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All parents wish their children to learn, be successful and be

happy. They hope that through the school, the child will be

prepared to form part of society, as a responsible and active


The school can and should help the family in the so important

job of bringing up children, but this is only possible if the school

and the family work together.

To work together it is necessary to get to know each other. To

help this, we are providing useful information here for

immigrant parents to become more familiar with the kinds of

schools that Portugal has and, in this way, accompany their

children better.



The first enrolment is made in the calendar year in which the

child turns 6 years of age, from the beginning of January until

15 September.

Enrolment is renewed each year at the end of the academic year.

Can I enrol my son/daughter outside these dates?

The school will accept enrolment at any time of the year for

Primary and Middle School (1st, 2nd and 3rd ciclos) when

accompanied by a written request from the person legally

responsible for the child’s education (normally parent or



And what happens if it is necessary to change school in the

middle of the year?

You can ask to transfer school at any time of the year.


Which documents are necessary for enrolment?

- Official Identification Paper (Cédula) or Identity Card of

the child or a certificate from the Embassy of the country

of origin of the child.

- A completed enrolment form, along with a photograph.

This form is supplied by the school and if you have

difficulty in filling it in, the person who gave it to you

should be able to help you.

- Vaccination Record, Health Centre Card and “Early

Warning Health Record” (“ficha de ligação”). This

document is filled in by the Health Centre and allows early

detection of visual and hearing problems, for example. It

is therefore very important that you register at your local

Health Centre. b

- If you have any difficulty in otaining these documents,

tell the school of your problem.


In which school should I enrol my son/daughter?

You should enrol your child in the school in the area where you

live, or in the school in your area of work, if that is easier for



Can my enrolment be turned down?

In the school in your area of residence, no enrolment can be

refused unless the child is older than fifteen years of age, or all

places have been filled. In this case, the school itself will try

and direct the student to another school in the area.


If my situation is not regularised, can my children still enrol

and attend school?

All children whatever their situation with regard to the laws of

their host country, have the right to education and, therefore, the

right to attend school and take benefit from this as any other


The school can also provide information and counselling, in the

event of any doubts or problems.



What is the timetable for the classes?

Primary School (1º ciclo)

The students receive 25 hours of classes. These start at 9.00 and

finish at 15.00, with intervals halfway through the morning and

at lunchtime.

Middle School ( 2º and 3º ciclos)

The students have approximately 30 hours of classes, in a

schedule that may be mainly a morning or an afternoon one.


Does the school have extracurricular activities?

Primary School (1º ciclo)

There are schools which offer free time activities (actividades

de tempos livres –ATL), normally through the initiative of the

Parents’ Association. Because of this, they are not always free

of charge.

Middle School ( 2º and 3º ciclos)

In middle education schools often offer ‘enrichment activities”

(actividades de enriquecimento) - such as Clubs (Environment,

European, Photography) which are extracurricular and free, but

within a limited timetable (two or three hours a week) as well as

sporting activities.



Does the school provide meals?

Most schools have an eating area and provide meals. The

student pays 1.25 Euros, unless they have a full or partial



Is there any food subsidy?

It is necessary to fill out a school form with information about

family income. Depending on this income you may have the

right to a complete or partial subsidy. In Primary School (1st

ciclo) milk is distributed free of charge every day to all pupils.


Is there any subsidy for schoolbooks?

The form mentioned in the previous section also determines the

right, whether complete or partial, to a subsidy for schoolbooks

and other material needed for school.



Can I visit the school?

Yes, at any time. Talk to the head of the school and ask for any

information that you feel you need.


Who should I talk to in order to get more information?

The school board (direcção da escola) will answer your

questions and know how to put you in touch with others, if that

is judged necessary.


Can I talk with a teacher of my child?

Whenever a parent has a worry or any urgent need they should

talk to a teacher. You can do this in person, through the school

telephone or through a message left in the school daily record in

Primary School (1st ciclo) or in the Student’s register

(Caderneta do aluno) in the case of Middle School (2nd and 3rd



Is there a schedule for attending parents?

In primary school there is only one teacher for each class. The

teacher arranges an hour a week to speak to parents.

In middle schools each class has several teachers. Contact

should be made through the form teacher (director de turma).

In these meetings parents and teachers exchange information

about the school, classes, and the behaviour and scholastic

progress of the children.

In the event of it being impossible to talk to the teacher at

his/her availability time, ask for another appointment.



What does the pupil learn with regard to the Portuguese


Whenever necessary, the school organises support classes for

learning Portuguese, outside the normal timetable.



My child has learning difficulties. What can I do?

