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Portugal' Education System

As we say "o conhecimento não ocupa lugar" (knowledge doesn't take space) and because knowledge is one of Savvy Cat Realty's biggest values, we got inspired and summarized how the education system works.


In Portugal, the Educational System is regulated by the State through the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education. The most popular and best implemented system is public education but you can always find private schools at all levels of education and other learning alternatives.

Compulsory Education: Between ages of 6 and 18 (from infancy to adolescence).


The Portuguese education system is divided in Preschool Education (from the age of three until the start of Basic Education), Basic Education (6 to 14 years old) and upper Secondary Education (15 to 18 years old).

INFANCY | Creche or Infantário

Daycare Center, Nursery (ages between 3 months and 3 years)

With the parents' return to work, Portuguese babies have the following options:

  • Being taken care of by relatives;

  • Being taken care of by a nanny;

  • Go to a Creche (social and educational space for the children daycare center);

Although there are 3 types of Creche (public, private or IPSS*), it's not easy to get access because it is not easy to find availability of vacancies.

*IPSS: Instituições particulares de solidariedade social (Private social solidarity institutions).

ENSINO PRIMÁRIO | Pré-escolar or Jardim de Infância

Preschool education, Kindergarten (ages between 3 and 5)

From the age of 3, children can be enrolled in the public preschool system. Pré-escola establishments provide services aimed at children's learning and development. In pré-escola education, attendance is free in the public network and in the non-profit private network.

ENSINO BÁSICO | Basic education

Elementary school (ages between 6 and 14)

From the year when children turn 6 years old, they can be enrolled in Basic education. Basic education is universal, compulsory, free and lasts nine years. It is divided into three sequential cycles; each should complete and build upon the previous one from a global perspective.

The guiding principles of curriculum organisation and management aim to ensure a common general background education for all citizens, via the acquisition of fundamental knowledge and skills that allow further study.

Upper secondary education lasts for three years and corresponds to grades 10, 11 and 12 of upper secondary education, organised into different types. Some are geared towards further studies, others via dual certification (academic and vocational), the latter combining general, technical and work placement training. The permeability between the different paths is guaranteed, as is access via all of them to higher education through national exams.

​ 1º CICLO 1st Cycle

first 4 years of schooling (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th);

2º CICLO 2nd Cycle

next 2 years (5th and 6th);

​ 3º CICLO 3rd Cycle

lasts for 3 years (7th, 8th and 9th);

​General subjects:

  • Portuguese Language

  • Environment Study

  • Mathematics

  • 1st Foreign language : English

  • Artistic Education

  • Physical Education

  • Music Education

​General subjects:

  • Portuguese Language

  • Mathematics

  • History and Geography of Portugal

  • 1st Foreign language: English

  • Natural Sciences

  • Visual arts Education

  • Technological Education (Crafts)

  • Physical Education

  • Music Education

​General subjects:

  • Portuguese Language

  • Mathematics

  • 1st Foreign language: English

  • 2nd Foreign language: French, Spanish or German

  • Natural Sciences

  • Physics & Chemistry

  • History

  • Geography

  • Physical Education

  • Citizenship & Development

  • Visual arts Education*

  • Technological Education (Crafts)*

  • Drama/Music*

  • Computer and IT

  • Sexual Education

(*) In the 9th year the student has to choose between Visual Education, Technological Education, Music and Drama, according to the school's availability.

(facultative) Catholic (or other confessions) Moral and Religious Education

ADOLESCENCE | Ensino Secundário

Secondary Education (ages between 15 to 18)

In this stage, Portuguese Education system branches out into 3 different secondary programmes, a higher education-oriented (general secondary programmes), a work-oriented (technological secondary programmes) and an artistic-oriented programme.

All General and Technological programmes share the following subjects known as General Formation:

  • Portuguese Language (10th, 11th and 12th years)

  • Physical Education (10th, 11th and 12th years)

  • Philosophy (10th and 11th years)

  • Foreign Language (10th and 11th years)

01. General Secondary Programmes: higher education-oriented


Main subject

10th, 11th and 12th years

Specific subjects

10th and 11th years

Optional subjects

12th year

​​Sciences & Technologies

Mathematics A

Biology & Geology, Geometry, Physics & Chemistry A, Descriptive *

​Biology, Geology, Physics, Chemistry, Psychology, Informatic Applications B, Phylosophy A or others *

Social & Human Sciences

History A

Geography A, Foreign Language II (or III), Portuguese Literature, Math Applied to Social Sciences, Latin *

Law, Sociology, Latin, Geography, Psychology, Philosophy A, Economics, Political Sciences, Anthropology, Greek, or others​ *

