From being the home of explorers who set off to discover unknown lands, Portugal has now been recognized as one of the best destinations for expats seeking a good quality of life and peaceful sunny days on the charming coasts of the Atlantic. Expats have been flocking to Portugal and its charming capital Lisbon to work, live, and settle in with their families.
As an expat parent, no need to worry about your child’s education while considering moving to Portugal. There are several different schools in Lisbon that are of very good quality. If you’re considering moving to Lisbon with your family, you should be aware of everything regarding your children’s education, international schools in Lisbon, and how to choose the right school for them. In this article, we’ll help you ease the process by providing you with a detailed guide about schools in Lisbon.
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%.
The education system in Portugal includes both free state schools and private schools where your children will receive a 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 instead of paying for private education. Children can be enrolled in the pre-school education stage before the mandatory age of joining the school at six.
For expat families, that may yet be up to speed with the Portuguese language, schools in Lisbon also offer many good options for expats to enroll in international schools to make it easier for their 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. Both public schools and private schools in Lisbon offer an education system that 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.
International schools in Portugal
International schools are the best option for expats living in Lisbon Portugal. These schools offer a multicultural environment that provides students with more international skills and the ability to engage more with different cultures and learn a lot in their native languages.
Parents have the possibility to choose British, American, French, German, and other national schools which is ideal if they prefer their child to learn in their home language or be familiar with the curriculum. Luckily, the fees of the international schools in Lisbon are relatively affordable as compared to other European countries, and start at around €5,000 a year.
Because the educational system in Portugal consists of different stages, you should consider this while searching for the proper school in Lisbon for your child. Check carefully if the school you’re targeting is a good option for your children to continue their studies at advanced levels.
Types of international schools in Portugal
Lisbon international schools have different options for expats children with different languages, different curricula, and different ages. You don’t need to worry about this as, by narrowing down the options, you’ll ultimately be able to choose the best option that suits your children’s future.
If you’re considering an English school in Lisbon, you will find that there are many options. And if you’re considering alternatives to English schools, Lisbon will surprise you with its variety. You will find an assortment of very good schools in Lisbon to enroll your children, and we will provide you with the options so you be aware of the process while choosing.
International Baccalaureate in Portugal
International Baccalaureate is a pre-university education curriculum that prepares the students for bigger challenges in higher education. Students can graduate from secondary school with the International Baccalaureate (IB). Universities recognize this qualification around the whole world, and it’s a plus for any student applying to any university for higher education. The course is designed to develop children’s creativity and sense of community. The IB Diploma is available at 13 schools in Portugal, which include international schools and a few private Portuguese institutions.
American international schools and Advanced Placement (AP)
If you’re considering the American education system for your children, you should know that American international schools in Lisbon follow the academic system of the United States of America. The American education system consists of elementary school, middle school, and high school. During the different cycles of American education, your children will study social studies, math, English, science, and usually a foreign language. Then, upon passing all their classes and exams, they will receive a diploma.
Graduation from an American school, especially if the school is recognized by the United States Department of State, can increase the opportunities for students hoping to attend university in the USA or Canada. Some American schools may also offer Advanced Placement (AP) college-level courses, SAT preparation, or university application support.
American curriculum schools in Portugal can be harder to find than their British counterparts. Here are a few:
Continuing the available options for English-speaking schools in Lisbon, you will be surprised by the variety of British schools. Unlike most other international schools, Portugal has plenty of British schools around other big cities, not only in Lisbon.
British schools in Lisbon are good options for expats parents who are considering a pure British education for their children, hoping that they will be able to continue their studies in the UK. Generally, students study science, math, history, English, and foreign languages. Of course, the language of instruction is English, and the focus is on problem-solving, confidence building, and student growth. One of the highlights and the biggest reasons why people consider British schools is that most offer students International General Certificates of Secondary School (IGCSE), facilitating easier access to universities. Check out some of the few British international schools in Portugal:
By considering the International GCSE you’re helping your children choose to study anywhere in the world. The International General Certificate of Secondary Education is an English certificate program that follows the British education curriculum. Culminating in A-level qualifications, coursework includes math, science, English, and a foreign language.
The IGCSE has been around for nearly three decades and is called the International GCSE because it’s available in countries across the world, unlike the GCSE, which is only available in the UK (and a few other countries). The IGCSE program provides children with the most comprehensive education in this part of the world and a stimulating environment for thorough development.
Upon finishing Year 11 and completing the Cambridge IGCSE program, students obtain Cambridge University’s International Certificate of Education (ICE) diploma and advance to the next level – the so-called Advanced Level or A Level. They have to pass all required A-Levels in order to receive this prestigious diploma as a certificate of the knowledge they were acquiring for two years.
