Immigration. Travel. Living.

Studies in Europe: Portugal

Books and apple

That aside, Portugal has one of the finest education systems in Europe. It offers migrating students and families the benefit of an excellent academic system in standard institutions either as primary schools or universities.

State education is free and compulsory until the age of 18. The Portuguese government is even trying to take their educational system to the next level by reducing class sizes and improving institutions and facilities.

Portugal has 4 major tiers of education namely: Pre-primary, basic, secondary and higher education. Under these 4 tiers are other levels like international schools, middle school, polytechnics, universities, kindergartens and so on. These levels have been explained below.

The first three tiers of education are compulsory and governed by the Ministry of Education. While higher education is regulated by the Portuguese Ministry of Technology, Science and Higher education. These levels have been explained below.

Primary Education 

colored pencil lined up on top of white surface

The pre-primary school also called Jardim-de-Infância is the same as a kindergarten or nursery school in other countries. Pre-primary school is made for children between the ages of 3 and 5 and it is not compulsory. 

Primary education is made for children from 6 years upwards and it is compulsory. In the first cycle, the students are taught by one teacher for 4 years, then 2 in the second cycle and 3 in the third cycle.

The objective of primary education is to allow the pupils to develop an interest in certain areas of study and to encourage civic responsibility and develop values in them. Students who complete the education requirements at this level are awarded a certificate before proceeding to their secondary level. 

Secondary Education 

Secondary education begins in grade 9. At this level, students are required to choose between an academic course or a practical program. In both areas of studies, Portuguese language, Mathematics, Philosophy, Physical education, Foreign languages, Religion, Arts, etc are some of the subjects studied. 

Vocational training is a third stream of secondary education. After middle school, the student is required to enroll for a 3-year program that awards a vocational certificate. 

Tertiary Education 

Tertiary education is only acquired in polytechnics and universities. Polytechnics offer a more practical perspective, universities have a more academic bias. Portugal boasts of some of the finest tertiary institutions in the world and one of them is the Universidade de Coimbra, one of the best in Europe.

The table below shows education in Portugal broken into stages: 

Education Level Years Objectives and certificate
Primary Education Basic First Stage (Ensino Básico 1 Ciclo) 4 Commonly known as kindergarten, is an optional basic stage education. It is for children between the ages of 3 and 6. 
Primary Education Basic Second Stage  (Ensino Básico 2 Ciclo) 2 This is the second stage of basic education. It is compulsory and free for every child between the age of 5 and 12. 
Middle School Education Basic Third Stage 3 This stage of education is compulsory for children between the ages of 12 and 15 to study in grade 7, 8 and 9. Students who complete this program are awarded a certificate of basic education  (Certificado/Diploma).
Secondary Education Secondary Level 3 This is a more advanced stage where specific studies and more advanced courses are taught to students. It lasts for only 3 years and students are awarded a Diploma of secondary education (Diploma de Ensino Secundário) at the end of the program.
Secondary Professional Level (Secondary-Escolas profissionais) 3 Student in this level are taught more advanced studies. The certificate awarded in this level is the Diploma de Formação Profissional de Nivel III & Diploma de Estudios Profissionai
Vocational Education Specialized Tech./Voc. (Escolas Secundárias Profissionais) 3 There are also special modalities of education. These are professional schools where students can acquire skills after secondary education. The certificate awarded at this stage is the Diploma de Ensino Secundário, Certificado de Qualificação Profissional de Nível III.
Vocational Education Polytechnic 3 Polytechnic institutions award the Licenciado degree after the 1st cycle of studies which is completed after 3 years.

The Mestre is awarded after 3 4 semesters, corresponding to 180 credits. The Licenciado is awarded after 3 to 4 semesters, corresponding to 180 credits.

Tertiary Undergraduate (Licenciado) 3–6 The Licenciado is awarded after 6 – 8 semesters corresponding to 180 to 240 credits. It can last for 5 or even 6 years,
Tertiary Masters (Mestre) 2 The Mestre level is an advanced degree awarded to successful students in a specific field. It is only given to students that have practical research knowledge. 

Courses in this level usually last for 4 semesters with lecture attendance contributing to marks awarded.

The Mestre is awarded after 3 to 4 semesters, corresponding to 90 to 120 credits.

Tertiary Doctorate 3 The Doutor degree is awarded by the university after the student has written and defended an original thesis (doctoral thesis). There is no fixed period to prepare for the examinations, but it usually takes 3 years to complete. 

This Doctor’s degree is only open to holders of a master’s degree or it’s equivalent.

Tertiary Post Doctorate 1 Post Doctorate (Agregação) is the highest educational qualification reserved to holders of the Doctor degree.

Students in this area must be able to complete high-level research in a specific field and special pedagogical competence in that field.

I believe that by now you have a pretty good idea of how the education system in Portugal works.

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