A Guide to Lisbon’s Education System


If you’re planning to move your family to Portugal’s capital city, this quick guide to Lisbon’s education system might come in handy.

The last year has seen a steady rise of people looking to move to Portugal, with the capital Lisbon leading the way. A growing economy, favourable regulations, a warm climate and excellent quality of life are attracting people from all over the world. If you’re one of them, one of the first questions you’ll ask is, what are the schools like?

The good news is that Lisbon—like the rest of Portugal—offers a good selection of public and private schools.

Education starts from the age of six and is mandatory up to the age of 18. The children of residents can enrol free of charge in a public school. The cut-off for enrolment is generally the middle of July.

The schooling system is divided up in a slightly quirky way. Primary school is divided into three phases with the first running from years one to four, the second running from five to six, and the third from seven to nine. Children then enter secondary education for the following three years.

The rise of international schools

As an expat, though, having your child educated only in Portuguese might not be the preferred option. The good news is that there is an excellent selection of private and international schools to choose from. With the surge of foreigners coming into the city over the last few years, there has been a sharp increase in international schools.

Here you can experience a slightly higher level of education than elsewhere in Portugal. For example, private schools generally have more extra-curricular activities than public school counterparts, giving your child a more rounded education.

Demand, though, is high. Private schools often have tough enrolment policies and include exams and interviews. Getting a place can be difficult so it can be worthwhile weighing your options so you can choose from several.

The best international schools in Lisbon

Among the best options is St Julian’s School which has been providing English language education for more than one hundred years, while St Dominic’s offers a slightly more down-to-earth version. Other international communities may have their own preferences. For example, the growing US community will focus on the Carlucci American International School which is recognised by the state department. The Redbridge School has become popular with families of all nationalities, especially those who want to prioritise a multi-lingual education. It has teachers who are fluent in English, Portuguese and French and offers a choice of English/Portuguese or French/Portuguese bilingual curriculums.

These schools will often have smaller class sizes than the public schools and follow slightly different national curriculums, although most should offer Portuguese as a second language.

Whether you want to go with the main public schools for residents or spend more for a tailored international education, Lisbon will have plenty of options to ensure your children benefit from a rich and comprehensive education from nursery school to when they’re ready for university.

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