24 de October, 2022
In terms of structure, education in Portugal is not so different from Brazil. The Portuguese education system is divided by levels, being:
Within each teaching level we also have sub-levels that I will explain further.
By law, basic education is compulsory for all children from the age of 6 and up and is divided into:
This is what in Brazil we call fundamental education.
Secondary school is what we call in Brazil high school. This means that it is the final three years of school – 10th, 11th and 12th grades – and where the pressure to choose a profession, which university to enter and preparation for the National Examination, which resembles our ENEM, begins.
Secondary education includes students between the ages of 15 and 18, but also provides training for adults who, for some reason, have had to abandon school. Therefore, just as we have Youth and Adult Education (EJA) in Brazil, Portugal has Adult Education and Training (EFA).
Higher education in Portugal is a little different from Brazil and the lack of this information is a reason to see many Brazilians complaining here. So, let me clarify this point through each cycle.
There are no Bachelor’s courses. Here all courses are named as either a Bachelor’s degree and comprise 3 years of study or a Bachelor’s degree with an integrated Master’s degree that comprises 5 years of study.
Both work as an undergraduate degree in Brazil, with the difference being the integrated master’s degree. Don’t think that it will prepare you for the academic universe, it just brings a larger workload to comply with the Bologna Treaty and unify the European study, which is 5 years (as in most Brazilian courses).
The master’s degree in Portugal has become a gateway for foreigners looking for a specialization. However, it is important to make it very clear that it is nothing like a master’s degree in Brazil. In Portugal, the master’s degree is geared toward the labor market and is much more similar to our MBA. Therefore, do not expect that you will become a researcher/university professor, because the focus is not to prepare you for academia.
The lack of this information has become the main frustration of Brazilians in Portugal who came with the expectation of deepening their studies and publishing articles in journals, but ended up doing tests and market-oriented work as if it were a small extension of their graduation.
This is the level of education in Portugal for those who wish to enter the academic world, further their studies and become a university researcher/teacher. Doing a PhD in Portugal will prepare you exactly for this and the universities are of high quality. Then, you can even go on to post-doctoral studies and secure a PhD title, for example.
Day-care centers in Portugal operate for newborns to 3-year-olds, with educational staff to stimulate the development of each child. They are divided into two categories:
Usually, enrollment in day care centers takes place between March and May and the “school year” starts in September. To enroll their children, parents should look for the daycare centers closest to their homes and hope that there are vacancies available, because it is not always that easy.
Newborns and children can stay at daycare centers for up to 40 hours a week, helping parents who need to work in Portugal all day. However, these hours are flexible and depend on the individual’s routine.
*Portugal’s parliament has approved free tuition as of September 2022 for children entering the first year of kindergarten.
The pre-school period covers children between the ages of 3 and 5 and is not compulsory by law, leaving it up to parents to decide whether or not to enroll their child. Registration for pre-school education is done online through ePortugal.gov or in person at the school office closest to your home.
Pre-school education in Portugal is offered free of charge in the public and private non-profit networks, as it is financed by the Ministry of Education. As for private and corporate educational institutions, payment must be made by the parents.
According to the Directorate-General of Education (DGE), pre-school comprises five hours of activities a day guided by an educator, in addition to animation activities, socio-educational activities, lunch service, and family support.
Education in Portugal takes place in public or private schools, just like in Brazil. However, there is a big difference. Unfortunately, in Brazil teaching in public schools is deficient in much of the country, whereas in Portugal, public schools have excellent teaching and leave nothing to be desired.
The proof is that almost 80% of the students are enrolled in public schools. According to the latest Education in Numbers report, released in 2021 and with reference to the 2019/2020 school year, there are 1,273,979 students in the public network and only 321,333 in the private network.
See the table by school cycle of students enrolled, according to the report from the Portuguese Ministry of Education:
|No. of students in the audience
|No. of students in private
As the data show, only about 20% of students are in the private network, most of them in the pre-school and elementary cycle.
The international schools in Portugal are very prominent in the private network with high standard facilities, small classes, extracurricular and bilingual activities.
In Brazil, this type of international school makes the student learn a second language as a native. It is no different in Portugal, but it is important to say that language learning is also extremely strong in the public school system. Students finish school with a good fluency in English and a third language, which can be French, German or Spanish. Therefore, in education in Portugal you do not learn the verb To Be all your life.
The workload varies according to the following table, based on the curricular matrix informed on the website of the Directorate-General of Education:
|25 hours per week
|Elementary school – 1st cycle
|between 24.5 hours and 27 hours a week
|Basic Education – 2nd and 3rd Cycles
|30 hours a week
|can reach up to 36 hours a week
School vacations take place during the summer months of July and August.
