Study and find schools in Portugal

The Portuguese Republic, otherwise known as simply Portugal, is a sovereign nation situated on the Iberian Peninsula in the southwest portion of the European continent.  Home to approximately 11 million permanent residents as of the last census, the country is fairly homogenous in terms of population, with approximately 97 percent of the population self-identifying as native Portuguese citizens.  From a geographic standpoint, Portugal is Europe’s westernmost country and encompasses an area of roughly 35,500 square miles (92,000 sq. km).  Its borders are formed by the Atlantic Ocean and the nation of Spain, respectively located to the country’s south and west, and to its north and east.  Portugal’s territory also includes the archipelagos known as Madeira and Azores, located to its west in the Atlantic Ocean.  The capital and largest city in Portugal is Lisbon, considered the country’s cultural, economical and political hub for most of its long history.

Portugal has developed a specific culture while being influenced by various civilizations that have crossed the Mediterranean and the European continent, or were introduced when it played an active role during the Age of Discovery. In the decades of the 1990s and 2000s, Portugal modernized many of its public cultural facilities, including the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, which was initially established in 1956 in Lisbon.  Other centers that received facelifts include the Belém Cultural Centre in Lisbon, Serralves Foundation and the Casa da Música, both in the city of Porto, as well as new public cultural facilities like municipal libraries and concert halls that were built or renovated in many municipalities across the country. Portugal is home to fifteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites, ranking it 8th in Europe and 17th in the world in that category.

The Portugal of today is a very modern and highly developed country that is consistently ranked high for its citizens’ quality of life.  Much of this success can be attributed to the country’s dedication to the field of education, including higher education, a system that consistently produces highly-trained and knowledgeable graduates who are poised to lead the country into the future.

Education System in Portugal

The educational system in Portugal is multifaceted, consisting of a number of different levels, stages, and institution types.  Currently, pre-university/pre-tertiary education in the country is free at all public or state-run institutions and mandatory for all children between the ages of 6 and 18—the age in which students finish their final year of secondary education.

The system of education is divided between pre-primary education, basic education, higher secondary education and post-secondary or higher education.

Pre-Primary Education

Pre-primary education in Portugal, while not mandatory, is provided both publicly and privately for children between the ages of 3 and 5.  The main goal of the various institutions that provide this education is to prepare students for their first year of basic school at age six.  Students learn pre-reading, writing, and basic arithmetic skills, art, music and physical education.  The great part about pre-primary education is it allows students the opportunity to socialize and practice working cooperatively with other children—skills that will be necessary for their success during the next stage of education.

Basic Education

Basic education, known locally in Portugal as Ensino Basico, typically begins at age six and culminates at age 14 or 15.  Basic education is further subdivided into three stages, the first two of which are equivalent to the primary system of education in other countries; and the final stage equivalent to the lower secondary, middle school, or junior high school level in countries like the United States and Canada.

The first cycle of Basic Education spans four years in duration and serves children between the ages of 6 and 10.  The second cycle spans two years, serving children 10-12 years of age, while the third and final stage of basic education lasts three years, for children between the ages of 12 and 15.  Upon completion of Basic Education, all students are awarded a Diploma or Certificado, a prerequisite for admission into higher secondary education.

Secondary Education

Secondary education in Portugal spans three years, serving students between the ages of 15 and 18.  Students have three options when it comes to the type of secondary schooling they will receive:   academic, professional or technical/vocational.

The academic program is for students who intend to continue their studies at the university level.  Institutions that offer these programs are known as Escola Secundaria.  Students who successfully complete the coursework of the academic program are awarded the Diploma de Ensino Secundário, which qualifies them to apply for university admission.

The professional secondary program, which also spans three years in duration, is aimed at preparing students for further education and training leading to professional careers.  Students who successfully complete this program are granted the Diploma de Formação Profissional de Nivel III and Diploma de Estudios Profissionais

Finally, the technical/vocational secondary program is aimed at students looking to pursue an entry level position immediately following their secondary school training.  Programs offered here include many of the trades, in addition to advanced courses in areas such as computers, electronics and information technology.  Students who successfully complete this program are awarded the Diploma de Ensino Secundário, Certificado de Qualificação Profissional de Nível III for their efforts.

