Education in Portugal: A Guide for Expats

Originally published at: Education In Portugal: A Guide For Expats | Go VisaFree


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.

Public schools in Portugal will only 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.

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

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 that takes 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

A basic education (Ensino Básico) is compulsory in Portugal. Public schools for 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 can cost around €600.

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.

The curriculum consists of the following subjects: Portuguese, Sciences, Maths, Arts, Sports, and English (English begins 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, eighth, and ninth 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 preferences. For example, if they want to pursue a university education, they must select one of the following fields in high school:

  • Sciences and technologies
  • Socio Economic sciences
  • Languages and humanities
  • Arts

If students want to learn professional and practical competencies, they must choose their courses according to that. When they finish secondary education, they will 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.

What is 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).

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 is 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.

The minimum amount you will 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 the school’s website for any other necessary documents.

If you’re interested in relocating to Portugal with your family, you may want to read our article on the Golden Visa Portugal.

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