Updated: February 19, 2024
Whether it is the climate, the rich history, the high standard of living, or the quality of life, many families are drawn to Portugal’s shores. The country also offers a high-quality education system, and there are many excellent international schools in Portugal, especially in the cities of Lisbon and Porto, and in the delightful Algarve region.
When it comes to education in Portugal, families moving to the country will be happy to know that their children will receive a high-quality education in an international environment. Whether you opt for a public school offering the Portuguese national curriculum or a private school with international curricula, such as the International Baccalaureate programme or British curriculum, there are several options on the table.
Portugal has become a world-class business hub in the past years, but the country has much more to offer for families than just work and business opportunities. Families have the option to spend much of the year outside due to the favorable climate and the fact that the Portuguese are a very family-centered people means that Sundays are often reserved for spending quality time together.
In this article, we will explore international schools in Portugal, Portugal’s public schools and national curriculum. We will also discuss how foreign residents can find the best international or private school, and other important aspects related to international schools in Portugal.
The Portuguese Education System
According to the 2023 Global Peace Index, Portugal is considered the seventh safest country to live in and ranks 13th in the Global Citizen Solutions Quality of Life Index. As education in Portugal is of a very high standard, the country seems set to continue to attract families from the world over.
Additionally, our partner Global Citizen Solutions has developed an international school guide of Portugal that will also provide you with more information about the Portuguese national curriculum and international environment, including advice on picking the right and most respected international schools for you and your family. Let’s delve into all you need to know about international school costs and financial aid to the grading system of comprehensive and inclusive education in Portugal.
The Grading System in Portugal
Portugal’s educational system ranks in 24th in the 2023 Best Countries for Education Report produced by the US News and World Report, BAV Group, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
However, it is important to note that families moving to Portugal can expect to find a different grading system from that of their home country for basic education, secondary education, and higher education.
The basic school program in Portugal is simple:
- Public and private pre-schools: Ages 3 to 6
- Primary education: Ages 6 to 15
- Upper secondary school: Ages 15 to 18
For basic schooling (grades one to nine), a five-point scoring system is used, with 50 percent being the lowest grade to pass:
- 90-100 percent – Muito bom – Very good
- 70-89 percent – Bom – Good
- 50-69 percent – Suficiente – Satisfactory
- 20-49 percent – Insuficiente – Unsatisfactory
- 0-19 percent – Mal – Fail
For secondary education (grades 10-12) and higher education, a 20-point grading system is used:
- 17.5-20 – Excelente – Excellent
- 15.5-17.4 – Muito bom – Very good
- 13.5-15.4- Bom – Good
- 9.5-13.4 – Suficiente – Satisfactory
- 3.5-9.5 – Insuficiente – Unsatisfactory
- 0-3.4 – Mal – Fail
With this grading scale, decimals from 0.5 and higher are rounded up to the closest whole number — for instance, 9.5 becomes a 10, therefore making 9.5 the minimum grade to pass. When comparing the Portuguese grading system to American education systems and other countries’ grading systems, they are very different, so it is a good idea to understand how to compare the two and work towards your child’s academic excellence.
Is education free in Portugal?
When it comes to Portugal’s school fees, public education in the country is free, and every child must attend school up to the age of 18. Foreign residents who are living in the country with valid residence permits can enroll their children in a local primary school or high school.
Private and international schools will require tuition fees that vary depending on the school you choose. Although private international schools in Portugal may be the more expensive option, even if you find the cheapest international school to enroll your child in, the costs will be worthwhile. There are number of best international schools in Portugal to choose from. Some will offer a more rigorous academic program incorporating innovative teaching methods while others offer religious education alongside multilingual education. It all depends on choosing the school that best caters to your child’s educational needs.
Pre-school education is optional. This is for children between the ages of three and six and is provided by kindergartens. Kindergartens are managed by various public organizations, independent schools, charitable institutions, and cooperatives.
Is university education free in Portugal?
