Literate Brazil Programme (Programa Brasil Alfabetizado, PBA)

Country Profile: Brazil


202,768,562 (2014, IBGE estimation)

Poverty (Population living on less than US$1.25 per day)

6% (2009)

Official language


Youth literacy rate (15 – 24 years, 2015, UIS estimation)

Female: 99.22%
Male: 98.60%
Both sexes: 98.91%

Adult literacy rate (15+ years, 2015, UIS estimation)

Female: 92.90%
Male: 92.24%
Both sexes: 92.58%

Statistical sources

Programme Overview

Programme TitleLiterate Brazil Programme (Programa Brasil Alfabetizado, PBA)
Implementing OrganizationSecretariat for Continuing Education, Literacy and Diversity - SECAD (Secretaria de Educação Continuada, Alfabetização e Diversidade) in partnership with the Secretariats of Education at the state and municipal levels
Language of InstructionPortuguese
FundingMinistry of Education – Federal Government of Brazil
Date of Inceptionsince 2003

Context and Background

As of 2006, about 14 million Brazilian youth, adults and elderly people had little or no reading and writing skills. Coordinated and multiple actions were thus needed to address this serious problem. One such action was to create sustainable learning opportunities for illiterates in order to improve the quality of life for all citizens as well as to achieve the Education For All (EFA) goals. In light of this, the Government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva initiated the Literate Brazil Programme (LBP) in 2003. The programme made youth and adult literacy a priority item on the country’s educational agenda.

Through the LBP initiative, the Federal Government – particularly the Ministry of Education – aimed to induce, sustain and coordinate a national literacy effort which reflects a new concept of public policies, namely the recognition and reaffirmation of the obligation of the State to guarantee education as a universal right. From this democratic perspective, youth and adult literacy became one of the strategic focal points of the national education policy framework which, together with other public policies, was primarily intended to facilitate the inclusion of historically excluded social groups in mainstream society. The LBP’s main strategy was to offer technical and financial support to states, municipalities, institutions of higher education and other social/private organizations so that they could implement youth and adult literacy projects. Most importantly, the Ministry of Education also sought to build on the strengths and achievements of existing literacy initiatives within states by allowing the use of diverse literacy methodologies and practices.

Literate Brazil Programme (Programa Brasil Alfabetizado, PBA)

Literate Brazil Programme (LBP) is a nationally coordinated literacy project whereby the Federal Government provides technical and financial support to public and private agencies in order to enhance their capacity to provide high-quality and effective literacy learning opportunities to youth, adults and elderly people. The LBP primarily targets socially disadvantaged groups such as indigenous populations, fishermen, workers in the fishing industry, small farmers, farm workers, seasonal workers in rural areas, prison inmates, child labourers (as part of the Programme to Eradicate Child Labour), people with disabilities and those involved in the Family Grant Programme.

The LBP operates in 3,699 municipalities, 1,064 of which have been accorded priority status due to the high rates of illiteracy (25% or more) among adults (15 years and above). The Ministry of Education also assist states and municipalities by supplying them with specialised and highly-qualified literacy consultants who provide technical assistance at the local level. A new phase of LBP is now being introduced to consolidate the programme’s conceptual frameworks. The aim is to concretise policy guidelines by integrating new, qualitative elements into the programme implementation.

Aims and Objectives

The primary aim of LBP is to create literacy learning opportunities for all youth and adults who had no access to or who failed to complete basic primary education (i.e. the first 8 years of schooling). The programme objectives are to:

Overall, it is expected that the literacy programme will enhance employment and incoming-generating opportunities for youth and adult learners. It is also designed to improve their access to basic social services such as health and education which, in turn, will improve their standard of life. Most importantly, the programme will enable adults who have come to appreciate the importance of literacy and learning in their daily lives to help their children to access educational opportunities.

Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies

The LBP is a joint venture between the Federal Government, state/local governments, municipalities, universities and private agencies. The Federal Government is primarily responsible for providing technical and financial support, while the other partners focus on implementing the literacy programme in the communities, and providing professional training for literacy programme teachers, course coordinators and LIBRAS translators and interpreters. Partners who implement local programmes also encourage school directors to establish literacy classes that are open to all youth and adult learners. This creates a vital link between the public formal and the non-formal education systems for youth and adults. Furthermore, all participating public universities have come together to create a national Training Network of Youth and Adult Literacy Teachers which, through a contract with the Ministry of Education, provides LBP with specialist technical services, including the design and development of the literacy curriculum. The literacy curriculum often reflects the learners’ specific regional, ethnic and other characteristics. Most consultants work with municipalities with illiteracy rates of 25 % or higher to meet the literacy needs of marginal groups and those living in poverty.