Higher Education in Portugal

Currently, higher education in Portugal is divided into two subsystems: university education and non-university higher education (polytechnic education), and it is provided in public and  private universities and non-university higher education institutions (both public and private).The Portuguese Catholic University was instituted by decree of the Holy See and is recognized by the State of Portugal. Private higher education institutions cannot operate if they are not recognized by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. Access is regulated by the same procedures as those for state higher education institutions. The two systems of higher education (university and polytechnic) are linked and it is possible to transfer from one to the other. It is also possible to transfer from a public institution to a private one and vice-versa.

The education offered in the Polytechnics in Portugal is largely vocational and technical, leading to a variety of diplomas and certifications.  Some programs also offer undergraduate and graduate degrees, particularly those that deal with more advanced technical education and training.

The universities in Portugal have recently adapted their credit and degree structure in accordance with the Bologna Process.  This educational reform measure is designed to standardize the credit and degree structure at universities throughout the European Union as a way to facilitate student transfer between member universities.  As a result of these changes, Portuguese universities now offer undergraduate (Bachelor), graduate (Master’s) and post-graduate (Doctorate) degrees in a wide variety of subject areas and disciplines.  Generally, the Bachelor degree programs span three years in duration, while the Master’s degree programs span an additional two years.  Exceptional students are free to apply to one of the country’s doctorate or PhD programs, which, upon acceptance, will take them three to five years to complete.

The academic year in Portugal’s higher education institutions runs from September to July and is split up into two semesters. 

Language Courses in Portugal

Language is the key to understanding a culture that might be different from one’s own. Language does not constitute the whole of it, but certainly helps in getting a feel of the nuances and the core elements of a country and its culture.
Portugal, geographically located on the south western extremity of Europe, like the rest of the continent, has its own formal language structure. The official language of Portugal is Portuguese, which has a rich history spanning over centuries. Portuguese, however, is not spoken in this country alone. Portuguese is truly a international language and is considered the official lingua franca in over eight countries- including nations as far as Brazil, Mozambique and East Timor! Hence there is a growing need for a holistic method for learning Portuguese through the varied Portuguese language immersion courses in Portugal. These courses are imparted by some of the finest Portuguese language schools for international or foreign students in the country.
The Portuguese language is one of the Romance languages and it comes from a medieval form of Spanish. Currently there are over 272 million Portuguese speakers around the world, with the majority of this living in Brazil. Also, spoken in certain African and South-East Asian countries, it is the fifth most common language in the world today.
Linguistically, Portuguese and Spanish are quite similar, owing to the proximity of Spain and Portugal. Although it is spoken in various countries, the accents and some pronunciations may differ from country to country.
Higher education in Portugal attracts a lot of international students into the country. Some of the best educational institutes of Europe are located in Portugal, especially in the capital Lisbon. This in turn, has provided a lot of international exposure to the Portuguese education system. The large number of international students who come to attend Portuguese universities, often wish to learn Portuguese; to cater to this growing need, a gamut of Portuguese studies courses, language schools and Portuguese immersion programs have sprung up.
Learn Portuguese in Portugal
Most students or professionals might feel out of place in a new cultural scenario- language being a major hindrance. Although English is an international language and most travelers do have a basic knowledge of English, people who visit Portugal temporarily or for permanent settlement should certainly possess some understanding of Portuguese. If these international students are from countries like Brazil, Angola, Guinea-Bissau or other erstwhile Portuguese colonies, it is somewhat easier for them to grasp the intricacies of the new culture. But then as the economies have opened up globally, a lot of Asian or American students are also coming to Portugal. Designed especially for them, are the Portuguese language immersion courses offered by the Portugal language schools.
Unlike a second language classes (conventional ones), Portuguese immersion courses are more holistic and wholesome as far as understanding of the foreign language (Portuguese in this case) is concerned. The core focus in these specific classes is to teach the language from its original setting. This practically means that international students get a true feel of Portuguese – including the language, the daily usage of it and how it correlates with the culture and history of the country. Hundreds of foreign citizens are admitted at these language classes every year, besides their specific educational courses in Portugal.