Public Portuguese universities are free to decide the tuition fee amount that students must pay. Full-time students that are enrolled in bachelor’s and master’s programs are charged tuition fees of approximately €500 to €1,250 each year, depending on the tertiary institution they attend. For example, annual tuition fees for a BSc in Education and Training at the University of Lisboa will cost €697 in 2024.
Finding a School in Portugal
When it comes to schools, all parents will have different requirements for their children. To find the school that is most suitable for you and your family, contact one of the schools in the area that you are living in Portugal or the Regional Education Authority (Direcção Regional de Educação).
The final date for enrollment is usually 15 July of each year. However, it is best to confirm this with the school that you decide on, as specific dates may vary.
Note that any student in a public school in Portugal (between pre-school and year nine) whose mother tongue is not Portuguese can receive one-on-one language support, should they need it. This is a bonus for foreigners looking to move to Portugal and send their children to a public school, many of which offer an excellent standard of education.
If you are more interested in international schools in Portugal, you can contact the International Baccalaureate Organization to find, American international schools, German schools, and other schools in your area offering the IB curriculum.
Public Education in Portugal
Many teachers in Portugal have an excellent command of English. However, the public curriculum is taught in Portuguese. While this may be difficult for non-native Portuguese speakers, there are plenty of resources available to help children overcome the language barrier and support them in their language-learning process. If you choose to send your child to a public school, they will no doubt become bilingual and will quickly give you a run for your money with their Portuguese-speaking skills.
The general documents that you will need to present for your child to enroll in a public school in Portugal are the following:
- Completed enrollment form, provided to you by the school
- Your child’s ID or birth certificate
- One photograph of the child
- Medical records and your child’s immunization records (boletim de vacinas)
Note that some schools may require additional documents and have additional criteria. Ultimately, the public Portuguese schooling system may not be for everyone, and many residents choose to send their children to other school systems — a private or international school.
Private and International Schools in Portugal
There are several private and international schools in Algarve, Portugal, as well as in Lisbon, Cascais, and Porto, that operate on paid tuition and fees. Many new residents opt for private schools, with some of the advantages being smaller class sizes, many extracurricular activities, and more modern facilities.
In Portugal, international schools are popular with expats because of high education standards and a variety of extra-curricular activities. Particularly if you are looking for international schools in Lisbon, there are many options available.
Private secondary schools in Portugal
There are different kinds of private schools in Portugal that you can pick from if you want your children to attend this type of school. These include international schools such as British schools offering an international curriculum or British curriculum, religious and boarding schools, and international schools that offer North American style education.
Portugal International schools
There are several international schools Portugal, especially in the regions of the country, favored by expats. These institutions offer a multicultural setting that enables students to develop global competencies, interact with various cultures, and gain significant language proficiency.
If a parent prefers that their child studies in their native language or the curriculum of a specific country, they can choose from British international schools, American international schools, French international schools, or German schools, with some schools offering the International Baccalaureate Diploma. In 2024, Portugal’s international school tuition starts at about €9,207 per year in some cases, although each school will set its own fees.
Religious schools in Portugal
There are a lot of Catholic secondary schools in Portugal where pupils learn some religious courses in addition to the core curriculum. Religious schools are popular with parents because they offer more extracurricular activities and often perform better in annual tests (in Portuguese).
Some schools offer to teach in English as well and International Baccalaureate (IB) diplomas are an option for graduates in some schools. The annual cost of tuition is usually between €2,500 and €10,000.
Boarding schools in Portugal
Few boarding academies exist in Portugal, and those that do tend to be located around Lisbon and the Algarve. Since annual tuition is normally approximately €30,000, it is recommended to visit the school to familiarize yourself with the campus and the curriculum before applying. While boarding academies are still in their infancy in Portugal, more schools are exploring this opportunity.
Private and international schools: Admission requirements
Private and international schools in Portugal can sometimes have strict admission processes. It’s worth checking with the school that you are interested in about their procedure, but most will have the documents for admission on their website.