As we have already explained, education in Portugal is divided into cycles. Basic school is the one that comprises students from 1st to 9th grade. There are five formative offers, according to the DGE:
In general, the national curriculum in elementary schools comprises the following subjects:
Different from what we see in many schools in Brazil, in Portugal there are inclusion actions for foreign students or those who are in international protection shelter – children and young refugees.
In this case, the equivalence of the courses taken in order to offer an adequate education to the student and a reinforcement in the Portuguese language classes (for foreigners who are not native speakers) are some of the school action services that aim at the integration of the students.
Secondary school in Portugal comprises students from the 10th to the 12th grade (high school). They are divided into six formative offerings:
The courses offered by ANQEP – National Agency for Qualification and Professional Education – are similar to the technical schools in Brazil (such as IFET), where it is possible to do high school with a focus on a career to enter the job market.
Generally speaking, the national curriculum in secondary schools comprises general education and specific education. In general we have:
As for specific training, it will depend on the training offer chosen by each student, but here are some examples:
It’s quite interesting this separation between general and specific education in high schools, isn’t it? In my opinion, it makes more sense for the students and makes the school environment much more enjoyable.
Education in Portugal is free in public schools, however, parents need to pay for food, study visits, and personal school supplies, as books are also provided free of charge through a voucher issued on the MEGA – Free Textbooks website.
The amount of food is stipulated by subsidy brackets, which vary according to family income, as shown in the table below:
|Value of food
|at no charge
|at no charge
|0.75 per day (50% of the value)
|10€ (50% of the value)
|1.46 per day (100% of the value)
|20€ (100% of the value)
It is worth mentioning that school feeding is a complete and balanced meal, with a nutritionist preparing the menus.
Private schools, on the other hand, vary greatly in price. The costs of an international school, for example, can be as much as 25,000 euros per year.
On the website of the Directorate-General of School Establishments (DGEstE) you will find a list of all of them separated by region.
Enrollment in schools starts in April, but varies depending on the year of schooling. You need to pay attention to the dates announced in ePortugal. The calendar for 2021/2022 is as follows:
Registration and renewals can be done online through ePortugal (if you have access to the Portal) or in person at the school office closest to your home. Remember that education in Portugal is compulsory for all children from the age of 6.
To enroll in the Portuguese school, you will need to present the following documents:
*If the student comes from a Brazilian school, the school transcript and declaration must have the Hague apostille.
To make the equivalence of primary and secondary education in Portugal you need to look for the school closest to your residence and present the following documents:
*Additional documents that are not mandatory, but may be required in Portuguese schools for equivalency analysis.
The newspaper O Público in partnership with Porto Business School carries out an annual survey based on the analysis of the scores obtained in the national exam to elaborate the ranking of the best schools in Portugal focusing on secondary education.
The 2021 data has not been released yet, but according to the 2020 ranking we have the top 5:
|National Exam Average
|Heralds of the Gospel School
|Academy of Music of Santa Cecília
|Our Lady of the Rosary School
|D. Diogo de Sousa College
Note: the top five schools are private, whose teaching in Portugal is more rigid.
The top 5 public schools in Portugal rank 40th in the ranking. They are:
|National Exam Average
|Oporto Conservatory of Music Artistic School
|Eça de Queiróz Secondary School
|Póvoa do Varzim
|Infanta D. Maria Secondary School
|Agra e Lima Primary and Secondary School
|Viana do Castelo
|Paredes High School
The school year in Portugal starts in September, regardless of the school cycle and whether it is public or private. This leads many Brazilian parents to choose to have their children repeat the year that had already begun in February in Brazil.
School vacations take place in July and August, but on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve there is a short recess. As well as at Easter, where the students also usually have about 10 days of respite.
We have already seen that education in Portugal resembles and differs from Brazil in many aspects, and this also applies to the school evaluation system. The evaluations are divided by modality, as follows:
Grades in Portugal go from 0 to 20 points, and not from 0 to 100 as we are used to in Brazil. From 10 to above in all subjects is considered enough to pass the year. In two subjects with less than 10 points, the student repeats the year.
In the internal summative evaluation whose grade is lower than 10 in two subjects, the student can take a Frequency Equivalence Exam (similar to a Global exam) to try to reach the minimum required to pass the year.
The subjects Physical Education and Moral and Religious Education do not count for approval or repetition.
Article by Lívia Tostes, originally published on our partner site Euro Dicas.