Education System in Portugal
In Portugal, you can find both public and private schools. Public schools are free for both citizens and foreign residents- except for universities- while private schools require a considerable amount of money in fees. As a result of this, private schools in Portugal grant a qualified education except for universities.
In state schools, the curriculum is in Portuguese. However, if your child cannot speak the language yet, you can enroll them in an international school of Portugal.
In Portugal, the quality of state colleges is better than private colleges’. Compared to private colleges, you will pay a much lower fee. Besides, some universities in Portugal are included in The QS World University Rankings.
From kindergarten to higher education, you can choose a school from a pool of diverse options.
Education System in Detail
Daycare & Kindergarten
Early education is also possible in Portugal with nurseries and pre-schools.
Nurseries in Portugal accept children aged from four months to three years. Most of the nurseries in Portugal are private. There are a few public nurseries that are run by Social Security. However, these nurseries’ priority is low-income families.
In Portugal, these types of schools are not compulsory. Pre-schools in Portugal admit children aged from three to five or six until they become ready for primary school. Pre-schools are also available in public and private form. These schools typically have a five hours education day.
Another option as a pre-school is ATL (Atividades de Tempos Livres). These are private organizations, and they take the children aged six years and up, and take care of the children after school hours until their parents come from work.
Public pre-schools are free. However, due to their limited vacancy, they prioritize children aged between four and five and children as well as children with a disability.
The cost of private pre-schools/kindergartens is between €300-400 a month, and it can be higher in some cases.
Private pre-schools have almost the same fees as Daycares.
In Portugal, primary education (ensino básico) is free and compulsory for everyone. It lasts for nine years, and it includes children who are between the ages of six and fifteen. It consists of three cycles.
The first cycle is for four years, which is the primary school. Only one teacher is assigned for this period (however, they can get help from other teachers in specific areas). Education is given five hours a day, with breaks included. When you submit your list of preferred schools, you can list your top-five. You can apply to any school in the country if they have a vacancy. On the other hand, for public schools, priority is given to the children who live near the school, or whose parents work near the school. In the end, your child is enrolled in the first school of your choice that has a vacancy.
In the first cycle, children learn Portuguese, sciences, maths, arts and sports, and English (in grades 3 & 4).
Second and Third Cycle
These cycles correspond to the grades from 5 to 9. The opening hours might change depending on the school. However, they must include 25 hours of education a week.
Children in grades 5 and 6 learn the following subjects: Portuguese, English, History, and Geography of Portugal, Maths, Sciences, Physical Education (PE), Visual Education, Information Technologies, and Music.
In the 7th, 8th and 9th grades, the school adds the following subjects to their curriculum: Second Foreign Language (Spanish, French, or German), History, Geography, Chemistry, and Physics.
It is optional to choose moral and religious education for all of these grades.
Secondary Education (High School)
Secondary education in Portugal is called “Ensino secundário,” or “secundário.” It corresponds to high school education in the US. In this level, education in high schools is divided for either proceeding to university education or for workforce purposes. Students choose the courses according to their preference in terms of proceeding to university, and/or learning practical and professional competencies.
When students wish to proceed to university, they should choose one of the following fields:
- Sciences and technologies.
- Socioeconomic sciences.
- Languages and humanities.
The common curriculum of all of these fields consists of the subjects Portuguese, Foreign Language (German, Spanish, or French), Philosophy, and PE.
Students take a national exam after finishing high school. The grade they take from the exam is added to their final grade.
As stated above, usually, state universities are better than private ones. Still, you can find a few private schools which rank high. For international students, that can be a good option because those universities teach in English, and they are considerably high-ranking.
Who can be considered an “international student”?
If the student is not a national of Portugal or the EU, then they are deemed as international students. On the other hand, the students can apply for a university as a resident if:
- They are a legal resident in Portugal for two years or,
- They have been living in Portugal since January 1st of the year they wanted to enroll in the university.
- Bachelor’s degree (Licenciatura): Lasts three years
- Master’s degree (Mestrado): Lasts two years
- Doctorate (Doutoramento) : Duration varies
Costs of Schools
Until high school (secondary education), public schools are free for both citizens and foreign residents.
For private schools, it varies from one school to another. However, on average, from primary to high school, you are expected to pay around €400-500 a month for a private school. In addition to this, there is a fee for enrollment (about €300). Books cost around €300 as well.
For public universities, tuition fees differ in range depending on the course. However, the costs cannot exceed the limit determined by the law (which changes every year). For an undergraduate level, for example, the maximum fee for a public university was €872 for the 2019-2020 academic year.
Private universities can determine their fees. However, the average tuition fee for a private university is €3000.
Enrollment in Schools
Documents and Requirements
First-year students should enroll between April and June. For other students, they can enroll within three working days after their final grades are declared.
You can enroll your child in a public school either online (on Portal das Matrículas site) or in person. You can find the required documents on the website of the school. In general, the documents needed for enrollment in a school in Portugal are as follows:
- ID or birth certificate of the child.
- A photograph of the child.
- Enrolment form completed (the school provides it).
- Immunization records of the child (“Boletim de vacinas”).
In addition to the documents, some private schools may require an interview.
International Schools in Portugal
International schools are good options for expats in Portugal because they have good qualities in terms of curriculum and many standards. Any international school in Portugal follows international education standards. The international schools use a curriculum which is also used by the US, UK, France, and Germany. Some international schools in Portugal follow the International Baccalaureate (IB) standards, too. The International Baccalaureate (IB) standards mainly focus on the teaching of critical and independent thinking and inquiring with logic and care. Expats can find some of the best international schools in Portugal, mostly in Lisbon, Porto, and Algarve.
Admission Requirements for International Schools
In general, international schools include the required documents on their website. So, it is best to check the documents on the preferred school’s website. The documents needed for international schools in Portugal, in general, are as follows:
- Enrollment form of school (available at the school or on their website).
