Education in Portugal: A Guide for Expats

Introduction

Portugal provides education through both public and private schools as well as international schools. Excluding universities, public schools in Portugal are free for Portuguese citizens and foreign residents. Private schools, on the other hand, require a tuition fee. 

Moreover, public schools offer a curriculum in Portuguese. However, as an expat just moving to Portugal, you can enroll your child in an international school, which offers education in English or other languages. 

Daycare and Kindergarten

Nurseries and Preschools/Kindergarten

Both nurseries and pre-schools are available in Portugal before the period of basic education. Most of the nurseries in Portugal are private. This is why you need to pay a certain amount of money monthly or annually.

Moreover, nurseries admit children between four months and three years of age. Although there are some public nurseries which admit children of low-income parents. 

Furthermore, pre-schools are available both in public and private types. They admit children between three and six years of age, until primary school. Public pre-schools in Portugal are free, although their priority is children aged between four and five. Additionally, they prioritize children with disabilities. The reason for this regulation is the limited quota public pre-schools have.

On the other hand, Private pre-schools and kindergartens charge you around €300-400 monthly.

An Alternative to Pre-Schools in Portugal: ATL (Atividades de Tempos Livres)

With the rough translation being “Free Time Activities,” an ATL is a private institution taking care of children after school until their parents arrive to take them. These organizations admit children aged six and above.

Basic Education: First, Second and Third Cycle

Basic education (Ensino Básico) is compulsory education in Portugal. Public schools of basic education are free for citizens and foreign residents. For private schools, you should get ready to pay around €400-500 a month, plus enrollment and book fees, which cost around €600. 

Furthermore, basic education includes children between six and fifteen years of age, and it lasts for nine years. It is divided into three cycles, namely the first, second, and third cycle.

The First Cycle

This cycle corresponds to primary school and consists of four years. There is only one teacher assigned for the first cycle, although there may be different teachers in specific areas to assist.

Moreover, the curriculum consists of the following subjects: Portuguese, Sciences, Maths, Arts, Sports, and English (English is in the third and fourth grade).

The process for admittance to the first cycle of education is as follows:

  • You prepare a list of your top-five schools as long as they have a vacancy
  • You submit your list of preference 
  • The schools evaluate the applications and give priority to children whose parents work or live near the school
  • You enroll your child in the school which has the vacancy 

The Second Cycle

This cycle corresponds to the fifth and sixth grades. The curriculum includes the following subjects: Portuguese, English, History, Geography of Portugal, Maths, Sciences, Physical Education (PE), Visual Education, Information Technologies, and Music. 

The Third Cycle

This cycle corresponds to the seventh, eigth and nineth grade. Schools add the following subjects in the third cycle: Second Foreign Language (Spanish, French, or German), History, Geography, Chemistry, and Physics. 

The second and third cycles have to include 25 hours of education per week. In addition to this, it is up to the children to choose moral and religious education, so they are not mandatory.

Secondary Education (Ensino secundário)

Secondary education in Portugal corresponds to high school. In secondary education, students must choose their courses following their preference. For example, if they want to pursue a university education, they must select one of the following fields in high school:

  • Sciences and technologies
  • Socioeconomic sciences
  • Languages and humanities
  • Arts

Moreover, if students want to learn professional and practical competencies, they must choose their courses according to that. When they finish secondary education, they take an exam, and their exam’s grade is added to their final grade.

Higher Education

You can find public, private, and international universities in Portugal. Compared to public ones, private universities provide better education in Portugal. On the other hand, as an expat, you can enroll your child in an international college as well.

Moreover, what’s good about international schools is that they teach in English and follow international standards of education. University degrees consist of three parts, namely; Bachelor’s degree (Licenciatura- three years), Master’s degree (Mestrado- two years), and Doctorate (Doutoramento). 

