Brazilian Congress gave final approval Thursday to a bill that makes Spanish a second language in the country's public and private primary schools. The bill awaits now President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's signature.
"It's been fully passed, only the president's approval is needed next week", said Congressman Atila Lira, who sponsored the bill.
The legislation requires government and private schools to offer Spanish as an elective subject for students in grades five through eight. In earlier grades Spanish depends on the schools' discretion.
In Portuguese speaking Brazil, students complete three years of secondary school before going to college. Under the legislation, secondary schools would be able to choose whether to offer Spanish classes.
"The new law is important for primary education and for Brazil's integration with the rest of Mercosur", underlined Mr. Lira, adding that the teaching of Spanish "is going to facilitate the formation of a South American bloc".
Approval of the bill followed several years of debate by legislators in Brazil, a country that has traditionally been closed to foreign languages and where the teaching of other foreign languages was not required.
For some time now Brazilian universities have offered Spanish classes in response to Spanish speaking Mercosur growing influence. Actually in Brazil's border states that have authority over their educational systems Spanish have been taught for years.
Spain's Science and Education Ministry Miguel Gonzalez Suela in Madrid hailed the passing of the bill as "a day of celebration", because anywhere between 10 and 12 million young Brazilians will be learning Spanish. Currently only private schools attended by 10% of Brazil's children, offer Spanish at the primary level.