Education in Portugal

Insights into what is involved in buying, selling & living in Portugal

More and more people decide to come and live in Portugal and start a new life. Quite often now people are not prepared to wait till the education of their children has been completed in their home country. There is no doubt to my mind that a good and sound education will be the corner stone of a child’s future. For parents with children the Algarve has the following to offer.

Basically there are two options:

  1. State schools
  2. Foreign language international schools.

Education in all Portuguese state schools is free and normally each town has its primary school (escola primário) and the bigger towns have their secondary school (escola secundário). In between these 2 schools the Portuguese systems has a 2-year bridge school (ciclo). Normally young foreign children pick up the Portuguese language pretty quickly and adapt to state schooling.

Education in Portugal is free in the public system and compulsory until the age of 18, when students complete the 12th grade. The education is regulated by the State through the Ministry of Education. From the age of 6 it is mandatory to send your child to school but now they do advice that the children also spend one year of pre-school so they should attend the last year of kindergarten. Schools normally starts somewhere around the second week of September and finishes the third week of June. A schoolyear is divided in 3 terms and by the end of the third term , national exams are helt. In 2017 the government decided that all schoolbooks until the fourth year will be free of charge.

Of course each country has his own division It is only after the 9th year of basic schooling that the Portuguese General Education system branches out into different secondary programmes, a higher education-oriented (general secondary programmes), a work-oriented (technological secondary programmes) and an artistic-oriented programme. Higher education in Portugal is divided into two main subsystems: university and polytechnic. It is provided in autonomous universities, in university institutes, in polytechnic institutes and in separate university or polytechnic schools. The previous institutions can be either public, concordat or private. The university subsystem is intended to have a strong theoretical basis and to be highly research-oriented. The polytechnic subsystem is intended to provides a more practical training and is profession-oriented

You may however for personal reasons decide that you wish to give your child a more international education and if so you have the choice off quite a few recognized English-language schools in the Algarve as well as the rest of Portugal.

Three of them educate pupils up to the age of 16 and the curriculum is the English I.G.C.S.E. level (Internal General Certificate of Secondary Education. The language of instruction is English, although Portuguese is compulsory as a second language. The course is divided in a Primary School (4 to 10 years of age) and a Senior School (11 to 18 years of age).

Below a list of schools available in the Algarve:

Jardim do Alto Nursery and Kindergarden

Pre-school using natural development technique for crafts, cooking, gardening and play. At Tavira.

Vale Verde International School

Primary and secondary education for children upt to 16 years old. Teacher student ratio 1 to 7. At Estrada de Burgau, Senhora da Luz Burgau Apartado 125, 8601-917 Lagos.

Aljezur International School

IGCSE education for 10-17 age group. Cambridge International exam centre. Shuttle bus to Lagos, Luz and other areas.

Barlavento Campus of the International School of the Algarve

A private day school for boys and girls aged 4 to 11 years old. The school follows the English national curriculum in most subjects. Caixa, 250-Z Ferrel, Espiche, 8600-110 Lagos.

Dyslexia Support Teacher

Academic support program for students with dyslexia and dyspraxia, following primary and secondary curriculums in English.

Nobel International School Algarve

English speaking school, for GCSEs and A levels and a Portuguese curriculum. Co-ed school ages 3-18, located 40 minutes from Faro international airport. En-suite boarding, 1 or 2 students ages 12 to 18 per room. English language summer school ages 12-18.

Galore Park Publishing Ltd

Publisher of educational resources for pupils: a wide range of textbooks suitable for children aged 8 covering all the key subject areas available to support childrens learning at home as well as home education.

Colegio da Penina

Co-educational, non-denominational school for children aged from 3 to 18 years. Located at Urbanizacaro Encosta da Penina, Alvor, 8500 Portimao.

BeON Study Academy

Homework help, project help and support preparing for upcoming tests and an after-school program. 28 teacher staff, at 2 locations in Loule and 3 in Albufeira.

The Academy

International school following British National Curriculum for all students, including English, mathematics and science subjects. English as a second language available for children and parents. At Almancil.

Colegio Santiago Internacional Tavira

International school covering foundation, primary and secondary education, following a modified National Curriculum of England with emphasis in bilingual English and Portuguese learning. At Praca Zacarias Guerreiro 29, Tavira.

