Schools in Portugal fall under one of two sectors: state or private. Both sectors are a mixed bag when it comes to quality of education, and private education isn’t always better. International schools are generally of a high standard and are a good option for those who can afford it.

Children in Portugal tend to attend school based on the neighbourhood in which they live or that in which their parents work. It follows that many of the richer economic areas are linked to the highest quality educational institutions. Rural areas and less economically developed regions of the country are especially notorious for poor quality schools, though the larger urban centres and the expat-friendly Algarve area provide some good options.

Public schooling in Portugal is divided into several tiers. Jardim de infância (kindergarten) offers education for children between the ages of three and five years old. Children between the ages of six and 14 attend ensino básico (basic education) while teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 attend ensino secundário (secondary education). Schooling is compulsory from ages six to 18 – the entirety of the basic and secondary education period.

Public schools in Portugal are free. Though quality can vary greatly, some are highly respected and considered superior to private schools. As Portuguese is the language of instruction, public schools may not be the best option for older children or families in the country for only a short period.

For those moving to Portugal for the long term, however, public schools are a good way for children to learn the language and assimilate with local children.

There is a large network of private schools for expats to choose from in Portugal. Many of Portugal’s private schools are faith-based.

Private schools generally have smaller class sizes, a stronger system of extra-curricular activities and more modern facilities than their public equivalents. However, this doesn’t always equate to better academic results, and parents should do their research carefully before deciding on a school.

International schools in Portugal offer a variety of curricula. Most uphold high standards of education, and expats need not be worried about their children falling behind their peers at home while living abroad. There are a number of international schools throughout Portugal, most of which are in the popular expat areas such as Lisbon and the Algarve.

Tuition at international schools can be expensive. Expats should be sure to budget accordingly, or negotiate an education allowance in their expat package.