The name Brasilia conjures up images of 1970’s architecture (think Oscar Niemeyer and Le Corbusier’s student, Lúcio Costa) surrounded by jungle. Urbanisation, rather than nature is winning here, the population continues to expand but international schools are still very thin on the ground.
Growth has come to this experimental city from the administrative, financial, legal and communications sectors, with industry mainly confined to businesses, such as publishing, printing and computer software, all of which attract external executives. Diplomats from around the globe are also posted here as this is the centre of government in Brazil and an Embassy Sector was on the original design plan for the city, along with a Banking and Hotel Sector.
Designed in the shape of a monumental aeroplane or gigantic bird, partly in tribute to Le Corbusier but perhaps also as a symbol of Brazil’s desire to fly swiftly into the modern world. This image is reinforced by the Presidential Palace, that bears a distinct resemblance to an airport terminal. The original intention was to create neighbourhoods that would integrate different social classes and avoid the favelas of other Brazilian cities but, in reality, satellite cities have been built beyond the original plan to house the (mainly working class) immigrants.
Expats arriving here almost all live around the lakes and families tend to choose the South (Lago Sul) rather than the North (Lago Norte) Lake. If you have school age children, it’s an attractive option, as one of the big pluses of Lago Sul is that all the international schools are a hop and a skip or at least a short (less than 15 minutes) drive away. There are constant rumours that a bridge is about to be built across the lake to make Lago Norte more accessible but don’t bank on it when paying the deposit, no signs of construction yet.
Amongst the international schools, the American School of Brasilia has no rivals when it comes to pioneering credentials as it was up and running as the first foundations of the city were laid. The French were next out of the blocks in 1973 with the French Lycée Francois Mitterand followed by the School of Nations (an English/Portuguese school) and Brasilia International School, where two thirds of the students are local. Since the Millenium, SIS Swiss International School Brasilia (one of two SIS schools in Brazil, teaching in English and Portuguese), arrived in 2011 and, surprisingly, the normally enterprising British were slowest away, only opening the primary, British School of Brasilia, in 2016.
Only one of the above, the American School, provides the option of the International Baccalaureate Diploma, along with American or Brazilian qualifications but two others (Brasilia International and the School of Nations) offer the American High School Diploma and the French Lycée Francois Mitterand teaches a full French curriculum up to the French Baccalaureate. The junior British School follows an adapted National Curriculum for England.
There is one more player on the international stage, the Maple Bear Global Schools, with the franchise now operating 120 schools in Brazil plus another 300 in 19 other countries. The brand is Canadian and concentrates on a bilingual education, teaching local curricula in addition to the Canadian programme. As yet, we have not had any feedback from parents with children at these schools, so are unable to include them on our list, also, they are primarily aimed at educating local children.
For more information on these schools, please go to each school’s individual entry on the GSGI database or The GSGI article 'Best schools in Brasilia considered by expats'.
When it comes to international schools, the choice may not be as wildly exciting or exotic as the Amazon jungle but apart from the new British primary, they are all externally accredited by the recognised independent American body, Cognia or the French Ministry of Education, which is a positive signpost.