International schools in Portugal: An in-depth guide
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Written by Your Overseas Home

6th September 2023

If you are considering moving to Portugal with your children, their education is likely high on your list of considerations. You’ll be pleased to know Portugal has a comprehensive state education system. 

In fact, literacy, maths and science knowledge often surpasses OECD averages. Portugal demonstrates regular improvements in its educational results and is comfortably on par with countries such as Denmark, Belgium and Norway. Furthermore, tuition fees for universities in Portugal are notably low, offering the possibility of further education without the need to spend years paying off the accompanying debt.

Despite the likelihood of a solid education within Portugal’s state system, many aspiring expats research international schools in Portugal. There are many reasons for this, not least the language barrier.

A child who is born in Portugal (or who moves there at a very early age) can likely settle into a Portuguese nursery and then move on to a local school with no friction. They will pick up the language effortlessly as they go. However, a local school can prove far more daunting for older children, both linguistically and educationally. This is particularly relevant for children who have already been studying towards specific exams and further education options.

Portugal’s wide range of international schools offers an alternative route, and this article considers the options in detail.


International schools in Portugal

There are over 50 international schools in Portugal, offering a wide range of curricula and educational styles. The British schools mirror the British curriculum, complete with GCSEs and A-Levels. There are also schools that follow the International Baccalaureate programme and schools that follow American or German teaching styles.

A private education in Portugal may not prove as cost-prohibitive as one might expect. While there are some international schools in Portugal with fee structures that mirror those of the UK’s most exclusive institutions, there are also smaller and more affordable options.

With this in mind, sending one or more children to an international school in Portugal can be an option for families with a relatively modest income. The comparatively low cost of living in Portugal may also help to free up funds to do so.

Before this article moves on to explain the options, we first look at Portugal’s public (state) education system. This is important background information to aid in the decision-making process.


Portugal’s state education system

Schooling is compulsory in Portugal from the ages of 6 to 18. However, many children begin pre-school (Educação Pré-escolar) from the age of three. In fact, the proportion of children receiving early education in Portugal is above international averages.

State pre-school education is free for up to 25 hours per week. However, there are also private pre-schools, Montessori settings and charity-run institutions that charge fees. Sometimes, exact fees are means-tested based on income.

Basic education (Ensino Básico) takes place between the ages of 6 and 15. Years are divided into Ciclos. These are blocks of years that broadly compare to “Key Stages” in the UK.

Secondary education (Ensino Secundário) is between the ages of 15 and 18. At the age of 15, students in Portugal continue with a range of mandatory subjects, which include Portuguese, a foreign language (usually English), philosophy and PE.

Beyond that, at 15, students have a broad choice of taking a vocational (Cursos Profissionais) or academic (Cursos Científico-Humanísticos) education path. There’s also the option of an artistic pathway (Cursos Artísticos Especializados).

State education, as described above, is free to legal residents. However, there are some small expenses such as those for uniforms, trips and meals. Additionally, parents are expected to fund study books, with local newsagents and bookshops filling with such materials in the run-up to each new school year.


Is English taught in Portuguese schools?

Unsurprisingly, state education in Portugal is delivered in Portuguese. However, English is a mandatory subject in the Portuguese state curriculum.

English is spoken fairly widely in Portugal. One study states that between “a quarter and a third” of Portuguese people speak English, with more English speakers among the younger generations. However, it’s important to keep this in perspective.

An English-speaking child entering a Portuguese school will encounter people (including teachers) who cannot speak any English. Children are known to absorb languages quickly, but there will be an undeniable learning curve. This can be intimidating, especially for older children.


Tests and Assessments

Various tests and assessments take place throughout a child’s Portuguese school career. Particularly relevant are exams that take place at the end of grade 9, when students in Portugal typically move from basic to secondary education. At this point, there are tests in Portuguese and maths. Failing to reach a satisfactory overall grade result in the need to remain in basic education and repeat the year.


Hours and terms

Broadly speaking, the Portuguese school year is similar to the UK, with a winter, spring and summer term. However, the terms are a little shorter and schools don’t usually have a “half term” holiday (although schools are closed for public holidays, and for carnival each February).

The school year begins in mid-September, with the first term ending a week or two before Christmas. The spring term runs from early January until Easter, and the summer term from April to mid/late June.

In the first years of primary school in Portugal, the school day typically runs from around 9 am to 3:30 pm In later ciclos (cycles) the day lengthens to cover 8:45 am to 4.45 pm.

It’s worth noting that there can be significant regional nuance to these times and dates. Also, international schools in Portugal may keep to different schedules. Parents are advised to consider the school schedule in depth. Longer summer holidays, in particular, may create challenges around childcare for working households.


How to enrol a child in a Portuguese school

Enrolling a child in a Portuguese state school is relatively straightforward for anybody with valid Portuguese residency (or a suitable visa). The following documents are usually required:

  • Passport and/or resident permit and/or visa.
  • Fiscal Number / NIF (número de identificação fiscal).
  • Proof of address.
  • Proof of vaccinations.
  • Proof of existing qualifications (certificado de habilitações) for those entering secondary education or transferring between schools.

Portugal is a country that takes documentation seriously. As such, it’s important to ensure all the necessary paperwork is available. Schools also each have a specific local catchment area.


