Education in Portugal: everything you need to know

With its rich culture and relaxed lifestyle, it’s no surprise that investors are flocking to Portugal. The country is rapidly transforming into a world-class business hub, with excellent European and international transport links. But the country has much to offer besides work and business opportunities, and those with families will be happy to know that education in Portugal is of an excellent standard. Here’s why education in Portugal is so great.

Education in Portugal facts

Portugal offers families the benefit of an excellent education system, and a variety of choices for  schools in Portugal and universities. When looking at the education in Portugal facts, it’s important to understand the stages of the education system.

There are three stages:

  • Pre-school education (from the age of three until the start of basic education)
  • Basic education (six to 15 years old)
  • Upper secondary education (15-18 years old)

School governance itself is fairly centralized, and the curriculum, educational programs, national exams, teacher recruitment, and deployment are defined by the Ministry of Education and Science.

In Portugal, you can choose to enroll your child in either a state school or a private school. If you pick a private school, you can check to see whether it’s certified by the relevant Ministry.

Is education free in Portugal?

Yes, education is free in Portugal and is compulsory up to the age of 18. Public or state schools in Portugal are free, and Golden Visa residents may enroll their child in the local school.

Like public school systems in many other countries, the school your child will attend is based on the neighborhood in which they reside, or that in which their parents work. If you’re thinking of sending your child(ren) to public school, you may want to factor this into your property search before you buy.

Pre-school education for children between the ages of three and five is still optional and is provided by kindergartens, which are run by a variety of public organizations, charitable institutions, private schools, and cooperatives.

 Public education in Portugal

While many teachers in Portugal speak English, the public curriculum is taught in Portuguese. If you and your family are not native Portuguese speakers, plenty of resources exist to help children overcome the language barrier and to support the learning process.

However, the public school system is not for everyone, and many residents choose to send their children to a private or international school.

Private and international schools in Portugal

There is a large network of private and international schools, operating on paid tuition and fees, for new residents to choose from in Portugal.

The advantages to private schools are smaller class sizes, a stronger system of extra-curricular activities, and more modern facilities. Some even offer boarding options. However, it’s worth considering that teachers at private schools in Portugal are generally paid less than their public school colleagues, and may possibly be young and less experienced.

International schools are very popular with Golden Visa residents, due to their high standards of education and a variety of curricula.

They often have strict admissions processes, which vary from school to school; some requiring entrance exams, past school records, and even a personal interview. Many parents choose this option, confident that their children will receive a world-class education that ensures they can compete with their peers across the globe when it comes time for higher education in a university.

If you’d like to look into international schools, check out our comprehensive guide to international schools in Portugal here.

Post-secondary education in Portugal

Post-secondary education in Portugal is well-respected worldwide. Five of the country’s universities feature in the QS World University Rankings 2016/17, the highest entry being the University of Porto. Portugal’s higher education system itself ranked the 35th best in the world in the first edition of the QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings.

Alongside its top universities, Portugal is also home to several reputable polytechnics, which focus on preparing students for a specific career path. Some subjects are only offered at either universities or polytechnics, but plenty of overlap means both universities and polytechnics offer degrees in subjects like engineering, management, and humanities.

Most courses, especially those at a bachelor’s level, are taught in Portuguese. However, several English-language programs exist at the graduate level, mirroring trends found throughout European universities.

Have you decided to make Portugal your home? 

Global Citizen Solutions can guide you seamlessly through the application process, from property purchase, rental to the visa application or declaring yourself a tax resident under the Non-Habitual-Resident Scheme.

Contact us now to find out how we can help with your unique situation.

Frequently asked questions about education in Portugal

What’s education in Portugal like?

Portugal has an excellent reputation for its quality education system, and the government has over the years invested a lot of money in schooling and universities, ensuring an excellent standard is maintained.

Is education in Portugal free?

Yes, public education in Portugal is completely free.

What’s education in Portugal like for international students?

Education in Portugal for international students is of a very high standard, with plenty of reputable international schools to pick from.