Updated: February 15, 2023
Whether it is the climate, the history, the high standard of living, or the quality of life, many families are drawn to Portugal’s shores. The education system in the country is very good and there are many excellent international schools in Portugal, focused mainly in Lisbon and Porto. Indeed, when it comes to education in Portugal, families moving to the country will be happy to know that their children will receive a good education so that they are well set up for life.
The basic education program lasts nine years, split up into three successive cycles of four, two, and three years. Children must begin their first academic year in that calendar year if they are six years old by 15 September. In terms of the different options for education in Portugal, you have very good public and private schools, Portuguese-speaking schools, and international schools in the country.
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. amilies 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. Additionally, Portugal was ranked as the sixth safest country in the world in 2022 and 12th in 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.
With the aid of industry experts, our partner Global Citizen Solutions has developed an international school guide of Portugal. The guide provides you with all the information you’ll need about the Portuguese educational system, including advice on picking the right school for you and your family.
In this article, we’ll provide information on the following:
- The grading system in Portugal
- The cost of education in Portugal
- Finding a school in Portugal
- Public education in Portugal
- Private and international education in Portugal
- The best schools in Portugal
- The best international schools in Portugal
- Post-secondary education in Portugal
- Graduating in Portugal
- Scholarships and financial aid
- Useful resources
The Grading System in Portugal
Portugal’s educational system ranks in 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.
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 education program in Portugal is simple:
- Pre-school education: Ages 3 to 6
- Basic education: Ages 6 to 15
- Upper secondary school: Ages 15 to 18
For basic education (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.
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. Golden Visa residents can enroll their children in the local school.
As with other public school systems, the school that your child will attend is based on the neighborhood where they live or where their parents work. If you are thinking about sending your child to a public school, then factor this into the equation when deciding on which property to purchase — is there a good public school closeby?
Private and international schools will require tuition fees and will vary depending on the school that you choose. This will be addressed later in this article.
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 a variety of public organizations, private schools, charitable institutions, and cooperatives.
Is university education free in Portugal?
Public Portuguese universities are free to decide the tuition fee amount that students have to pay. Full-time students that are enrolled in bachelor’s and master’s programs are charged tuition fees of approximately €950 to €1,250 each year.
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 an added bonus for foreigners looking to move to Portugal and send their children to a public school in Portugal, many of which offer an excellent standard of education.
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 immunization records (boletim de vacinas)
Note that some schools may require additional documents and have additional criteria.
Ultimately, the public Portuguese education 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 Portugal, particularly in Lisbon, Cascais, Porto, and the Algarve, that operate on paid tuition and fees. Many new residents opt for private schools, with some of the advantages being smaller class sizes, many extra-curricular activities, and more modern facilities.
International schools are popular with Golden Visa residents, 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, religious, and boarding schools.
The greatest choice for expats residing in Portugal are international schools – there are several in the country, particularly locations 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, American, French, or German schools. Fortunately, compared to other European nations, Portugal’s international school tuition is relatively inexpensive, starting at about €5,000 per year in some cases, although each school will set their own fees.
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.
Few boarding schools 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 schools 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, 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.
Private schools: tuition fees
Private schools can be quite costly and will vary from school to school. On average, 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.
International schools: tuition fees
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 the majority of these schools, you will pay a nonrefundable fee for submitting the application that 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.
Best Schools in Portugal
According to the information we`ve gathered, some of the best basic 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.
Best International Schools in Portugal
Since international schools in Portugal adhere to international educational standards and quality curriculum, 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.
St Julian’s School: The school was established in 1932 and it is situated in Carcavelos (Greater Lisbon Area). 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 alsojust 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 that was established 25 years ago for students aged three to 12. IPS prides itself in 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 higher education.
German School of Lisbon (Deutsche Schule Lissabon) The German School of Lisbon 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 IB diploma.
International schools in Porto
Some options for international schools in Porto are:
- CLIP Oporto International School
- Oporto British School
- Lycée Français International de Porto – LFIP
- Deutsche Schule zu Porto
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.
Val 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: A school with a supportive environment for secondary school children. It is located on the western coast of the Algarve.
Post-Secondary Education in Portugal
Post-secondary education in Portugal is well-known worldwide, with many international students choosing to study in Portuguese universities. The University of Porto ranks as the highest in the country, according to the QS World University Rankings in 2022. 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.
Additional information about moving to Portugal that may prove useful to you can be found in these articles:
- Should I Buy Property in Lisbon or Porto
- An Expat in Portugal: Your Essential Guide
- Moving to Portugal from the USA
- Living in Portugal as an Expat
Graduating in Portugal
The University of Porto is the top-ranked university in the country out of the seven that are included in the QS World University Rankings 2022.
Portugal’s higher education system is separated into two components:
- Universities that offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. These higher 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.
The majority of classes, notably those at the bachelor’s level, are taught in Portuguese. However, there are a number of English-language graduate programs, following patterns seen in universities around Europe.
Scholarships and Financial Aid
Portugal allows students to take advantage of the various scholarships offered by the government and higher 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 number of 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 the alternatives for their children with the school administration and will need to provide documentation on their low financial status.
There are some resources regarding education and support in Portugal that might be handy for you.
- The Portuguese Social Security System – Segurança Social
- The European Commission – Eurydice
- A non-profit organization providing help for families whose children have neurodevelopmental disorders – CADIn
- The Ministry of Education of Portugal – Direção-Geral da Educação (DGE)
- Service that provides information on how to apply for financial school aid in Portugal – Doutor Finanças
- Service that answers frequently asked questions about homeschooling in Portugal – Ericeira Living
- An organization that supports children from migrant families – Alto Comissariado para as Migrações (ACM)
- A non-profit association helping children with special educational needs (SEN) – Associação Nacional de Apoio à Criança Especial (ANACE)