A list of international schools in Portugal

The international schools in Portugal are spread across the country. Unsurprisingly, the largest clusters are in regions that are particularly popular with international residents, such as the Algarve and Lisbon. The Cascais / Estoril area is also richly served by international schools, including those that cater to American expats.

Despite the above, there are some options in other regions, including several around Leiria, serving central Portugal and the Silver Coast, and a number around Porto. There are also two on the island of Madeira.

Lisbon area (including Cascais and Estoril):

  • Aprendizes (Cascais)
  • Astoria International School
  • Carlucci American International School of Lisbon
  • Cesário Verde International School Portugal
  • Deutsche Schule Lissabon
  • Greene’s College Oxford (Estoril)
  • International Christian School of Cascais
  • International Sharing School Taguspark
  • IPS Cascais British International School (formerly International Preparatory School)
  • Jill’s Place
  • King’s College School Cascais
  • Lisbon Montessori School
  • Lycée Francais Charles Lepierre Lisbonne
  • Oeiras International School
  • PaRK International School
  • Prime School (Estoril)
  • Redbridge School
  • Santo António International School
  • Sintra International Christian Academy
  • Dominic’s International School
  • George’s School
  • James’ Primary School
  • Julian’s School
  • TASIS Portugal (Sintra)
  • The British School Lisbon
  • The Lisboan International School
  • United Lisbon International School

Algarve area:

  • Aljezur International School
  • Aspire International School
  • Barlavento International Primary School
  • Colégio Bernardette Romeira
  • Colégio Santiago Internacional
  • Deutsche Schule Algarve
  • Eden Montessori International School
  • Educan Algarve
  • Eupheus International School Algarve
  • Nederlands Onderwijs Algarve
  • Nobel International School Algarve
  • Vale Verde International School
  • Vilamoura International School

Porto area:

  • CLIP International School Oporto
  • Colégio Júlio Dinis (CJD International School)
  • Deutsche Schule zu Porto
  • Lycée Francais International Porto
  • Oporto British School

Elsewhere in mainland Portugal:

  • CLIB – The Braga International School
  • CLIC – Colégio Luso-Internacional de Centro (Leiria)
  • International School of Palmela
  • International School Torres Vedras
  • Leiria International School
  • Seixal International School
  • Peter’s International School (Palmela)


  • International Sharing School Madeira
  • The International School of Madeira


What to expect at international schools in Portugal

International schools in Portugal typically teach in Portuguese and another language. For example, a British International school would teach primarily in English (usually following the British National Curriculum), but students would also be expected to learn Portuguese throughout their time there.

Similarly, a French international school would teach Portuguese and French, and a Dutch international school Portuguese and Dutch. (It’s more than likely that students in such schools would also learn some English).

This approach means that children enter a less intimidating environment, and can communicate in their native language whilst learning Portuguese. On the flip side, it means their peer group will primarily consist of other expats, which may slow down integration with their local counterparts.

Curriculum-wise, most international schools offer learning that will be familiar from “back home”, allowing children to take GCSE, A-Level and IB qualifications, perhaps in order to qualify for further education back in the UK or elsewhere.

Many international schools in Portugal invest significant sums in extracurricular activities, sports facilities, and other opportunities for enrolled children.

What is the International GCSE (IGCSE)?

Many international schools offer the International GCSE (IGCSE). This is simply an international variation of the UK GCSE, with equivalent status when applying for further education such as A-Levels.


What do international schools in Portugal cost?

There’s considerable variation in the cost of international schools in Portugal. Some, especially the big names around Lisbon and Estoril, can cost over €25,000 per year, per child. However, there are more affordable options starting at around €6,000 per year.

There are often supplementary costs for everything from initial registration to materials and transportation. Unsurprisingly, costs for senior years are more expensive than primary education.


British international schools

Many of Portugal’s international schools are geared to British expats, offering English language teaching and a British curriculum. Some of the most well-known include:

  • Greene’s College Oxford (Estoril)
  • Nobel International School Algarve
  • Oporto British School
  • PaRK International School
  • Prime School International (Estoril)
  • Peter’s International School (Palmela)
  • The British School of Lisbon


Private / Religious Schools in Portugal

In addition to international schools in Portugal, there are also private Portuguese schools. Often these are closely linked to the Catholic faith. They include religious education alongside the normal curriculum and routine prayers.

In some Catholic schools, there may also be preparations for communion and confession.

Private Catholic schools have a good reputation in Portugal, and they don’t typically block admission to non-Catholics. However, parents sending children to such schools should expect a level of religious tuition within the regular curriculum.


Choosing a school for your child in Portugal

Choosing a school in Portugal for your offspring can be overwhelming to begin with. However, some detailed web research is a good starting point. You will find plenty of reviews for most schools, and social media groups will help you to get in touch with existing parents to discuss their experiences.

There’s no single correct answer when comparing the merits of public versus private education in Portugal. Much will depend on the age and personality type of your children. For every tale of stress and painful acclimatisation at a local school, there are other tales of children fitting right in and speaking near-fluent Portuguese in a matter of months.

Thankfully, the choice of international schools in Portugal is wide – and in some cases, the fees are nowhere near as intimidating as those “back home”. Options abound.

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