You will typically need to provide the following documents:
- School enrollment form (available from the school’s website)
- ID cards for the parents and child
- Three passport photos of the student and their sponsor of education (encarregado de educação)
- Proof of residence
- Previous school records and reports
- Medical certificates and the child’s immunization records (boletim de vacinas)
- Proof of payment of the application fee
- Language tests, if applicable
Some schools will require an entrance exam and past school records, and many will ask for a personal interview with the student.
Many parents choose international and private schools, confident that their children will have a world-class education where they can compete with their peers so they are best prepared for university and further education.
Tuition fees for private prep schools
Independent schools can be quite costly and will vary from school to school. On average, you can expect to pay between €400 – €500 each month, from primary to high school level. There are also enrollment fees to consider, which will be around €300 per year, and books can cost up to €300, an extra factor to keep in mind.
Tuition fees for international schools
Tuition fees for international schools in Portugal will vary. To provide you with some indication of the price that you may need to pay, monthly fees are usually around €800 per month (the minimum that you would pay is €400), and prices can reach as high as €1,800 per month.
For many of these schools, you will pay a nonrefundable fee for submitting the application which is usually between €30 and €70. Also, there is an annual enrollment fee of between €200 and €500 and additional costs for books, school supplies, and possibly a school uniform, depending on the school that you opt for.
Exploring the Best Schools in Portugal
Some of the best primary education schools in Portugal are the following:
- Colégio Nossa Senhora do Rosário, located in Porto
- Colégio D. Diogo de Sousa, located in Braga
- Colégio Nossa Senhora da Conceição, located in Guimarães
- Colégio dos Plátanos, located in Lisbon
- Grande Colégio Universal, located in Porto
When it comes to the best high schools in Portugal, the following are excellent options:
- Colégio Nossa Senhora do Rosário, located in Porto
- Colégio da Rainha Santa Isabel, located in Coimbra
- Grande Colégio Universal, located in Porto
- Colégio D. Diogo de Sousa, located in Braga
- Colégio Luso-Francês, located in Porto
Note the Portuguese terms for education establishments. Escola is a more universal term but usually refers to public schools. Private schools are usually referred to as colégios. Private schools tend to be, in general, better than public schools, which can be seen firsthand by the fact that the colégios dominate the list of best schools in Portugal.
The Best International Schools in Portugal
Since international schools in Portugal adhere to international educational standards and quality curricula, they are good choices for expats. You’ll find that international schools in Portugal follow a range of different curricula, including curricula from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France. Some international schools in Portugal adhere to IB standards, whose main emphasis is on teaching critical and independent thinking as well as nurturing students’ curiosity and helping them solve complex problems.
Some very good international schools are shown below. If you are looking for an American school in Portugal, there are also excellent options, such as the International Christian School of Cascais, which provides an American style of teaching.
In Lisbon and the surrounding area
Some options for international schools in Lisbon and the surrounding area are:
- United Lisbon International School: The modern United Lisbon International School opened its doors in 2021 and is situated next to Parque das Nações. The school provides academic programs in English that are based on US standards (NEASC).
- British School of Lisbon: The British School of Lisbon teaches students from the ages of three to 14 years old and uses the British curriculum, with English as the language of education. The annual tuition is between €11,300 to €14,535.
- Greene’s College Oxford: The school provides personalized learning and is led by excellent tutors and qualified staff. Students at the college learn by doing, with a focus on debating things in class, thanks to the tutorial method of learning. Students are taught in small groups in this school.
- International Christian School of Cascais: This is an international Christian school founded in 1982. The school is a member of the Association of Christian Schools International, and it offers an American teaching methodology. There are also other international schools in Cascais to explore.
- St Julian’s School: The school was established in 1932 and, situated in Carcavelos, in the greater Lisbon area, it is the largest British International School in Portugal. It offers IB, international, British, and bilingual curricula, with English and Portuguese languages.
- Carlucci American International School of Lisbon: A major benefit of this school is that it is located between Sintra and Cascais and is also just a 20-minute drive from the center of Lisbon. There is easy access to Carcavelos, Oeiras, Estoril, Cascais, Mafra, and Sintra as well.
- International Preparatory (IPS) School: This is an elementary school established 25 years ago for students aged three to 12. IPS prides itself on giving attention to each student’s needs, something the school has become very famous for.