Schools that offer language courses in Portugal

A TradiMillenium

Cascais, Portugal
A TradiMillenium is an organization, offering various language services – courses, translations and interpretations. They aim to be very flexible, making available company courses, individual and group classes, classes for children, classes after work and on Saturdays, as well as preparation classes for exams. Translations and interpretations are provided in German, French, English, Spanish, Japanese, Hungarian, Russian, Swedish, Romanian, Italian, the Baltic States Languages, Dutch, Polish, Bulgarian, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish, Hebrew, Chinese.

CIAL Centro de Linguas

Lisboa, Portugal
Learn Portuguese in Portugal. Portuguese language school for businesses and individuals. Founded in 1959 General language courses, Portuguese + Surf, Social and extra curricular activities available and accommodation on request. Accreditation for US universities.

Escola de Línguas

Lisbon, Portugal
Escola de Línguas is a language school and translations agency, located in Lisbon, Portugal. The school offers individual and group language courses in Portuguese and English, and the method applied is constant communication between teacher and student, without using the student’s native language. The school also offers specialized classes to prepare students for international exams, from the University of Cambridge Local Examination’s Syndicate. For the Portuguese for foreigners classes, the school also offers to take care of the participants’ accommodation.

Falamos Português - Portuguese Lessons

Lisbon, Portugal
Falamos Português is a Portuguese language and culture school in the center of Lisbon. We offer courses for all levels in groups or individual and also online lessons.

Fast Forward Porto

Porto, Portugal
Fast Forward Language Institute was founded in 1991, in Porto, Portugal. The courses, which include intensive, super intensive and executive teachings of Portuguese language are taught in groups (not exceeding a maximum number of 6 students per class) and individually. Moreover, the institution uses modern technological facilities in teaching students. Services such as business centers with free access to internet, money exchange and travel organization are also offered by the institute. Internship is a career option offered, too. Accommodation includes host family, pousadas, apartment... See full description.

Oficina de Português

Porto, Portugal
Oficina de Português is a Portugese Language school, located in Porto, Portugal. It offers a variety of courses based on each individual's needs. There are standard, intensive course programs, as well as city break ones, for those who have come for a visit and only have time during the weekend. Options are offered to Erasmus students, too – Erasmus Portuguese, Part-Time Portuguese, and Extensive Portuguese. These are also suitable for anyone who lives, works, or studies in Portugal. Additionally, an e-learning opportunity is available for distance students. The method that the school... See full description.