KSI Algarve Unipessoal, Lda

Private international school for boys and girls having the international baccalaureate educational programme for students aged 3 – 18. English is the primary language of instruction, Portuguese and second language learning op…

Vilamoura International School (CIV)

International nursery, primary, middle, secondary and English studies schools. Pupils learn English and Portuguese as first languages up to age of 10. English national curriculum taught. Located at Sitio das Quintinhas Apartado 856, 8125-911 Vilamoura.

Estetica para Profissionais

Lagos-based professional beauty and massage training courses and product supply for the professional beauty industry in Portugal. 23 Rua Soeiro da Costa, Lagos.


National education system The school year begins in September, normally around the 15th. It is divided into three terms, with a two-week break at Christmas, four weeks at Easter and 10 weeks in the summer. There are three half term breaks.

Pre-school (pré-escolar) Pre-school is voluntary. Kindergartens (jardim de infância) may take children from two years or earlier until they reach six and can enter the primary school system. There are both public and private kindergartens, but all should be registered with the Ministry of Education. Some public ones do not charge fees, but most will have charges for meals or other activities.

Primary education (ensino básico) Primary education is compulsory for all between age six and fifteen. It is free, in the sense that there are no fees. However, school books and other accessories may amount to over £250. There is a national curriculum.

Primary education is split into three phases (ciclos). The first covers years one to four. At this level a class has only one teacher, who will generally follow the class for all four years. Generally, a child will progress from one year to the next with their age group. Class sizes vary between 15 and 30, and there are 25 hours of lessons per week. The evaluation in the fourth year is more stringent and may result in a child not progressing to the 5th year. If this occurs the school must design and provide a special programme of remedial teaching.

In the second and third phase the school programme is about 30 hours per week. In the second cycle (years 5 and 6), students usually remain in the same classroom with teachers responsible for groups of subjects. In the third phase (years 7, 8 and 9) teachers are more specialised and students have a choice of subjects. They may select a second foreign language, music or technological studies. In these two cycles evaluation is based on a scale of 1 to 5, level 3 is considered a pass. To progress from year to year a student may fail only three subjects, to progress from one phase to another they may fail only two. At the end of the third phase, there is a general test in each of the academic disciplines. All students who complete the courses receive a certificate of basic education. They have access to adult courses, special exams, and year-long EU level-2 skill-training courses. Those who pass the final evaluation obtain a diploma, which gives access to secondary education.

Secondary education (ensino secundário) Secondary education options include three-year general, technological, professional, or artistic courses. These are the tenth to twelfth years. There is continuous evaluation and annual exams at the end of each year. At the end of the twelfth year there are national exams in each of the main subjects. All the courses give access to further education, but the latter three types of course aim at providing work skills to EU level-3.

Access to state schools All residents of compulsory school age must attend school. Residents also have access to secondary schooling and higher education. Registration with pre-schools normally occurs during June and July at the school. They usually require a medical check, birth certificate, health card and inscription form. First time registration in primary schools takes place early in June at the school nearest the place of residence or nearest the place of work of the parent. Renewal of school registration usually takes place at the end of the previous year, at a time set by the school. First time registration for secondary schools normally takes place at the primary school, and before 15 July. Re-registration in secondary schools depends on exams, and takes place immediately after the results are published. Late registrations are submitted to the management of the school. Children coming from outside Portugal may register at any time, providing there are spaces in the school.

The documents required for school registration usually include the inscription form, proof of qualifications from the previous school, health card, photographs, and identification.

Recognition of qualifications in Europe The professional and technical qualifications are usually accredited to EU recognised levels. However, professional requirements do vary from country to country, and there is still no guarantee that qualifications from one EU country will be recognised in another. In principle, the certificate of general education provides for access to further education courses in other EU countries. However, all institution have their own entrance requirements, especially in relation to language qualifications. Before starting a course, it is advisable to check whether the qualification will give access to the required profession or higher-level institution.

Private schools There are many private and co-operative schools teaching the Portuguese national curriculum. There are others teaching in foreign languages, following international curricular. Few of these international schools go up to secondary level. All private schools charge fees and should be registered with the Ministry of Education. The recognition of an international curriculum by the Portuguese education system is not automatic and this should be taken into account when selecting which curriculum to follow. Private schools teaching in foreign languages can be found through the yellow pages, adverts in the local foreign language press, or by consulting embassies and cultural missions of the countries concerned.


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