- The ID of the parent and the child.
- Three passport photos of both the student and their sponsor of education.
- Proof of legal residence.
- School reports from previous years.
- Medical certificates or proof of the child’s immunizations.
- Proof of payment of the application fee.
- If needed, language tests.
In addition to submitting the required documents, in most cases, the children are taken into an interview by the related staff or the director of the international school.
Tuition Fees for International Schools
An average tuition fee for an international school in Portugal is about €800 a month. The minimum you can pay is €400 while the maximum can be €1800 a month.
In addition to tuition fees of international schools Portugal, other potential extra fees are as follows:
- €30-70 for applying (the cost is nonrefundable)
- €200-500 as an annual enrolment fee
- Books and other related materials, and uniforms in some cases
List of International Schools in Portugal
Below you can find some of the best international schools, especially in Lisbon, Porto, Algarve, and near Cascais and Sintra.
Best International Schools in Lisbon
The following are the most well-known and qualified schools in Lisbon:
British School of Lisbon
British School of Lisbon is a relatively new school that has a British curriculum, and it teaches children aged from three to eight. The British School of Lisbon is both an English-language prep school and nursery school. The language of education is in English, and its tuition fee starts from €10,200 a year.
Oeiras International School
This school in Lisbon follows IB standards and accepts students aged between three and eighteen. It has an international curriculum, and its tuition fee is €12,420 a year.
Astoria International School
Being one of the other international schools in Lisbon, Astoria International School offers nursery, daycare, kindergarten, and junior education. The curriculum of the school is British and Portuguese, and the language of instruction of the school is English and Portuguese.
It is an elementary school in Lisbon. The curriculum in this school is British, French, and Portuguese, and the language taught in is English. The school’s tuition fee is €5,300 a year.
Deutsche Schule Lissabon
It is the second-oldest German school founded in another country, in Lisbon. Deutsche Schule Lissabon in Lisbon teaches students of kindergarten, primary, and secondary grades. The curriculum and the language of the school are German. The school’s tuition fee is €6,380 a year.
Lycée Français Charles Lepierre
This international school in Lisbon admits students aged between three and eighteen. It teaches students English and Portuguese, and it has a French curriculum, and the language of education is French. The tuition fee of the school in Lisbon starts at €4,085.
Best International Schools in Porto
International College of Porto (CLIP)
It is a British school, and it has a British curriculum, and the language of the school is English and Portuguese.
It is a French Catholic school with high academic standards. The curriculum and the language of education of this school are French.
Lycée Français International
Another international school in Porto is Lycée Français International, which is a French school, including students from pre-school until grade twelve. The school follows France’s Ministry of Education’s standards. The curriculum and language of education of this school are French, and the tuition fee of the school is €4,400 a year.
Best International Schools in Cascais, Sintra, and Oeiras
You can see the list of the most significant international schools in Portugal near Cascais and Sintra.
International Preparatory School (IPS)
This international school in Porto is for children aged between three and eleven, and both the students and teachers are multinational, so it is an excellent opportunity for an expat child to be in an international environment. The school has a British curriculum with the language of education being English. The tuition fee for each term is between €2,100 and €4,000.
St. Julian’s School
It is the oldest and largest British international school in Portugal. It has international students from 45 different nationalities. The school teaches students aged between three and fifteen. The curriculum is British and Portuguese, and the language of education is English and Portuguese. The annual tuition fee starts from €9,648.
International Christian School of Cascais
The International Christian School of Cascais is one of the international schools in Portugal. It has a North American style education. The curriculum of the International Christian School of Cascais is American, and the language of instruction is English.
St. Dominic’s International School
It is one of the other respected international schools in Portugal. This international school is authorized to offer three IB programs. So, this private school has the IB curriculum, and the language of education is English. The annual tuition of the school is €14,110.
Carlucci American International School Of Lisbon
As opposed to its name, Carlucci American International School Of Lisbon is situated nearby Sintra. As an American international school, it works in line with other American international schools, and with the US Department of State. The curriculum of Carlucci American International School is American and IB, and the language is English. The annual fee is between €8,500 and €18,076.
International Sharing School – Tagus Park
The International Sharing School at Tagus Park offers a curriculum focused on personal and professional development, preparing students of age 4 months to 18 years for an increasingly global, multicultural, and multilingual world. Located on the most innovative science and technology park, named Tagus Park. The students at International Sharing School face a dynamic, challenging curriculum, taught by motivated IB teachers, focused in building a better world.
Best International Schools in Algarve
Nobel International School Algarve
It is another international school Portugal has. The school admits students aged between three and eighteen, from more than 30 different nationalities. The curriculum of the school is British and Portuguese, and the language is English and Portuguese. The tuition fee is between €4,000 and €15,000 a year.
Vale Verde International School
The school offers secondary education. It has an international curriculum, and the language taught in is English and Portuguese. The annual tuition fee of Vale Verde International School changes between €5,600 and €10,400 per year.
The Best International School in Madeira
International School of Madeira
It is a primary school, admitting children aged from four. The curriculum is international, and the language taught in is English. The annual fee of the school is between €2,500 and €3,300.
International Sharing School – Madeira
The International Sharing School at Madeira Island offers a curriculum focused on personal and professional development, preparing students of age 4 months to 18 years for an increasingly global, multicultural, and multilingual world. The students at International Sharing School face a dynamic, challenging curriculum, taught by motivated IB teachers, focused in building a better world.
Other Qualified International Schools in Portugal
- Julian’s School in Lisbon.
- Peter’s International School in Setúbal.
- Oporto British School in Porto.
- Deutsche Schule zu Porto in Porto;
- Deutsche Schule Algarve in the Algarve.