Career Colleges and Vocational Schools in Portugal

The vocational education and training system in Portugal is aimed at guaranteeing the right to education and training, as well as, to ensure equal opportunities of access to all students in the country. Vocational schools and career colleges in Portugal have been established to meet the growing need for trained candidates in the country’s labor market.
Overview of Vocational Education in Portugal
Vocational education is offered in Portugal at two levels:
  • Initial vocational education at secondary level, which is optional to academic secondary education
  • Post-secondary (non-tertiary) vocational education, which is optional to university academic education
Secondary Level Vocational Education in Portugal
The initial level vocational education begins upon completing nine years of basic schooling. It is from this level onwards that the state introduces the option of vocational training instead of regular academic study. Vocational courses at this level focus on preparing students for employment, or for higher level courses for specialized vocational qualifications. There are different kinds of secondary level vocational schools and programs in Portugal including:
Vocational Courses, which provide holistic secondary, level training. These courses last three years and they train students for the labor market. The course module includes various components such as socio-cultural, scientific and technical training. The course work also includes practical training in a work environment. Successful completion leads to a diploma in secondary education. They are mainly provided by a network of State-run as well as private vocational schools in Portugal.
Apprenticeship System offers preliminary alternate training for people in the age group of 15 to 25. These courses vary in duration, and they cover over 14 fields of employment including textiles, electricity and energy, commerce, finance, fisheries and so on. A Level 2 Vocational Qualification is offered to students upon completion along with a certificate of completion of Cycle 3 of basic education, which is a Level 3 vocational qualification.
Education and Training Courses are those which are designed for people above the age of 15, who are perceived to be moving away from regular education. These courses have four major parts and extend from 125 hours to 276 hours.
Specialized Art Courses offer training in visual and audiovisual arts. Those who complete this training are awarded the Level 3 vocational qualification. The courses are offered by various State run schools.
Technology Courses provide technical training during the last three years of school. These vocational courses in Portugal are offered by several schools under the Ministry of Education and cover general, scientific and technological training.
Post Secondary (Non Tertiary) Vocational Education in Portugal
Cursos de especialização tecnológica (CET) are vocational schools in Portugal that provide specialized, post-secondary, non-tertiary vocational education and training. These courses offer advanced level industry training to those who have completed a secondary level vocational course, and those who hold a diploma in specialized technology. Those that have sufficient industry experience may also be eligible to apply to the CETs.
Training pathways are based on a highly vocational curriculum that covers general scientific and technological training, in addition to practical training at a workplace. Upon successfully completing the course, students get awarded a diploma in specialized technology and a level 4 vocational certificate.

List of career colleges and vocational schools in Portugal

Green Mountain Institute

Lisbon, Portugal
Green Mountain Institute is an international bodywork and massage therapy training institution that trains people on the required techniques and procedures in performing bodyworks and massage via workshops and private individual sessions. Their goal is to efficiently link the mind, body & spirit through the act of touching. The school has 2 locations –Vermont (USA) and Portugal. It was created in 1993 by a couple, who have since trained workers and teachers who are fully dedicated to their work. A major advantage that the institution points out is that they ensure 2 trainers to one... See full description.

Online degree, online courses and distance learning schools in Portugal

High standards of Portuguese education system
Education is serious business in Portugal, with the literacy rate as high as 99 percent, and student enrolment at full 100 percent. The higher education rate at 35 percent is also high as compared to most countries. These figures are a clear indication that the government initiatives in strengthening the educational sector have yielded rich dividends over the years. Despite the weakening of the economy (like most European countries) in the last couple of years, the government has made sure that its track record in education does not deteriorate. This is perhaps the only way to ensure that students and families can sustain themselves in the changing global scenario and high competition. The country also attracts a lot of foreign students into its system, who often stay back and contribute profusely to the development of the country. The government of Portugal has in place a credible and high quality international student assessment system in place to choose, help and guide students enrolling at different colleges and universities in Portugal. The Portuguese government has also taken measures to open up the education system to allow private players to participate, especially in the secondary education sector. These include a myriad of online degrees and e-learning classes.
The Portuguese government has also taken some concrete steps over the last decade or so to co-operate and form bilateral agreements with some of the top American or British universities and educational institutes for providing course structure and curriculum for these online courses. Some of them provide education in multiple disciplines- including regular subjects and online diplomas.  So for interested students there are plenty of options to choose from.
Higher education in Portugal can be availed through the numerous public and private universities, polytechnics and other smaller institutions. However spaces at the public universities are limited and the admission can be quite competitive. For this reason, and slightly expensive course fee; online education programs have emerged as an excellent option for many wishing to pursue higher education in Portugal.
Benefits of Online Education and Distance Learning Courses
Distance education is no longer a subsidiary of general classroom education. Online courses have now become independent and provide ample opportunities for a student to educate himself – academically and professionally.
Most big cities in Portugal, including Lisbon have colleges and universities for students of all nationalities and languages. But this might not be true for remote areas or towns that cannot provide quality classroom education. In such a scenario, a student has to either travel or stay at a different city to complete his or her education or simply quit higher education. But with the advent of online courses, these students have the option of completing their higher education from the comfort of their homes.
Another advantage of online education in Portugal is that it offers students a chance to learn and work simultaneously. So while taking the e-learning classes, students can also earn by working part time or full time. This provides the financial support that most international students in Portugal require to sustain themselves or their families.
Although the government of Portugal has been working to strengthen secondary and university education in the country, none will disagree that it is reasonably expensive to fully complete one’s education. Since the government or the educational institutes cannot (and should not) compromise on the quality of education and facilities on offer, they do charge a handsome fee from students- particularly internationals ones. But the online degrees in Portugal are much more affordable and inexpensive and most students can enroll themselves easily here.  
Moreover, the distance learning schools also offer a great opportunity for students to admit themselves in more than one course simultaneously. The conventional classroom educational institutes might not allow international or domestic pupils from pursuing more than one regular course at a time.

