Basic Education Assessments

The National Basic Education Assessment System (SAEB) was created in the early 90's, aiming to assess the quality of instruction delivered by the Brazilian basic education system. The assessment has been administered every two years since 1995. The analysis of the data provided by SAEB's surveys allows following the students' development and the evolution of the various factors that affect quality and effectiveness of the school's educational work level, helping to define actions to correct the problems identified, and to improve practices and outcomes of the Brazilian Educational System. This information is used by educational administrators, researchers and teachers.

ANEB and Prova Brasil

In 2005, SAEB began to include two kinds of assessment: ANEB, which is a sample-based assessment keeping trends from the former SAEB, and Prova Brasil, a population-based assessment of public schools.

The former SAEB and present ANEB sample includes:

  • pupils in 5th grade of primary education, that is to say the last year of study with a single classroom teacher;
  • students in 9th grade of lower secondary school, which was for a long time the last year of compulsory education;
  • students in the 3rd year of upper secondary school, the last year of basic education.

When, in 2005, the initiative moved on to assess all schools, rather than a sample, Prova Brasil was instated in grades 5 and 9 of all public schools, to provide additional information about learning achievement.

Both ANEB and Prova Brasil consist of standardized tests and socio-economic questionnaires. The tests cover Portuguese language, with a focus on reading, and Mathematics, with a focus on problem solving. In the socio-economical questionnaire, students provide contextual information about factors associated with their development, such as family background, parents' education levels, and family income. Teachers and school principals are also given questionnaires that gather demographical data, professional profiles of staff, and working conditions.

Although it may seem that the two assessments cover the same ground, ANEB is a sub-sample of Prova Brasil, for the 5th and 9th grade. It means that Prova Brasil excludes the final year of upper secondary schools, as well as private funding schools, aiming exclusively at public schools of primary and lower secondary education (which are called ensino fundamental). Its results are used to compose the Basic Education Development Index (IDEB).


The Basic Education Development Index (IDEB) was created in 2005 to monitor student achievement and progression flows at primary and lower secondary education. IDEB assigns an overall (national) score between zero and 10. In the year 2011 the score was 5.0 and it is expected that, through public policies aimed to enhance quality education, it should reach 6.0 by 2022, the 200th anniversary of Brazil's independence. Data are drawn from the School Census, and from performance averages obtained from SAEB and Prova Brasil. Besides the national score, IDEB also assigns a score to states, municipalities and individual schools.

Provinha Brasil

At the beginning and end of grade 2 of primary school, there is a national test called Provinha Brasil, intended to assess literacy and numeracy skills. This is a test to be administered at state and municipality levels. Schools are expected to use the results to diagnose, at an early stage, basic literacy and numeracy skills of students, enabling pedagogical and executive interventions searching to improve the quality of the teaching-learning process.

Assessment instruments, developed by Inep, are made available to the State and Municipality Boards of Education, which are responsible for their dissemination to schools.

Results are intended to help provide information about literacy and numeracy to teachers and managers of educational systems, but do not provide insights on individual students. Such results allow, among other actions:

  • establishing long term educational goals for the school system;
  • planning continued formation courses for teachers;
  • investing in measures to ensure better learning;
  • developing of immediate actions to correct possible age-grade gaps;
  • improving quality and reducing inequities in education.

The National Assessment of Alphabetization (ANA) was created in 2013 as a part of SAEB. This is a population-based assessment of public school students in the 3rd grade, aiming at evaluating the students' level of achievement in literacy and numeracy and the teaching-learning conditions offered by public schools at the alphabetization cycle.


Inep has developed yet another instrument designed to evaluate secondary education: the National Exam of Upper Secondary Education (ENEM). Unlike SAEB, which seeks to compare different education systems, ENEM was created to assess individuals. The exam is centered on the assessment of achievement in skills and competencies, and focus on a comprehensive and structural concept of human intelligence. It consists of four tests, encompassing the various fields of knowledge around which basic education pedagogical activities are organized in Brazil, plus a composition.

ENEM was created in 1998 as an alternative to higher education entrance examinations. Even though it is voluntary, ENEM was well accepted in Brazilian society from the beginning, a situation that can be explained by its quality as an assessment tool.

Since 2009, the exam is the main access instrument to ascend to higher education in Brazil. Presently, millions of students apply every year for this exam, which not only gives access to superior education, but also to several programs carried out by the Ministry of Education, such as PROUNI, a program of higher education scholarship.

One of the greatest advantages of ENEM is that, unlike the Vestibular (traditional entrance procedure), it demands higher-level thinking skills such as application of concepts, problem solving, and critical analysis.


The National Exam for Certification of Competences of Youngsters and Adults (ENCCEJA) was created to provide a certification on basic competences for youngsters and adults who were not able to attend school at the proper age.

ENCCEJA consists of four tests, one for each major area of knowledge comprised in basic education pedagogical activities: 1) Languages and Codes, 2) Mathematics, 3) Sciences and 4) History and Geography. The exam provides certification in two levels: Ensino Fundamental (lower secondary education) and Ensino Médio (upper secondary education).

Since 2001, ENCCEJA is also available to Brazilians who live abroad, so that they can acquire formal "certificates of completion" for lower and upper secondary education.


The Exam for the Certification of Proficiency in Portuguese (CELPE-BRAS) is administered twice every year for foreigners who want a certificate of proficiency in the Portuguese language spoken in Brazil. It is a requirement for foreign students who wish to apply for a Brazilian higher education institution.

Census of Basic Education School

Conducted in cooperation with State and Municipal Boards of Education, and the participation of all public and private schools in the country, the School Census is an important instrument for promoting quality improvement in education. By answering the Census, the school board assists the Ministry of Education to better understand the educational system, its qualities and shortcomings.

Each year, the School Census collects data that form the basis for the formulation of public policies on national basic education, as well as improving the accountability necessary to the distribution of public resources. Such information (for instance: meals and school transport; books and uniforms; deploying libraries; installation of electricity; Dinheiro Direto na Escola [Direct Funding for Schools] and FUNDEB; number of teachers and teaching positions). The data are also used by other ministries such as the Health Ministry, the Sports and Social Development Ministry, as well as by international organizations, such as UNESCO and UNICEF, and, finally, by researchers and students from all over Brazil and the world.

The Census questionnaires are filled online, through the Educacenso system. It includes individualized data on each student, on each teacher who is in classroom and on each class of every school. This information is paramount to achieve a real map of the Brazilian education.

Last updated: 2 February 2015