Despite the Federal Government’s central role in coordinating the programme and thus ensuring that it is officially and publicly monitored, implementing organizations and institutions are free to select the teaching/learning approaches, methodologies and materials which best suit the unique needs and circumstances of their particular learners. This has allowed for a diversified approach to the provision of literacy training which has, in turn, enabled the programme to address the equally diverse needs of target groups (prison inmates, people with disabilities, child labourers, etc.).

Funding and Technical Support

The Federal Government provides the majority of funding for programme implementation through the Secretariat for Continuing Education, Literacy and Diversity (SECAD) and the Ministry of Education. In 2009, for example, the budgetary allocation for the programme will be around R$ 311,490,415 (USD 130,330,718), including R$ 223,823,290 (USD 93,649,912) for the payment of grants and R$ 87,667,125 (USD 36,680,805) to support the Education Secretariats at the state and municipal levels. Around 1,300,000 literacy learners will be covered at an annual cost per learner of R$ 239.61 (USD 100). Financial support is provided through:

  1. the “transfer of financial resources” mechanism, which is in addition to regular budget transfers from the Federal Government to decentralised agencies at the state and municipal levels and private organizations who join the programme to develop their literacy activities; and
  2. the payment of grants to volunteers working as literacy facilitators, translators and interpreters of the Brazilian Sign Language (LIBRAS) and as literacy course coordinators. Municipalities and states participate in LBP online through the Literate Brazil System (Sistema Brasil Alfabetizado – SBA). Grants are paid directly to the accounts of the agencies participating in the programme.

The financial resources provided by the Ministry of Education for the implementation of the programme are intended, among other things, to cover the costs of: initial and continuous training and payment for programme professionals; transport; teaching and learning materials; food; and basic literature for literacy centres. In addition, the Ministry of Education assists programme implementers by providing critical technical support through the National Programme of Literacy Textbooks for Youth and Adults (Programa Nacional do Livro Didático para a Alfabetização de Jovens e Adultos – PNLA); the “Seeing Brazil” Programme (Programa Olhar Brasil - POB); the “Literature for All Competition” (Concurso Literatura para Todos - CLPT); and the Training Network of Youth and Adult Literacy Teachers which provides specialist consultants to train literacy teachers/facilitators and evaluate learning outcomes. Since 2008, the PNLA has expanded its technical support to include the provision of literacy textbooks to programme participants. Implementing organizations then select appropriate books from a catalogue of titles that have been analysed and recommended by a team of specialist consultants. The catalogue provides an overview of each of the books listed so that literacy teachers can make informed choices.

Recruitment and Training of Facilitators

LBP is supported by volunteers who work as literacy teachers, course coordinators and Brazilian Sign Language (SINAIS) translators and interpreters. Organizations implementing the programme with technical and financial support from SECAD and the Ministry of Education, are responsible for mobilising, selecting and training volunteers, as well as monitoring their work. Literacy course teachers should, preferably, be basic education teachers from the state, district or municipal public education systems. Course coordinators, on the other hand, should have at least a minimum level of high school education. To further enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the programme, the Ministry of Education has make funds available to train literacy teachers, course coordinators, LIBRAS translators and interpreters throughout the six to eight month-period during which classes are held. Funds have also been provided to remunerate programme professionals; literacy teachers and language translators, for example, receive R$ 250 (USD 100) per month, while course coordinators are paid R$ 500 (USD 200).

Enrolment of Learners

On average, 1.3 million learners enrol in the programme each year. Potential learners are mobilised and sensitised by the Ministry of Education, the mass media (radio and TV) and regional partner organizations. Enrolment is managed by partner organizations using the online Brasil Alfabetizado System (SBA). Concerted efforts are also made not only to ensure that learners remain in the programme, but also that they continue their studies in the longer term. To this end, SECAD and the Ministry of Education maintain close relationships with state and municipal education authorities in order to strengthen their commitment to providing study places for first and second-level courses within the public youth and adult education system. Programme professionals are also made aware of approaches that stimulate learners’ interest in the programme, thus deterring them from dropping out and encouraging them to continue studying. At the same time, the Ministry of Education also ensures the provision of adequate teaching and learning materials, food and transport to literacy centres, in order to strengthen the learning environment and, by extension, motivate learners to persevere with their courses. Cognitive test resources are also made available so that learning outcomes can be assessed and programme standards maintained.

