Comparative Analysis: Brazil and Mexico

Brazil and Mexico are two emerging economic powerhouses. When NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) was first signed, Mexico’s aspirations for joining the elite group of rich nations received a major boost, but soon economic and social challenges proved too much for a speedy race to the top (Hernández, Fregoso & García, 2013). In the case of Brazil, a somewhat similar yet more recent event also likely helped trigger economic development: the founding of MERCOSUR, a free trade zone encompassing Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay. This new free trade zone was a reflection of a new economic outlook in the region, and allowed for economic growth and greater investments in education (Nora, Luis & Eduardo, n.d.).

This paper summarizes the findings of a comparative analysis between Brazil and Mexico, using as its basis OECD’s PISA Country Profiles database and UNESCO’s EFA Global monitoring report (2012).


Some background reading was necessary in order to compare Mexico and Brazil. Two chapters from Phillips and Schweisfurth (2007) provided crucial information on research and comparison between countries. Several journal articles contributed essential knowledge of both countries’ political, economic, social and educational realities. The most helpful articles for this comparison were Hernández, Fregoso and García (2013), Krawczyk and Vieira (2006), McConnell-Farmer, Cook and Farmer (2012), and Nora, Luis and Eduardo (n.d).

Following the background reading, UNESCO’s EFA Global monitoring report (2012) was searched for recent data relating to Brazil and/or Mexico. A wealth of information was gathered. With this data in hand, a comparative analysis was executed using OECD’s PISA Country Profiles website. With the United States chosen as a host country, Brazil and Mexico were selected as comparison countries. The cycle of 2006 was utilized with the “Reading” domain and “Proficiency Levels” indicator also selected. All optional boxes were checked. Once the analysis was completed, two files were exported containing the data on a spreadsheet and a graphic for easier visualization.


The comparative analysis results for Brazil and Mexico’s reading proficiency levels on OECD’s PISA Country Profiles are summarized in Table 1:

Table 1

Brazil and Mexico Reading Proficiency Levels


Proficiency                              Brazil                          Mexico

Below Level 1                         27.84                           20.98

Level 1                                    27.66                           26.03

Level 2                                    24.26                           28.88

Level 3                                    13.36                           18.24

Level 4                                    4.75                             5.31

Level 5                                    1.13                             0.56


Much useful information was collected from UNESCO’s EFA Global monitoring report (2012), and the pertinent data are summarized below:

Stunting decreased drastically in both Mexico and Brazil, with Brazil showing the lowest level (p. 41). Mexico had greater success than Brazil in fighting malnutrition in recent years, but it still shows a higher level than the latter (p. 44).

The ECC Index for Mexico is .901 and for Brazil 0.832 (p. 46).

Pre-primary education’s positive impact in Brazil was almost the equivalent to a whole year of schooling (p. 48).

Mexico’s students outscore Brazil’s students in Mathematics, but the disparity between rich and poor girls, and rich and poor boys is nearly identical (p.127). Disadvantaged Math students in both countries are improving, but Mexico’s are improving the fastest (p. 128).

Brazil has a smaller population than Mexico aged 0 to 14 years old, but about the same in the range between 15 and 24 years old (p. 178). Both Mexico and Brazil have nearly identical proportions of informal employment statistics (p. 261). Mexican students with primary education work at non-farm jobs in greater numbers than in Brazil (p. 283).


These data collected from both the OECD and UNESCO show how similar Mexico and Brazil really are, despite the great geographical distance, cultural heritage and language barrier. They seem to face the same problems and challenges, and have achieved somewhat similar results in their efforts to overcome those challenges. The population difference (UNESCO, 2012, p. 317) between the two countries – Mexico with a population of 116 million and Brazil with 198 million inhabitants – would seem to offer Mexico the best odds at achieving better EFA results quickly, but Brazil has surprised in the last twenty years by modernizing its economy and investing in education at a greater rate of increase than Mexico (UNESCO, 2012, p. 381), although the per student expenditure in Brazil is still lower than Mexico’s.

The greatest difference in reading proficiency between the two countries occurs in the Below Level 1, followed by Level 3. In both cases, Mexico’s proficiency rate is higher than Brazil’s, but the situation is reversed with Level 5. One possible explanation could be the high number of out of school adolescents in Mexico (UNESCO, 2012, p. 366).


A more thorough analysis including economic policy, history and political climate would certainly assist us in reaching more solid conclusions. Nevertheless, we can state that despite their clear differences, Mexico and Brazil are very similar in the educational and societal challenges they face, as well as the results they have achieved in the last 15 years as both countries attempted to modernize their economies and bridge the educational gaps existing in each. Both nations understand the vital role the state has to play, and that if played well, the path is not that long to becoming a rich nation with a well-educated population (UNESCO, 2012, p. 18).



Beatriz Navarro Cerda, A., & Moctezuma Hernández, P. (2012). Política de internationalización en instituciones de educación superior en México. (Spanish). Global Conference On Business & Finance Proceedings, 7(2), 778-783.

Cacciamali, M., & Tatei, F. (2013). Género y salarios de la fuerza de trabajo calificada en Brasil y México. (Spanish). Problemas Del Desarrollo. Revista Latinoamericana De Economía, 44(172), 53-79.

de Jesús Ramírez Domínguez, M., Morales García, S., & H. Morales Vázquez, B. (2012). Diagnóstico de la educación continua en las instituciones de educación superior de México. (Spanish). Global Conference On Business & Finance Proceedings, 7(2), 1138-1148.

Hernández, J., Fregoso, J., & García, C. (2013). Impacto de la educación en el crecimiento económico en México, 1990-2008. (Spanish). Revista Internacional Administración & Finanzas (RIAF), 6(1), 75-88.

Irineu de Carvalho, F., & Marcos, C. (n.d). The myth of post-reform income stagnation: Evidence from Brazil and Mexico. Journal Of Development Economics, 97368-386. doi:10.1016/j.jdeveco.2011.06.009

Krawczyk, N., & Vieira, V. (2006). Homogeneidade e heterogeneidade nos sistemas educacionais: Argentina, Brasil, Chile e México. (Portuguese). Cadernos De Pesquisa, 36(129), 673-704.

Mariscal, J., Gutierrez, L., & Junqueira Botelho, A. (2009). Employment and youth inclusion into the labor force via training in information and communication technologies (ICTs): The cases of Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. Information Technologies & International Development, 5(2), 19-30.

McConnell-Farmer, J., Cook, P., & Farmer, M. (2012). Perspectives in early childhood education: Belize, Brazil, Mexico, El Salvador and Peru. Forum On Public Policy Online, 2012(1).

Nora, L., Luis F., & Eduardo, O. (n.d). Declining inequality in Latin America in the 2000s: The cases of Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. World Development, doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2012.09.013

OECD. PISA Country Profiles.

Phillips, D. & Schweisfurth, M. (2007). Comparative and international education: An introduction to theory, method and practice. New York: Continuum Books.

UNESCO. (2012). EFA Global monitoring report. Paris: UNESCO.


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