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State School Systems for Expats in Portugal

Submitted: July 2014

State schools in Portugal are funded by the state.

Day nurseries are available for children under the age of 2, but are generally private; though state help may be available in some cases. 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 and free in state schools. 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 one 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.

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 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.

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 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).

Expats should be aware that all tuition at state schools is conducted in Portuguese, so unless your child is fluent or near fluent in Portuguese, or very young, placing them into the state education system may cause some problems.



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