When considering moving to Portugal, finding the perfect school for your children can be a bit challenging. Luckily, Portugal 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.
The education system in Portugal is excellent, offering families a variety of choices for schools and universities, including international schools.
In this article, we’ll provide you with everything you need to know about the education system in Portugal, its stages and the differences between the school types, and how to find the most suitable choice for your children to guarantee an excellent education.
Education in Portugal
The education system in Portugal includes both free state and private schools where your children will receive the proper education at different ages. The Ministry of Education (Direção-Geral da Educação – DGE) regulates the education system in Portugal, starting from pre-school up until secondary school. School groups (agrupamentos escolares) also work closely with local municipalities to assign funding and define the curriculum. The Ministry of Science, Technology, and Higher Education (Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Ensino Superior – MCTES) oversees policies and budgets for higher education.
In Portugal, you will find a mix of state and private education. Since state education is free, most Portuguese families decide to choose public education or private education. Children can be enrolled in the pre-school education stage before the mandatory age of joining the school at six.
Portugal has witnessed a high illiteracy rate in the past but nowadays the level of education in Portugal is of a very high standard. For instance, students performed above average on the 2018 PISA tests, which cover reading, mathematics, and science. Furthermore, 92% of children attended pre-school in Portugal in 2019, which is higher than the OECD average of 88%.
Although the main educational language in the state schools is Portuguese, the country offers many good options for expats to enroll in international schools to make it easier for immigrant children to begin their educational journey by joining suitable schools in their native language. Understanding the stages of the education system in Portugal and all the available options for your children is important before deciding.
The structure of education in Portugal
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.
Regardless of whether you ultimately choose a state school or a private one, the education system in Portugal is the same. It consists of four stages, and comprises the following educational levels:
- Pre-school education (Educação Pré-escolar): ages 3 to 6
- Primary education (Ensino Básico): ages 6 to 15
- Secondary education (Ensino Secundário): ages 15 to 18
- Higher education (Ensino Superior): ages 18 and above
School is mandatory from the ages of 6 to 18. After that, students can proceed to university or apply for a job.
Note the language barrier if you are an expat and your children do not speak Portuguese, which could have an adverse effect on their learning process. Luckily, the state offers some free language courses and support to help children become more familiar with Portuguese from a young age. And there are various international schools where your children will be taught in their native language.