expat network

Choosing Schools In Portugal

choosing schools in portugal
The programmes of international schools in Portugal vary from the International Baccalaureate (IB) to the British GCSE and GCE examination systems. All schools in Portugal are required to satisfy the requirements of the Portuguese national system.

The International Baccalaureate Organisation’s Diploma Programme was created in 1968. It is a demanding pre-university course of study that leads to examinations. It is designed for highly motivated secondary school students aged 16 to 19. The programme has earned a reputation for rigorous assessment, giving IB diploma holders access to the world’s leading universities.

The Diploma Programme’s grading system is criterion-referenced, which means that each student’s performance is measured against well-defined levels of achievement. These are consistent from one examination session to the next and are applied equally to all schools. The IBO has shown, over the course of 30 years, that students are well prepared for university work. They are accepted by universities in more than 110 countries.

In Portugal, IB Diploma holders are exempted from the Provas Especificas, Provas de Ingresso when the subjects of the student’s diploma (up to a maximum of two) coincide with the subjects of the Provas.

There are quite a few good English-language schools in Portugal, most of them in the Lisbon-Cascais area. They offer a full range of educational services and award most types of diplomas awarded elsewhere in Europe, as well as the US.high-school diploma.

Expat families can choose from international, US, British, French, German, and Spanish schools.

Each school has a distinct personality and it is advisable to visit the school before enrolling your children, and if at all possible, take the prospective students along. Time spent interviewing and observing is a good investment.

Apply as soon as you have made a choice, as some of the international schools have long waiting lists for admission.

Most, but not all, schools require uniforms and almost all provide bus service.

Refer to the online directory with the main international and English schools in Portugal that offer an education in English: www.portugal.english-schools.org/.


Local Schools

The educationa system in Portugal is compulsory and state-funded for children between the ages of seven and 15 years of age. Since secondary education after that age is voluntary, there is a fee charged by the state schools. English is a mandatory subject in the primary grades. Religious subjects are sometimes taught, but are not compulsory. Private and parochial schools are available to Portuguese students, and they may or may not be superior to public education in a given location.

Generally, expat families send their children to one of the many private, international schools that are available in Portugal. These schools can be quite costly, although the German and French schools are somewhat less expensive, since their home countries subsidise them.

Although local schools offer the best opportunity to learn the local language, as well as experiencing the indigenous culture and lifestyle, most expat parents opt for the more familiar experience, and more expensive option of international schools.

For many expats the safest option is a British school following the UK’s National Curriculum, leading to GCSEs and A Levels. If your life plan is just a short stint in a particular country or children boarding in the UK once they are old enough or progressing to a UK university, then the ‘gold standard’ of a British system is advisable.

International Baccalaureate schools are an alternative but the breadth and rigour of the IB is generally designed for the brightest and most confident of children. If you expect your career to drift towards the USA there are plenty of American schools on offer.

The key principle is to select the best school for your child, not the ‘best’ school. Bright children may not be stretched in a reassuringly supportive school with a wonderful array of activities and expeditions but moderate academic expectations. Equally, average ability children usually lose confidence in an academic hothouse environment, even though the school’s inspection reports and examination results are outstanding. It really is a matter of horses for courses.

Take every available opportunity to learn about the schools. Try to visit the school more than just once. As well as a formal tour, look to fit in another visit to a play, a concert or sporting fixtures, giving you the opportunity to assess atmosphere and ethos, care and enthusiasm. Click through on the website to the minutiae, access inspection reports, and (critically) read parents’ reviews.