Portugal’s education system: all you need to know 

Portugal’s education system: all you need to know 

If you are moving to Portugal, especially with children and teenagers, you must be wondering and researching how the education system works in Portugal.

In Portugal, the public education system is the most used and best implemented – but there are also private school options at all levels of education. Here we will explain everything you need to know about Portugal’s education system before you move there.

How does the education system work in Portugal?

The education system in Portugal is regulated by the State through the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education. As we said, the public education system is the most used and best implemented, but there are excellent private schools at all levels of education.

The school year configuration in Portugal consists of: the first semester starts in September – after the summer season – and ends in January, while the second semester runs from February to June. The school vacations are from June to September, which coincides with the summer months in Europe.

How is the educational system divided in Portugal?

The education system in the country is divided into different levels, more specifically, into four categories: Kindergarten, Primary, Secondary and Higher Education, where Higher Education is not part of compulsory schooling.


Primary and compulsory education in Portugal starts at the age of six. Before that, it is possible to use the so-called nursery and they accept babies from 3 months of age.

There are few openings in kindergarten, whether public or private. To get a place in public day care centers, for example, it is necessary to apply for a place for the child and join a waiting list.

Elementary Education

The Portuguese compulsory basic education system is divided into three sequential cycles. The child starts school at age 6 and goes through 12 years of study in total. In terms of structure, Basic Education in Portugal is divided as follows:

1st cycle

  • 1st to 4th grade;
  • expected age: 6 to 10 years.

2nd cycle

  • 5th and 6th grade;
  • expected age: 10 to 12 years.

3rd cycle

  • 7th to 9th grade;
  • expected age: 12 to 15 years;

Students in the 1st cycle need to fulfill a workload of 25 hours per week. In the 2nd and 3rd grades, the workload becomes 30 hours per week.

Education System in Portugal

High School

Secondary education in Portugal corresponds to a three-year cycle, which includes five types of courses: scientific-humanistic, professional, artistic, specialized, courses with their own plans, and apprenticeship. In it, the students are already directed to the relative areas in which they wish to practice their profession.

Higher Education

Aimed at students who have successfully completed high school or have a legally equivalent qualification, Portugal, like 29 other countries in Europe, is structured according to the principles of the Bologna Treaty, which determines that Higher Education courses must last at least three years.

Education in Portugal is binary, divided into two modalities. The first is the modality taught at classical universities, focused on research and scientific investigation. The other is the education system of polytechnic institutes, which are practice-oriented courses.

In addition, the higher education courses follow a similar order to those in Brazil:

  • Bachelor’s (undergraduate) degree lasting from two to five years;
  • Master’s degree (professional and academic) lasting two years;
  • PhD (doctorate in Portugal) lasting three to four years.

In Portugal, there is also the course called Integrated Master, in which in parallel to the undergraduate degree, a Master’s degree is also taken. Although it is a longer degree, at the end of the course the student is also awarded the title of Master.

Public institutions comprise 14 universities, 20 polytechnics, and 6 military and police higher education institutions. Private higher education institutions, on the other hand, comprise 36 universities and 64 polytechnic institutes. In the case of Brazilians, it is worth remembering that 34 Portuguese colleges allow Enem as a means of entry.

All colleges in Portugal are paid for – either with private funding or with state funding. The difference about how much it costs to study in Portugal at private universities is that, in general, there is no difference between the amount paid by Portuguese and foreigners, because the institutions do not count on government subsidies, while public universities do.

However, it is worth remembering that Portugal has agreements with countries in the CPLP – Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries – offering special rates for foreigners who are also part of this community.

Documents required to enroll in education in Portugal

To enroll a foreign student in Portugal’s educational system you need to bring the documents below – preferably before the school semester:

  • Valid passport;
  • Fill out the registration form (provided by the school itself);
  • A current photo of the student (the school will indicate the format);
  • School transcripts (recognized and apostilled in Brazil, according to the Hague Convention);
  • Vaccination card;
  • Medical certificate (in some schools);
  • Proof of family residence in Portugal.

How much does it cost to study in Portugal?

In Portugal there are private and public education without and with government co-payment – in this case, the tuition is divided between the government and the parents. Public school, on the other hand, requires a payment according to the family’s income tax bracket. In addition, parents need to buy teaching materials and contribute to their children’s school meals (but, depending on the family’s financial condition, an agreement is made and part of the book costs are refunded).

In private schools, the tuition varies according to the institution. Tuition fees at the best schools in Portugal range from 500 to 1000 Euros. In these cases, it is possible, through legal counseling and representation, such as Moreira & Perfeito, to advance the pre-enrollment and pre-enrollment even before the arrival in Portugal.

In addition to tuition, the cost of registration, school insurance, and food must also be factored in.

Public education or private education in Portugal?

It is important to point out and be clear that, although education in Portugal is of the highest quality in both the public and private systems, there are differences.

The biggest differences between private and public education in Portugal is that private schools, besides offering more extra curricular activities, demand more from students in terms of preparation for exams – a vestibular, for example. Many also require an interview with the parents, albeit a virtual one in case they are not in Portugal.

The main advantages of studying in a private school in Portugal are being able to participate in various extracurricular activities, such as dancing, chess and music. In public education, on the other hand, the main advantage is in the costs. In public schools, parents must pay only for their children’s food and teaching materials. Another important advantage is the quality in education. A student will not learn less because he is studying in a public school!

In addition, Portuguese schools (public and private) operate full time, making it possible for those responsible for the children to work, without worrying about who to leave their children with.


It is necessary to balance and understand all the advantages and disadvantages of the education system in Portugal – be it public or private. Before making any decision, consult a specialist on the subject so that the choice is consistent with your wishes.

Here at Moreira & Perfeito we offer several services related to educational transfer to Portugal, such as enrollment in the school of your choice. Contact us to learn more!

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Personalized service in which the client will present the specific case to lawyers who, based on their professional knowledge and vast experience, will provide the necessary clarifications.

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