Students learn print script starting from the last year of preschool through mid-second grade. This is followed by a vertical cursive style, which was imported from Latin European countries.
The responsibility for organising and overseeing the Brazilian educational system is shared between different levels of government: the federal government, states, including the Federal District, and municipalities. Its governance is based on the Federal Constitution of 1988 and the Lei de Diretrizes e Bases da Educação Nacional (LDB), or Law of Guidelines and Bases of National Education.
The basic education system consists of three levels: early childhood education (4 to 5 years of age), elementary school (6 to 14 years of age), and high school (15 to 17 years of age). The federal government plays a vital role in education by providing technical and financial support to the States, the Federal District, and the Municipalities.
Early childhood and elementary education are mandatory, and offered for no cost in public schools. Public schools can be municipal (early childhood and elementary), state (elementary and secondary), or federal (secondary and vocational). Private schools are usually religious or philanthropic.
The Base Nacional Comum Curricular (BNCC), or National Common Curricular Base, establishes the curricula and the pedagogical approaches for all public and private schools from kindergarten to high school, but it does not provide any specific models for the teaching of handwriting.
The print script model, known locally as letra de imprensa or letra bastão, is typically taught to students from late preschool through mid-second grade. The most commonly used fonts for this model are grotesque sans serifs like Helvetica and Arial. From second or third grade onwards, students begin to learn cursive writing, known as escrita cursiva vertical, or vertical cursive writing. They are expected to be able to write in cursive by the end of third grade. The main typographic reference for teaching cursive writing in Brazil is Kindergarten or Bê-a-Bá, which was designed by Tony de Marco in 1996.
The quality and pace of handwriting teaching in Brazil can vary considerably according to the type of school, especially in early education. Private schools sometimes make swifter progress.
Tradition of escrita cursiva vertical
Vertical cursive models first appeared in the 19th century in England and the USA as simplified forms of their predecessors, Roundhand and Spencerian styles, respectively. These models were mainly inspired by northern European movements that worked towards urban sanitation, and eventually widened their sphere of influence to other areas, education being one of them. However, despite avoiding posture and myopia problems, upright cursive writing did not enjoy a long period of popularity in northern European and Anglo-American countries.
The style was, however, widely adopted in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and France, where it is still used. From these countries, it travelled to erstwhile colonies such as Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile, among others. In Brazil, this resulted in the replacement of the then-popular models of handwriting, such as Palmer from the US and commercial roundhand script from England, with the vertical cursive approach. Vertical cursive was seen as an improvement to its predecessors and considered simpler for early handwriting learning.
Sample pages of Cartilha do Povo. Lourenço Filho, M.B., 1954. Cartilha do Povo: para ensinar a ler rapidamente. Edições Melhoramentos, São Paulo.
Structurally, the Brazilian Escrita Cursiva Vertical is a hybrid development. It draws, on the one hand, from the imported style, and on the other, from the formal traditions of Anglo-American models that were full cursives, slanted and with loops. Its letter shapes did not undergo significant changes for many decades, and they still are the most-taught style in elementary schools.
Major textbook publishers such as Ática, FTD, Scipione, Editora Moderna, and Saraiva, as well as textbooks and literacy publications recommended by the country’s national textbook program, Programa Nacional do Livro Didático (PNLD), or National Textbook Program, all use the vertical cursive model. Since there are no prescribed letter shapes for vertical cursive nationally, these publications use a range of typefaces and some forms vary in detail, such as p and f, which can be written with or without lower loops. The most popular textbook font is Kindergarten or Bê-a-Bá, developed in 1996 by Brazilian graphic designer Tony de Marco.