Overview: Portuguese Education System

The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education are jointly responsible for the entire Portuguese education system, and are supported by the Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity in providing pre-school education. 

The state education in Portugal is free and compulsory till the age of 18. The education system of Portugal is divided into 4 levels:
  • Pre-school
  • Basic
  • Secondary
  • Higher Education
The first three educational levels are mandatory to attend and are administered and managed by the Ministry of Education, Portugal. The Higher education in Portugal is managed by the Ministry of Technology, Science and Higher education.

Education Profile of Portugal 

Pre-school Education

Pre-school education in Portugal is imparted by nursery schools and kindergarten (Jardins de Infancia). This educational level is not compulsory and is for children aged 3-5 years. In Portugal, there are state-managed and private kindergartens. The state-run kindergartens are free, while the private kindergarten charges fees. 

Compulsory Education

Compulsory education in Portugal starts at the age of 6 and goes on until the age of 18. Compulsory education comprises of basic and secondary education

Basic Education (Ensino basico)

The basic education is for children aged 6-15 and is divided into three cycles:

First Cycle (1st Ciclo)

The duration of the first cycle is 4 years and starts at the age of 6 and goes up until the age 10. This cycle covers grades 1 to 4.

1st Cycle Curriculum
  • General subjects: Include mathematics, Portuguese language and Environment study.
  • Enrichment Activities: Includes verbal education, English, musical studies, artistic education and physical education.
  • Facultative: Includes religious and moral education.

Second Cycle (2nd Ciclo)

The duration of the second cycle is 2 years and starts at the age of 10 and goes up until the age 12. This cycle comprises of grades 5 and 6. 

2nd Cycle Curriculum: The second cycle includes English level 1 and 2, mathematics, technological education, Portuguese language, musical education, natural sciences, physical education, geography and history of Portugal, religious and moral education, and visual arts.

Third Cycle (3rd Ciclo)

 The duration of the third cycle is 3 years and starts at the age of 12 and goes up until the age 15. This cycle comprises of grades 7 to 9.

3rd Cycle Curriculum: This cycle consists of following subjects: mathematics, history, Portuguese Language, natural sciences, geography, English levels 3, 4 and 5, physical education, chemistry and physics, Second Foreign language – German, French or Spanish or German (levels 1, 2 and 3), drama and music, visual arts, computer and IT, crafts technological education, and religious and moral education.

At the basic educational level, general education is offered in a multitude of subjects. 

Subjects: Natural science, English, Portuguese language, physical education, dance, physics and chemistry, theatre, mathematics, geography, design technology, French, Information and communication technology, moral and religious studies, and history.

Secondary Education

Secondary education in Portugal is compulsory to attend. The duration of this educational level is 3 years. Secondary studies start at the age of 15 and continue up until the age 18. The secondary education is of two types:

General secondary education: This secondary education level comprises of following subjects: literature, science and technology, Portuguese language and culture, social science, visual arts, and socio-economic science. 

Technical or vocational secondary education: This secondary education level offers technical and professional knowledge and skills and covers the following topics: marketing, administration, multimedia, electronics, sports, civil construction, computing, etc.

All the general and technological courses have a few common subjects and are referred to as “General formation”.
These subjects are: Foreign language (for 10th, 11th years), Portuguese Language (for 10th, 11th and 12th years), philosophy (for 10th and 11th years), religious and moral education (for 10th, 11th and 12th years, and physical education (for 10th, 11th and 12th years)

Admission requirement: Students must hold a certificate of basic education in order to gain admittance into the secondary education. 

Higher Education (Ensino Superior)

Portugal higher education system adheres to the Bologna Process. With the implementation of this process, there has been a transformation in the higher education system- degree structure, curriculum and assessment. The entry age for higher education is 18 years.  

Higher education in Portugal comprises of two forms: 
  • University education (universidades)
  • Polytechnic education (Institutos politecnicos)
University education emphasize on theoretical and research based studies. Subjects such as medicine, law, mathematics, etc are taught. 

Polytechnics in Portugal provide practical knowledge and skills. Vocational subjects, such as teaching, accounting, engineering, nursing, etc are taught.

In Portugal, there are public and private university and polytechnic institutions. The Portuguese higher education offers following degrees:
  • 1st cycle: This cycle covers bachelor’s degree and lasts for 3-4 years. It requires 180-240 ECTS credits.
  • 2nd cycle: This cycle consists of master’s degree and lasts for 1-2 years. It requires 90-120 ECTS credits.
  • 3rd Cycle: This cycle consists of PhD/doctorate degree and lasts for 3-5 years. This cycle requires 180-240 ECTS credits.
To gain admittance into the state-run higher education institutions, students must hold a  secondary school credential, or pass a secondary education national exam- ENES (Exames Nacionais do Ensino Secundario).
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