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There are two schools in Portugal that are dependent on the French Ministry of Education. The first one in Lisbon and the second one in Porto. These two schools are very popular with French and Portuguese descendants for about 3 years.

Today these two schools have no more free places for newcomers, the French high school Charles-Lepierre in Lisbon has been on the waiting list for about two years. Porto is also on the waiting list for this school year.

As a result of this new problem, many French people decide to send their children to the Portuguese school system for two reasons, the first is as mentioned above the lack of space and the second is the financial cost of these two schools. For example, a year at the French high school in Porto for a child in middle school costs 5100,00 €.

The aim of this article is to inform you about the Portuguese school system. But also, to introduce you to the different possibilities available to you as a French-speaker for your children's schooling.

The Portuguese education system

In Portugal, schooling is compulsory from the age of 6 years and ends when the student reaches his or her 18 years old in 12e year of schooling (12.º year of schooling).

The Portuguese education system is divided into three main parts: 

  • gardens of infância (kindergarten)
  • Basic training (so-called "basic" education), 
  • Ensino secundário (secondary education),
  •  Ensino superior (higher education).
Portuguese school systemPortuguese education system
Organization of the Portuguese education system

the gardens of infância

the "gardens of infância are kindergartens for children aged 3 to 5. To search for "creches" and "jardins da infância", this site will provide you with a list of facilities near your home.

Basic education

The 1er ciclo ensino básicoThis program is equivalent to the first four years of primary school in France, from CP to CM1, for children aged 6 to 9. 

The 2ème and 3ème ciclo ensino básicoThis is equivalent to junior high school, but lasts 5 years, starting at the equivalent of the French CM2. At the end of these 5 years, students take a certificate of studies (equivalent to the French "brevet des collèges").

Secondary education

The secondary school corresponds to the high school. This cycle lasts 3 years, at the end of which students sit the "Diploma de Ensino Secundário" exam, which corresponds to the Baccalauréat. On entry to "decimo ano" (the equivalent of seconde), students must choose between a general stream (scientific, economic or literary), a vocational stream (which may or may not be vocational) or a vocational stream (which may or may not be vocational). followed in apprenticeship or alternation) and an artistic stream (available only in certain high schools).


With degrees similar to those in France: Bachelor, Master and Doctorate. There are two distinct systems of higher education in Portugal: the university system and the polytechnic system.

Portuguese schools

As you can see, the Portuguese school system is very different from the French one. You will see that the schools also function in a different way.

Public schoolsIf you live in the neighborhood, you have priority. However, especially in 2nd and 3rd cycle schools (middle school), it's possible to be accepted even if you don't live in the neighborhood.

Private schools, you choose the one that you want and that fits in your budget (the cost of schooling is similar or even higher than that practiced by the two schools French).

In both public and private Portuguese schools, lessons are given in Portuguese. In addition, Portuguese schools offer "Português Língua Não Materna" language classes for foreigners, so that the "foreign" child assimilates the language more quickly. French-speaking children will take a different Portuguese test from their Portuguese peers in the 9º ano (brevet des collèges) and 12º ano (baccalauréat).

The school rhythm in Portuguese schools

This is very similar to the French system, with the school years from kindergarten to lycée starting in September and ending in June, and the university years starting in October and ending in May. Depending on the age of the students, the school week lasts between 23 and 27 hours.  

Concerning the school vacations, it is a little different. There are no vacations on All Saints' Day and no winter vacations, but the summer vacations are longer and in February there are 4 days (including weekends) for the Carnival. In the eyes of your children, this will be the biggest difference between the Portuguese and French school systems.

living in portugal

The cost of the Portuguese schools

In the public sector, you won't have to pay much, but you should be aware that, unlike in France, books have to be paid for from "cinco ano" (French CM2) upwards. You'll need to spend around 250 euros on books for the school year. This is one of the peculiarities of the Portuguese education system.

The canteen costs about 1.50 euro per day. In private schools in Portugal, the costs vary depending on the school selected, it is necessary to count between 350 and 550 euros per month all included and the registration fee (between 150 and 350 euros).

The Portuguese school system has many differences with the French educational system, the school rhythm is also different and the private or public national or international schools have a cost. It is therefore essential that you take these elements into account before moving to Portugal.

But don't worry, your children have a natural adaptability that we adults don't have, and they'll have no problem adapting to the Portuguese education system.

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