Other national curricula
What if you’re considering moving to Portugal, but you want a non-English education for your children? Portugal is still a good option for you, where you’ll find some of the other national curricula with different languages. With the variety of expats from around the world, there is a range of international schools in Lisbon Portugal with different educational languages. And here are some of the international non-English schools in Portugal.
A good number of the secondary schools in Portugal are Catholic institutions, where students study some religious subjects along with the main core curriculum. Many parents choose these schools because they perform better in the annual exams (in Portuguese) and offer a wider range of extramural activities. Some schools also teach in English and students can graduate with the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma. School fees can range between €2,500 and €10,000 a year. Here are a few schools to check out while searching:
If you are thinking out of the box and trying to choose something not traditional for your children, you may consider the method schools. You should be aware of the fact that some methods schools may only accept students within certain cycles. Additionally, some schools may teach in one language or offer multilingual education. So be sure to do your research. Here are some good places to start:
Should you send your child to an international school in Portugal?
International schools are a good choice for your child, whether you’re choosing the English or the non-English educational system. By sending your child to an international school in Portugal, you’re opening many doors of global opportunities for your child in the future. Children who join and enroll in international schools in Portugal will have the option to apply for higher education in many different countries.
In case you’re planning to settle in and retire in Portugal, or you’re staying for a specific period of time, the international education you chose for your children will save a lot of hassle when changing homes.
You will also find some international schools in Lisbon that offer some Portuguese classes for your children along with the other subjects, which will be so helpful for them to get to grip on daily life while living in Portugal and studying in their native language.
However, if you’d like your child to be integrated into Portuguese culture, or if your child already speaks Portuguese, finding a high-quality public school might be your best option. As a bonus, it is so much more affordable to use the public school system.
How to choose an international school in Portugal
The process may seem long and confusing, but not if you list your options and start narrowing them down with simple questions like:
What are the languages I want my children to learn?
How far am I willing to send my children every day to their schools?
What kind of education system would I like my children to be enrolled in?
Where are the possible countries where my children can attend universities?
What is an affordable budget for me to maintain a good and affordable education?
Once you have clear answers to the previous questions, you will be able to finally decide which school to send your child to. If you’re still thinking about which city in Portugal to consider living in, you should know that you will find the best schools in Lisbon and Porto, however, other big cities have also some good options for you. Check out some of the useful resources that might help you while deciding:
Direção-Geral da Educação – information on essential programs from the Portuguese Directorate-General for Education (in Portuguese)
Your Europe – information on starting school in another country in the European Union
If you’re considering moving to Lisbon Portugal, and you’re still confused about where to live in Lisbon with your family, you can contact us and we assist you in your search At Goldcrest, we know how to direct you and help you with the process of choosing the perfect property that suits your investment plans.
We have an expert team who will show you around Lisbon city and tell you what are the best neighborhoods in Lisbon to settle in and start your peaceful life with your family. This will also make it easier for you to find a suitable school for your children within the minimum distance from home.
You can also check our guide to buying real estate in Lisbon, and then contact us for more detailed information. Our team of experts will present you with various options tailored to your needs and requirements and be your loyal consultant throughout the process.
Frequently asked questions about the schools in Lisbon:
Does Lisbon have good schools?
Lisbon offers a variety of high-quality international schools with various languages to choose from. If you’re considering moving with your family to Lisbon and you need some help in deciding, you can check our list of international schools in Lisbon to help you narrow down the options.
Are international schools free in Portugal?
International schools are not free in Portugal, unlike public schools, but it’s one of the most affordable education systems in Europe. International schools in Portugal allow the children to study in their native language and interact with other children from across the world. It also gives them continuity in their education if they relocate to another country or return home.
Are schools good in Portugal?
The education system in Portugal is excellent, offering families a variety of choices for schools and universities, including international schools. 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.
What is the best international school in Lisbon?
Here are the best international schools in Lisbon attached to their websites:
Yes, there are plenty of English-speaking schools in Portugal you will find a mix of American and British schools where your children can get different English educational programs.
1- American international schools follow the academic system of the United States, usually dividing study into elementary, middle, and high schools. Students take courses in social studies, math, English, science, and usually a foreign language. Then, upon passing all their classes and exams, students will receive a diploma.
2- Following the national curriculum of England, British curricula schools are found all over the world. These schools are a strong option for students who intend to study in the UK. Most British curricula offer students International General Certificates of Secondary School (IGCSE), facilitating easier access to university.
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