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Private Schools for Expats in Portugal

Submitted: July 2014

The main problems for expats with the publically funded state schools in Portugal are that all of the teaching is done in Portuguese, and the standard of education and resources offered may not be considered high enough. As a result many expats’ children will attend private schools.

There are generally two kinds of private schools in Portugal: Portuguese private schools and International schools. Portuguese private schools teach the Portuguese curriculum, aiming to educate the children to the level required for entry into university. International schools tend to educate to standards such as GCSE (UK), PSAT (USA) and the International Baccalaureate. This article is only concerned with Portuguese private schools.

Day nurseries are available for children under the age of 2, and are generally private. From the age of three, children may attend a Jardim de Infância, which is a traditional kindergarten. Some are provided by the state and others are private and charge fees. Primary education (Ensino Básico) lasts between the ages of 6 and 14/15, and is compulsory. It is divided into three stages:

National exams take place at the end of each year to decide whether your child goes up into the next year, or repeats the existing one. At the end of Ensino Básicochildren receive a certificate of basic education (diploma do ensino básico).

After the end of Ensino Básico, Ensino Secundário or upper secondary schooling is also compulsory (since 2013) and takes place between the ages of 15 and 18. Here the curriculum splits into two programmes . Both include common subjects including Portuguese, philosophy, a foreign language, RE and PE. The general academic curriculum has four streams, each of which has one core subject; for two streams this is maths, one stream has history and the final stream has drawing. Beyond this there are choices from the sciences, history, geography, languages, economics sociology and psychology.  The technological curriculum offers specific courses, which can be anything form civil construction to sport. 

Exams in two subjects are taken at the end of the11th year, and at the end of the twelfth year, students take exams in Portuguese and the main subject of their course. The results of these decide whether the student can gain admission to further education at either a university or polytechnic. The average results of the first two exams and the average results of the final two exams are in turn averaged to produce a final grade between 0 and 20. It is this final number which provides the basis on which universities and polytechnics choose their undergraduates.

Many private schools are situated in either Lisbon or Porto, the number of available schools is quite large. Here is a list of private schools in the various regional directorates in Portugal. Choosing a suitable school can involve a delicate balance between various factors. If the school is in a city, the two most important factors are likely to be the school’s location, and the ranking of the school in the results tables.

Generally children attend a school which is near to their home. It is possible to arrange for enrolment at a school near your work if this is more convenient. In order to register a child for school, you should go the school. The following minimum information  is generally required for registration:

You can also provide a certificate showing your child’s previous attainment level in your home country. This can be obtained from either the Portuguese Embassy at home, or from the British Consulate in Portugal.

Unlike state schools, private schools are free to set their own term dates, so you will have to check these with the schools themselves. The first term  of the school year generally begins in mid-September, and the school year ends at the end of June. There are holidays for Christmas and Easter, and also a short one for the Carnival (which is decided by the phases of the moon, so sometimes it will fall in late February or even early March).



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