Teaching/Learning Approaches and Methodologies

Literacy classes lasting between six and eight months are attended by groups of 18 and 25 learners under the guidance of trained teachers. Once they have graduated from the literacy classes, learners are referred to the public education system in order to continue their studies. Because the literacy programme provides an alternative and accelerated route back into the formal education system, the methodologies and approaches used are designed to equip learners with the skills they need to succeed at higher learning levels. Although implementing agencies are free to choose their teaching-learning methodologies in accordance with their learners’ specific needs, most LBP approaches include the following key and complementary strategies:

Programme Impact and Challenges

Monitoring and Evaluation

Two main strategies are used to evaluate the results of the Literate Brazil Programme:

In 2005, an LBP Evaluation Plan was designed. An external evaluation was then conducted by the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA) in partnership with the Federal University of Minas Gerais’ Centre for Literacy, Reading and Writing (CEALE), the Scientific Society of the National School of Statistics, the Paulo Montenegro Institute (IPM) and its market research unit, and the National Association of Post-Graduate Centres of Economics (ANPEC), under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The plan was designed to enable each partner to contribute according to its particular field of expertise and thus enhance both the contents and quality of the overall evaluation process. Results are available for the periods 2005/2006 and 2006/2007; however, the results of courses held in 2007/2008 are still in the process of being evaluated.

Impact /Achievements

Since 2003, LBP has provided literacy training services to almost 8 million (7,905,811) young and adult learners. The programme does not use the term “literacy", opting instead to focus on the process of “making people literate” in order to show how learners have benefited from the programmes they have attended. This is mainly to avoid imposing a single, exclusive methodology for the teaching of youth and adult literacy. The “making people literate” concept has, however, been used as a frame of reference to develop cognitive tests – an instrument made available by the Ministry of Education to assess the cognitive abilities of literacy learners enrolled in the programme and shape pedagogical activities in the classroom. The concept emphasises that literacy courses should develop learners’ reading, writing and numeracy skills.

The programme has improved learners’ future prospects, as demonstrated by the real-life success stories of Brazilian citizens whose newly-acquired literacy skills transformed their lives, leading, for example, to improvements in their financial situation, a reduction in domestic violence, and an increased determination to continue their studies. To illustrate the impact that literacy has had on real people, a number of stories have been documented and made available online:

Overall, however, evaluations indicate that there is a need to improve both the selection process for beneficiaries and the quality and effectiveness of existing youth and adult literacy programmes. There continues to be a need to improve teaching/learning methodologies and provide more appropriate didactic materials.


The main challenge is to build and strengthen effective strategies to promote continuing education. Youth and adults should be progressively mobilised to enrol in LBP. Similarly, LBP graduates should be motivated to enrol in post-youth and adult education courses in order to promote and guarantee “lifelong learning” as a genuine and universal right.

Efforts to meet this challenge are ongoing. Continuous evaluation ensures that each new phase of the programme brings with it significant improvements, including: increased provision of learning materials; the deployment of coordinators to oversee literacy courses; improved provisions for initial and continuous training; and partnerships with state and municipal education bodies that enable the programme to be run in locations across Brazil.

Lessons Learned: Innovative Programme Features

The following key lessons have emerged:


The programme stems from a federal law passed in the context of the Multi-year Investment Plan (PPA), and is one of the actions laid down in the Ministry of Education’s Education Development Plan (PDE). Furthermore, the states and municipalities have committed themselves to actions that include setting up a professional team to oversee the programme in each location, providing the infrastructure needed in order for literacy courses to take place, and, in some cases, investing their own resources to fund additional provisions. The programme liaises on a continuous basis with the social and civic organizations active in the field of literacy. Sustainability is further guaranteed through the existence of a National Literacy and Youth and Adult Education Commission (CNAEJA), which reflects plurality in its composition and which acts as a consultative organ of the Ministry with regard to policy and programme-related issues in youth and adult literacy and education. This is complemented by the participation of Forums on Youth and Adult Education in the national debate on policies in this field.



Jorge Luiz Teles da Silva
Diretor de Políticas da Educação de Jovenes e Adultos
Esplanada dos Ministérios
Bloco L – Eduficio Sede – 7° andar
Sala 711, Brasilia – DF – CEP 70047-900
E-mail: jorgeteles (at)