- PaRK International School: The school joined the Changemakers School Network in 2017, a group of international schools dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through cooperation and empathy education. Park International School is also recognized by ECIS (The Educational Collaborative for International Schools) and the Cambridge Schools Network.
- St Peter’s School: This school offers the IB curriculum in secondary school, preparing students for tertiary education.
- German School of Lisbon: The German School of Lisbon (Deutsche Schule Lissabon) provides kindergarten, primary school, and secondary education, making it ideal for native German speakers.
- St Dominic’s International School: The school is run by Veritas Education, SA, and it also grants the International Baccalaureate diploma.
International schools in Porto
The options below are few great options to consider if you are looking into relocating to Porto neighborhoods close to international schools:
- CLIP Oporto International School: As one of the best international schools in Portugal, CLIP Oporto International School caters to students at primary school, middle school, and upper school levels. The international school offers a curriculum based on the English National Curriculum.
- Oporto British School: Renowned for being the oldest British school in Portugal, Oporto British School is an international sharing school based in Foz do Duoro, Porto, and offers an international primary curriculum from early year stages through to secondary school preparing students with the best personal and professional development.
- Lycée Français International de Porto – LFIP: Lycée Français International de Porto is an innovative international sharing school offering students at kindergarten, elementary, high school, and college level a multilingual education that is focused on critical and independent thinking.
- Deutsche Schule zu Porto: As the second oldest German school in Portugal, Deutsche Schule zu Porto offers a multilingual education to students at kindergarten, primary school, and high school levels.
International schools in the Algarve
Some options for international schools in the Algarve are:
- Nobel International School Algarve: One of the oldest schools in southern Portugal, which provides a range of academic programs for children aged between three to 18 years old. It is close to Carvoeiro and situated between Portimão and Albufeira.
- Vale Verde International School: Situated in the Algarve, the school was established in 2002 and educates children from the ages of three to 18 years old, adhering to the British school curriculum.
- Colegio Santiago Internacional: The school teaches children in English and Portuguese and follows the British curriculum. It is located in the center of Tavira.
- CIV Vilamoura International School: Children from the ages of three to 18 can enroll in a comprehensive educational program at this international school in Vilamoura.
- Aljezur International School: Located on the western coast of the Algarve, Aljezur International School is an international preparatory school offering an innovative version of the UK national curriculum in an inclusive and supportive environment.
Post-Secondary Education in Portugal
Post-secondary education in Portugal is well-known worldwide, with many international students choosing to study at one of the top universities in Portugal. The University of Porto ranks as the highest in the country, according to the QS World University Rankings in 2024. In Lisbon, Universidade NOVA, Catolica University, ISCTE – University Institute of Lisbon, and Técnico Lisboa are very well-regarded universities.
Portugal is also home to many reputable polytechnics, which enable students to focus on a specific career path.
While some subjects are only offered by either a university or polytechnic institute, there is considerable overlap, with both universities and polytechnics providing degrees in subjects such as management, engineering, and the humanities.
Most courses at the bachelor’s level are taught in Portuguese. However, there are several English language programs that exist at the graduate level, and many courses at the master’s level are taught in English.
Graduating in Portugal
Portugal’s tertiary schooling system is separated into two components:
- Universities that offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. These university education institutions concentrate on theoretical education and research.
- Polytechnic institutions in Portugal that provide undergraduate and graduate degree options offering education and training in particular subjects.
Scholarships and Financial Aid
Portugal allows students to take advantage of the various scholarships offered by the government and tertiary education institutions, both to local and international students.
Portugal participates in all scholarships deriving from the EU, such as the Erasmus Mundus programs. Portugal also provides funding to a few private and semi-private institutions and organizations that award scholarships for studies in the humanities, social sciences, and technological fields.
In Portugal, children from low-income households are also eligible to request government support. Through their school, parents can apply for a family allowance (abono de família) and financial help, often known as Ação Social Escolar (ASE).