Furthermore, tuition fees may change in state universities. However, there is a limit to the fee determined each year. Therefore, state universities cannot charge the students more than the determined amount. Private universities, on the other hand, determine their own tuition fees. The average fee is around €3000 annually for private universities. 

Requirements for Enrollment in Schools

Except for first-year students, all other students can enroll for the next grade within three working days following the declaration of their final grades. First-year students, on the other hand, should enroll between April and June. Usually, the following documents are required for enrollment:

  • Student’s ID or birth certificate
  • Student’s photo (one)
  • The enrolment form completed (schools provide the form)
  • Immunization records (“Boletim de vacinas”) of the student 

You can complete this process either online or in person. It is important to note that some private schools require an interview as well. 

International Schools for Expats in Portugal

It usually a good option to enroll your child in an international school as an expat as they offer a high quality of education. Firstly, they use the curriculums of certain countries such as the UK, the US, France, and Germany.

Secondly, some schools also follow the international IB (International Baccalaureate) standards in their education. So, you can also choose the school according to your preference for the curriculum. 

Finally, the minimum amount you pay for an international school in Portugal is €400, and the maximum is €1800 per month. Other additional fees may include application fees of around €30-40, and an annual enrolment fee of between €200-500, plus books, uniforms, and other related materials. 

The usual necessary documents for enrolment are as follows: 

  • Enrollment form (available at the school or on the school’s website)
  • The ID of the parent and the child
  • Passport photos (three) of both the student and their sponsor of education
  • Proof of legal residence
  • School reports from previous years
  • Medical certificates/proof of the child’s immunizations
  • Payment proof of the application fee
  • Language test if necessary

It is always best to check on the school’s website for any other necessary documents.

We listed some of the best international schools in Portugal according to their location below:

Best International Schools in Lisbon

School

Curriculum

Grade/Age

Language of Education

Tuition Fee (€)

British School of Lisbon

British

Aged between 3 and 8

English

Starts from €10,200 a year

Oeiras International School

International curriculum+ IB standards

Aged between 3 and 18

English

€12,420 a year

Astoria International School

British and Portuguese

Aged between 2 and 18

English and Portuguese

Starts from €4,085

Redbridge School

British, French, and Portuguese

Elementary school

English

€5,300 a year

Deutsche Schule Lissabon

German

Kindergarten, primary, and secondary grades

German

€6,380 a year

Lycée Français Charles Lepierre

French

Aged between 3 and 18

French

Starts from €4,085

Best International Schools in Porto

School

Curriculum

Grade/Age

Language of Education

Tuition Fee (€)

International College Of Porto (CLIP)

British

Aged between 3 and 18

English and Portuguese

Depends on the grade

Colégio Luso-Francês

French

From pre-school until 12th grade

French

Depends on the grade

Lycée Français International

French

From pre-school until 12th grade 

French

€4,400 a year

Best International Schools in Cascais and Sintra

School

Curriculum

Grade/Age

Language of Education

Tuition Fee (€)

International Preparatory School (IPS)

British

Aged between three and eleven

English

Between €2,100 and €4,000

St. Julian’s School

British and Portuguese

Aged between three and fifteen

English and Portuguese

Starts from €9,648

International Christian School Of Cascais

American

From kindergarten to 12th grade

English

Not available

St. Dominic’s International School

IB curriculum

From nursery until 12th grade

English

€14,110 on average

Carlucci American International School Of Lisbon

American and IB curriculum

From kindergarten until 12th grade

English

Between €8,500 and €18,076

Best International Schools in The Algarve and Madeira

School Curriculum Grade/Age Language of Education Tuition Fee (€)

NOBEL INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL ALGARVE

British and Portuguese Aged between three and eighteen English and Portuguese Between €4,000 and €15,000 a year

VALE VERDE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL

International curriculum Secondary education English and Portuguese

Between €5,600 and €10,400

INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF MADEIRA International curriculum Primary school English

Between €2,500 and €3,300 a year