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By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – More than 5.3 million students across Brazil spent the past weekend taking the Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio (National High School Exam), better known as the ENEM, the Brazilian equivalent of U.S.’s SATs or U.K.’s A-Levels.

ENEM exam at UERJ, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News
A hopeful candidate exits the ENEM exam at UERJ, on of Rio’s top public (free) universities, photo by Tânia Rêgo/Agência Brasil.

In the last few years the end-of-high school exam has become the main admittance criteria for all Brazilian federally funded universities (which are free tot eh student of they are accepted) and some state and private institutions.

This year approximately 7.7 million people in Brazil had registered for the annual exam, but preliminary figures show around 25 percent did not attend exam centers. Although the percentage of absentees may seem large, according to exam organizers it was the lowest number since 2009.

“We had an excellent exam, despite the extraordinary size of the [ENEM] endeavor,” said former Chief of Staff and now Education Minister, Aloizio Mercadante.

As frequently seen, local media reported dozens of cases of applicants arriving seconds after gates closed and losing their chance of entering a higher education institution in January 2016. The annual two-day exam tested the candidates’ knowledge of the sciences, math, social sciences, Portuguese and a foreign language.

Although critics says that the ENEM is not a good tool to measure the quality of high school education in Brazil many admit that the exam has made getting into a public federal university in Brazil more democratic. According to the Ministry of Education the test was cancelled in one center in Para due to lack of electricity and in two cities in Santa Catarina state, due to the heavy rains which have flooded entire communities.

In September, previous Education Minister of Brazil, Renato Janine Ribeiro admitted it will be difficult to obtain the annual target of ten percent of the GDP to be used in education next year, due to the current economic scenario faced by Brazil. The government official, however, said that his office will do everything in its power so that the limited economic resources will not significantly affect the National Education Plan (PNE) launched by the government last year.

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