which allows the students to receive a verified certificate, appropriate for employment purposes.

Video classes are another way used by some Brazilian universities to offer free courses on the Web. An example is outlined below:

E-classes from University of São Paulo (USP) [] are free without tutoring, evaluation and certification. It is not necessary to be USP student to access the e-classes. Depending on the program and subject, there is no knowledge requirement to follow the classes.


In what concerns international cooperation projects on Open Education, among the several that could be mentioned, we will focus on emundus Project, funded by the European Union. Brazil, together with Mexico, Russia, Indonesia, Canada, New Zealand, Belgium, Italy and Holland develop research on Open Education use. The main objectives of the project are to map the state of the art MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in higher education and contribute towards the sharing of knowledge, tools and practices of MOOC and of Virtual Mobility (VM) developed mainly by and in Brazilian universities.

As a result of emundus project in Brazil, a collaborative work was established between two higher Brazilian Education Institutions: the University Center of the Educational Ignatius Foundation “Padre Saboia de Medeiros” (FEI) [] and eMundus partner through the Engineering School of University of São Paulo (POLI/USP) []. FEI developed an open source game engine software for teaching computer programming. This game is based on a previous business game developed in the Production Engineering Department from FEI. The initial results indicated that such approach to teaching computer programming could improve the learning process and motivate students. To learn more about the objectives and initial results of the use of the learning tool, see [].

To read and learn more about Brazilian initiatives on OER and Open Education, see

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See also:

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For an earlier but comprehensive report on OER in Brazil see Open Educational Resources in Brazil: State-of-the-Art, Challenges and Prospects for Development and Innovation by Andreia Inamorato dos Santos –

For background on e-learning in Brazil see

All these reports are linked from the POERUP page on Brazil –

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