This article analyses the education policies applied in Brazil in the six-year period from 1995 through 2000. After noting the need to prepare citizens and the country to face the twenty-first century, it addresses the long-standing lag in Brazilian education and the general characteristics of the educational system of that country. It then describes the educational policy options adopted in the period in question, which were aimed primarily at the expanding the system while improving its quality, and analyses the special features of the programmes in the field of basic education (understood as the education given from the earliest stages up to the end of secondary education);; compensatory programmes aimed at keeping students in school; special education; literacy training plans, and the education of young people and adults. Next, it looks at the training of teachers, secondary and techno-professional training, and higher education, as well as matters connected with the transparency of information on the educational system and the possibilities of evaluating the system, the financing of education, and the implementation of the corresponding constitutional rules. The article ends with an analysis of the challenges and prospects of education in Brazil, noting that the main challenge is the pursuit of increasingly high levels of quality at all levels of education: an objective which is intimately linked with the upgrading of teachers and the financing of the system.