Education in Portugal

The Portuguese government has done much in recent years to improve the quality of education in the country by reducing class sizes and improving facilities.

In Portugal education is mandatory from the ages of 6 to 15. The school system is divided into four tiers which are: Pre-primary, basic, secondary and higher.

Portuguese schools

The children of EU citizens may attend Portuguese state schools free of charge.  Parents have to enrol their children in the school that is nearest to their place of work or home. If your child’s 6th birthday is before September 15th then you will have to enrol them into a primary school in that same year.

To enrol your child in a basic school you will need:

The child’s ID card, passport, or a certificate from the embassy of the country of the child’s origin.

A completed registration form with a passport photograph attached. Forms will be supplied by the school.

Proof that the child has had all necessary vaccinations and eye/hearing tests. (For this to be done you must be registered at a Health Centre (Centro de saúde).

Primary Schools

The first cycle of primary education is taught at a different institution to the second and third cycle. When your child moves on to the 2nd cycle, you will have to repeat the enrolment process again at a different school.

The Portuguese school system has a similar style to that of the United States when it comes to progression. Pupils are assessed at the end of every school year and transitional period. Children who pass the assessment will be allowed to advance to the next year of education. Those at fail will be made to re-sit a year.

If the pupil passes all stages of education they will be awarded with a diploma that is essential to progress to secondary education.

Secondary Schools

Before starting secondary school pupils have to decide whether to opt for vocational or general training. General education involves the study of science and technology, social economics, social science, language, literature and art. Vocational training focuses on administration, construction, and electronics, multimedia, sport, marketing and computing.

To enter secondary school all you need is your diploma to say you have graduated from primary education. Students at this level of education are assessed by internal examiners throughout the year via coursework and small exams. At the end of each academic year external examinations are set.

 The School Term

Children attending Portuguese schools are made to attend 25 hours of schooling per week with classes beginning at 9.00am and ending at 3.30pm with a break in the morning and at lunch. Some primary schools run in shifts and you will have a choice as to which shift you want your child to attend. These tend to be either mornings 8.00am to 1.00pm, or afternoons from 1.15pm to 6.15pm.

At the age of ten the school day gets longer, the day usually starts at 8.45am and ends at 16.45pm. The children get one hour lunch break and breaks in the morning and afternoons.


The summer holidays begin around mid-June with the new school semester starting between the 8th and 13th of September. The Christmas holidays are from the 20th -31st December and Easter is ten days from 11th- 21st April.


Most Portuguese universities are state run but there also private and polytechnic institutions. Tuition fees for private universities are far more costly than state run ones or polytechnics. These fees change regularly so be sure to check with education ministry before applying. With the countries current economic problems these fees have risen as the government seeks to raise extra funds.

Admission into the state-run universities is granted to anyone who has a certificate of secondary education and has completed entry exams. When applying for university the student must prove they passed secondary school and will have to sit exams to test their knowledge of the subjects they were taught at school. The exam results are then combined with the marks they received at secondary school to ascertain the final grade.

Students choose six universities that they would like to attend, in order of preference. In addition to the exams the student must meet certain criteria to be accepted onto their chosen course and institution.