Education in Portugal. How does the school system work?

Education in Portugal. How does the school system work in 2020?

Education in Portugal

Education in Portugal
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After getting Portugal residence in Portugal, you should think about your children’s education. In today’s article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about education in Portugal.

Portugal has a mixed public-private school system.

School is compulsory from ages 6 to 18.

Public school is free to all citizens and foreign residents. But it is the private schools, most of them Catholic, that lead the list of the best schools in the country.

What are the main differences between public and private schooling in Portugal?

Public schools in Portugal are subsidized by the state. This means that education in Portugal is free for all Portuguese citizens and foreign children. The quality of education in public schools has improved over the years. However, public schools are still struggling with problems such as aging teaching staff and low final grades for graduates.

The curriculum in public schools is in Portuguese. If your child doesn’t speak the language yet, it’s a good idea to enroll him or her in an international school in the country. You can choose an international school with a Portuguese curriculum to make it easier to integrate your child into public schools later.

Private schools in Portugal are considered higher quality than public schools. They tend to be stricter about school hours, attendance, and adherence to school rules. For this reason, parents may choose to send their children to a private school to provide a more rigorous and demanding learning environment.

How to enroll your child in school: requirements and documents

First-grade enrollment is from April through June. Otherwise, children must be accepted into the next grade three working days after receiving final grades.

You can enroll your child in a public school in two ways: online at Portal das Matrículas or in person at the public school in your municipality. Each school usually provides a list of required documents on its website. You can also call ahead to find out what documents you should bring with you. Standard required documents for most schools:

  • child’s ID or birth certificate;
  • one photo of the child;
  • completed registration form (provided by the school);
  • the child’s vaccination card (boletim de vacinas).

In addition to these standard documents, private schools may also require an interview.

Designated Parent or Legal Guardian (Encarregado De Educação)

Designated Parent or Legal Guardian (Encarregado De Educação)
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Encarregado de educação (designated legal guardian for educational purposes) is the person who takes the primary role in the child’s education and decides all matters related to the school. You are asked to appoint an encarregado de Educação for your child in Portuguese schools. Usually, it is a parent or legal guardian, but in case this is not possible, it can be the person responsible for the child’s care.

The person in charge of the child’s education is the parent or legal guardian.

To be encarregado de educação means that you will be the first point of contact for the school and the child’s official representative. For example, they may be asked to sign the child’s tests, official documents the child can bring to or from school, and attend parent-teacher meetings, among other duties. You could even incur a fine (up to €88/$96) if you ignore an official request when you are called to the school.

Primary education in Portugal: primary school

Basic education in Portugal: elementary school
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Primary school, or primária in Portugal, is the first cycle of basic education, grades 1 through 4. 

School hours vary nationally because they are set at the municipal level. Classes may begin between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. and end at 4 or 5 p.m. A total of five hours of study time per day, including breaks.

Children study the following subjects:

  • portuguese
  • mathematics
  • science
  • art and sports
  • English (in 3rd and 4th grade)

Basic education in Portugal: second and third cycles

These two cycles, corresponding to grades 5-9, are often grouped together. The schools are called EB 2/3 (short for ensino básico de 2º e 3º ciclo) or simply básico.

The number of school hours depends on the school, but should be at least 25 hours per week.

The following subjects are taught in grades 5 and 6: Portuguese, English, Portuguese history and geography, mathematics, science, physical education (PE), visual arts, computer science, and music. 

From grades 7 through 9, the following subjects are added: a second foreign language (Spanish, French or German), history, geography, chemistry, and physics. For all of these grades, moral and religious education is optional.

Secondary education or high school

Secondary education or high school
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Ensino secundário, or simply secundário, is high school. It is at this level that the Portuguese education system begins to branch out, preparing students either for university or for work.

The most common courses at this stage:

    • científico-humanísticos courses for students who want to go to university;
    • científico-tecnológico courses – for students who want to go to university, but with an additional practical and professional component;
    • vocational courses.

If students choose one of the courses that give access to higher education, they will need to select a major area of concentration:

  • science and technology;
  • socioeconomic sciences;
  • languages and humanities;
  • art.

The common subjects are Portuguese, a foreign language (German, Spanish, or French), philosophy, and physical education. The other five subjects depend on the field of study.

At the end of high school, students take national exams, which are a percentage of their final scores. Before the admission campaign, universities publish the level of scores required for admission.