Children with disabilities are also given financial assistance by the Portuguese government, and their families are eligible to apply for at least one of the following subsidies through the country’s social security system (Segurança Social):
- Support for assistance by a third person, also called the subsídio por assistência de 3a pessoa
- Disability bonus, also called the bonificação do abono de família para crianças e jovens com deficiência
- Subsidy for special schooling, also called the subsidio de educaço especial
Children have a variety of financial aid alternatives available to them to help with the cost of attending school. Parents can explore alternatives for their children with the school administration and will need to provide documentation on their low financial status.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Education System in Portugal
What is the education system like in Portugal?
The Portuguese education system consists of pre-school education, from ages three to six, primary education, from six to 15 years old, and upper high school, for children aged between 15 and 18 years old. The school year starts in September in Portugal.
Does Portugal have good international schools?
The education system in Portugal is, in general, of a high standard. You have many options to choose from: there are very good public and private prep schools, Portuguese-speaking schools, and international schools in Portugal. From pre-school through to higher education, you can expect high education standards.
How is the education system in Portugal?
The education system in Portugal is divided into pre-school education (from ages three until six), primary or elementary education (ages six to 15 years old), and upper secondary school (ages 15 to 18 years old).
Is education free in Portugal?
Public school education is free in Portugal. However, for private and international schools, you will need to pay tuition fees. For independent schools, the cost is usually between €400 – €500 monthly, and for international schools, the cost is around €800.
You will have additional application, enrollment, and material costs (such as books, uniforms, etc.) for private and international schools.
Is higher education free in Portugal?
Higher education is free for Portuguese and EU nationals; residents can enroll but will be charged fees.
Public Portuguese universities are free to decide the amount that students will pay. Full-time students enrolled in bachelor’s and master’s programs are charged tuition fees of between €950 to €1,250 each year.
Is education cheap in Portugal?
Portuguese university or tertiary education is one of the most reasonably priced in the EU, with yearly tuition rates ranging from €3,000 to €12,500. In general, tuition fees and living costs are considered affordable, and students may save 30-45 percent on living expenses in Portugal compared to France, Germany, and Switzerland.
Is English taught in Portugal?
Yes, English is taught in Portugal from primary schooling upwards. Most public and private school courses are taught in Portuguese and English. There is also an increasing number of study programs offered in English, especially at the master’s level.
Does Portugal allow homeschooling?
Yes. Many foreign families are thinking about alternatives to the traditional educational system for their children, and the good news is that in Portugal, homeschooling is legal and regulated. This means that certain steps are needed, and you need to make sure you legalize your homeschooling.
Does Portugal have a good education system?
Portugal’s educational system ranks 24th in the 2022 Best Countries for Education Report, produced by the US News and World Report, BAV Group, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Portugal is home to several reputable polytechnics, which concentrate on training for jobs, in addition to top universities.
Is education free in Portugal?
Public schools in Portugal are cost-free from beginning to end, while independent schools do charge tuition. EU citizens and non-EU residents on the Portuguese Golden Visa are eligible to get free higher education in Portugal. Although there is no cost to attend public universities, there is a minimum administrative charge of €697 every year.
Are public schools free in Portugal?
The entire basic and secondary education period, from age six to age 18, is a requirement for school enrollment in Portugal. Public schools are free and, even though quality varies widely, some are highly regarded and seen as being better than private schools.
Are international schools free in Portugal?
Private international schools are not free in Portugal. In 2024, Portugal’s international school tuition starts at about €9,207 per year. Portugal’s public universities charge non-EU students between €550 and €1,050 per year for bachelor’s degrees. For master’s degrees, they charge around €500 – €2,500 per year.
Can American children go to school in Portugal?
American children can attend international schools in Portugal. However, you will pay for tuition. Non-EU residents on the Portuguese Golden Visa, both the students enrolled for primary education and tertiary education, are eligible for free education in Portugal at public Portuguese schools and universities.
Do they speak English in Portugal schools?
Most public schools in Portugal teach in Portuguese, and some offer English speaking students Portuguese language support classes. For English speaking expats, international schools and private schools that offer English or bilingual tuition to students would be a better option.