Socio-Economic Sciences

Mathematics A

Economics, History B, Geography *

Economics, Geography, Sociology, Psychology, Law or others *

Visual Arts

Drawing A

Descriptive Geometry, Mathematics B, History of Culture and Art *

Art Atelier, Multimedia Atelier, Materials and Technologies, Psychology, Philosophy A or others *

(*) choose two of these options

02. Professional Programmes: Work-oriented (technological secondary programmes)

Upon completion of secondary education, one of the options that the Portuguese educational system offers are the technological specialization courses (CET) which enable specialized training courses in different technological areas, allowing entry into the working world or the continuation of higher education studies. The training carried out in the CET is credited in the context of the higher course in which the student is admitted. Successful completion of a technological specialization course confers a technological specialization diploma (DET) and a level 5 professional qualification, and may also give access to a certificate of professional aptitude (CAP).

Most common Professional Programmes: Sports, Architect Technician, Civil Construction, Electronics, Computing, Equipment Design, Multimedia, Administration, Marketing, Environment and Territory Order, Social Action, Social Animation, others (...)

03. Specialized Artistic Programmes

Most common Artistic Programmes: Music, Dance, Drama and Cinema, Visual and Audiovisual Arts, others (...)


The conclusion of secondary education (general, technological or artistic programmes) with passing grades confers a diploma, which will certificate the qualification thus obtained and, in the case of work-oriented programmes the qualification for specific jobs.

NOTE: Every year secondary school rankings are divulged by several newspapers such as Público, Expresso, Agencia Lusa or Observador;


Ensino Superior ( Higher Education; for everyone who finished mandatory education) Higher education is structured according to the principles of the Bologna Process to ensure solid scientific and cultural preparation, plus technical training that qualifies students for professional and cultural life, while developing their capability to innovate and apply critical analysis. Portuguese higher education is a binary system that includes the university and polytechnic systems.

Universities are oriented to offer solid scientific training, combining the efforts and competences of teaching and research units, while Polytechnics focus on professionally oriented vocational and advanced technical training.

Adult education and training There are various modes of adult education and training with specific aims and target groups, encompassing a system of recognition, validation and certification of skills acquired throughout life. Provision in this area is mainly included in the National Qualifications System/Catalogue and organised by a national network of "Qualifica" Centres, which cover the whole country, providing a guidance system for adults, while coordinating a vast network of training bodies. As such, they are focused on obtaining both academic and vocational certification at the same time, although in some cases they may award only one of these.Recurrent education is designed for adults who have not completed their basic or upper secondary education at the usual age. It follows a study plan based on the official curriculum and leads to the attainment of a qualification and the award of a diploma or certificate, equivalent to those conferred by daytime education.

Education and training of young people and adults offers a second chance to individuals who have left school early or who are at risk of dropping out, as well as those who did not have the opportunity to attend it when they were young and also those who seek school for issues of a professional nature or personal enhancement, in a perspective of lifelong learning. Some most options for those who didn't finish compulsory education are: Adult Education and Training Courses (EFA) and Modular Training, "Novas Oportunidades" (New Opportunities) Initiative, "S@bER + short term shares"


School calendar dates in Portugal are set for the whole country by the Portuguese Ministry of Education. The school year, called “Ano Letivo”, starts in September through June/July of the following year, depending on the school or level of education.

In general, Portuguese schools have four holidays across the year: a break for Christmas (2 weeks), a few days off for the Carnival in February/March(3 days), an Easter holiday break (2 weeks) in March/April and a summer break between June and September, the European summer months. Please note:

  • Dates may vary between districts and schools. Confirm dates with the school in question;

  • Private schools may have slightly different dates; parents will need to check with the relevant school;

  • Schools are also closed on national public holidays;

Compulsory Schooling Calendar

Each academic year is divided into 3 terms (lasts between 9 to 10 months):

  • 1st PERIOD (start: around 15th September | end: around December 14th);

  • 2nd PERIOD (start: around January 3rd | end: two weeks before Easter);

  • 3rd PERIOD (start: Tuesday after Easter | end: between beginning and end of June);

After the end of the 3rd term, there are national exams during June and July for students in 9th, 11th and 12th years, and measurement exams in 2nd, 5th and 8th years.

Post-Compulsory Schooling Calendar

Higher Education is divided into two semesters. The school year starts in September through June/July, with the first semester being from September to January/February and the second semester from February to June/July. The dates of the school calendars, as well as exams, are in charge of each educational institution. Each academic calendar is approved annually by the governance bodies of each School and are available on their websites.


  • CHRISTMAS (START: around December 19th | END: around January 2th);

  • Break between Semesters and Carnival: around the beginning of February (1 week);

  • CARNIVAL: couple of days in February;

  • EASTER: around March and April (1 week)


Hope this article was helpful, any questions you might have feel free to contact us! We are always available at if you need any assistance ;)



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