Primary and Secondary Schools in Portugal

The primary and secondary school education system in Portugal is managed by the Ministry of Education, and the system is supported at the pre-school level by the Ministry of Labor and Social Solidarity. The pre-primary education in Portugal is available at state-run and private nursery schools. These are known as Jardins-de-Infância. Kindergarten education in Portugal is optional between the ages of 3 to 5 years. While the state-run institutes charge no fees, the private institutes have to be paid. Majority of the international schools in Portugal follow the international scheme, and their curriculum is based either on the International Preschool Curriculum or International Baccalaureate.

Primary Education in Portugal

The basic primary education in Portugal is mandatory, and it is a nine year long process. This period is divided into three stages known as the Ensino Básico – 1º CicloEnsino Básico – 2º Ciclo and Ensino Básico – 3º Ciclo. While the first stage spans four years, the second and the third stages are of two and three years respectively. All children aged six by September 15 have to be enrolled in that calendar year. There is a separate provision for the children who turn six between September 16 and December 31, under which they can attend the first stage in the nearest school, with written permission from parents or guardians. In this stage too, the state run schools provide free education, while the tuition fee charged by private schools is refunded in some part by the State.

First Cycle: The first cycle has four compulsory subjects: Portuguese Language, Mathematics, Environment Study, and Physical and Artistic Education. Other subjects are optional and are offered as per school capabilities.

 Second Cycle: The second level incorporates History and Geography, English (in levels 1 and 2), Civic Education, and the Natural Sciences.

Third Cycle: In the third cycle, another Foreign Language (French, Spanish or German) is introduced. Technical education is also made a part of the curriculum. On completion of this stage, a Diploma or Certificate is awarded to the students, and it enables them to apply for the Secondary education in Portugal.

Secondary Education in Portugal

The Secondary education in Portugal comprises three years of study after the compulsory basic education. It is intended for students who opt for further studies (general secondary courses) or intend to work (technological secondary courses). It includes the study of science, humanities and other specific courses, which target a specific industry. The students receive a diploma when they pass this level with satisfactory grades, which qualifies them for jobs in the market.

General Formation: A core group of subjects known as the General Formation are taught to both the General as well as Technological students. These include the Portuguese Language, Philosophy, Physical Education, and a Foreign Language.

The courses are provided by the vocational schools and some special schools for education in Arts. The courses at this level are sanctioned by the Certificado de Habilitações do Ensino Secundário/Diploma de Ensino Secundário (Secondary School Credential/ Diploma). This certificate is a basic requirement for higher studies in universities or polytechnics, which is an available option after passing the national access examination. This examination is conducted by the Direcção Geral do Ensino Superior (Directorate-General for Higher Education).

List of primary and secondary schools in Portugal

CAISL, Carlucci American International School of Lisbon

Sintra, Portugal
The Carlucci American International School of Lisbon (CAISL) is a non-profit, co-educational day school, based in Portugal. It serves the educational needs of about 550 students from the age three through grade 12. CAISL is an authorized International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, and therefore offers the IB Diploma Program for the last two years of High School. All students who complete CAISL’s graduation requirements earn an American High School Diploma, while those who fulfill the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program requirements, earn an IB Diploma. CAISL graduates are... See full description.

Cities to study in Portugal

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