If you notice that your child is different in some way from the

brothers or sisters or children who are in his circle (hearing

badly, seeing badly, speaking difficulties or learning slowly),

you should tell the teachers to carry out a more careful

examination of the child.


Is there specific support within/outside the school?

Some pupils require a different kind of education and greater

attention. These children are integrated into classes and work

alongside their colleagues but, beside their class teacher, they

may also have the specific support of a special needs teacher

who helps to find the most suitable way of teaching and

responding to any difficulties.



If the child has already attended school in another country,

how can this be equivalenced?

You should present a scholastic record to the school, stamped by

the Embassy. The student joins a class and immediately starts

attending school, normally in the school year that corresponds to

his/her age. The school can ask for the scholastic record to be

translated, particularly in the final years of school.




The school has the duty, in co-operation with the parents and the

community, to stimulate the balanced development of the child,

both in classroom activities and also in the other activities of the


The parents have the duty to actively follow the school life of

their children, and be in frequent contact with the teachers so as

to learn about their children’s progress and problems.



Which subjects will my child learn?

Primary education is organised around two central themes:

- curriculum areas related to subjects

- cross-curricular areas (personal and social training)

All curriculum areas are integrated and organised in such a way

as to develop general and specific skills such as: researching,

selecting and organising information, or co-operating with

others in tasks and group projects. Education for Citizenship (A

Educação para a Cidadania) is included in all these areas.

The cross-curricular areas are common to the three levels of



Supervised Study

Civic training

Moral and Religious education (attendance is not obligatory)

The subject curriculum areas vary according to the level of


Primary (1º ciclo)

Portuguese Language


Study of the Environment

Artistic and Physical-Motor expression

Middle I (2º ciclo)

Portuguese Language

Foreign Language

History and Geography of Portugal


Nature Sciences

Visual and Technological Education

Musical Education

Physical Education

Middle II (3º ciclo)

Portuguese Language

Foreign Language I

Foreign Language II




Natural Sciences


Artistic Education

Technological Education

Physical Education

Optional Subject (particular to each school) – for example – ICT

– Information and Communicative Technologies.



Cirep – The Ministry of Education’s Centre for Information

and Public Relations (Centro de Informação e Relações

Públicas do Ministério da Educação)

Av. 5 de Outubro, 107, 1069-018 Lisboa

Tel: 217 93 16 03

Fax:217 96 41 19

e-mail: cirep@min-edu.pt






Palácio Foz – Praça dos Restauradores – Apartado 2596


Tel: 21 321 95 00/01

Praça Carlos Alberto, 71- 4050-157 PORTO

Tel: 22 204 61 10





Higher Education

Secondary Education Essential Education

Middle School II (3º ciclo) Compulsory Education

Middle School I (2º ciclo)

Primary Education (1º ciclo)

Pre-school education





Higher education in Portugal is divided into two main subsystems: university and polytechnic education, and it is provided in autonomous public universities, private universities, public or private polytechnic institutions and higher education institutions of other types. In Portugal, the university system has a strong theoretical basis and is highly research-oriented; the polytechnical system provides a more practical training and is profession-oriented. Degrees in some fields such as medicine, law, natural sciences, economics, psychology or veterinary are university. Other fields like engineering, management, education, agriculture, sports, or humanities are found both in university and polytechnic systems. Nursing, preschool education, accountancy, or paramedic degrees, are some examples of courses only offered in the polytechnic system. The oldest university is the University of Coimbra founded in 1290, and the biggest by number of enrolled students is the University of Porto with about 28000 students. The Portuguese Catholic University, the oldest non-state-run university (concordatary status), was instituted by decree of the Holy See and is recognized by the State of Portugal since 1971. Public or private higher education institutions or courses cannot operate, or are not accredited, if they are not recognized by the Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Ensino Superior (Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education). Access to private institutions is regulated by each institution. The two systems of higher education (university and polytechnic) are linked and it is possible to transfer from one to the other by extraordinary competition. It is also possible to transfer from a public institution to a private one and vice-versa.

Many universities are usually organized by Faculty (Faculdade). Institute (Instituto) and School (Escola) are also common designations for autonomous units of Portuguese higher learning institutions, and are always used in the polytechnical system, but also in several universities.

After mid 2000s, with the approval of new legislation and the Bologna Process any polytechnic or university institution of Portugal, is able to award a first cycle of study, known as licenciatura plus a second cycle which confer the master's degree. Before that, this was the rule only for university institutions. As of December 2006, only a few master's degree programmes are offered by a limited number of polytechnical institutions. Virtually all university institutions award master's degrees as a second cycle of study, but some university departments are offering integrated master's degrees through a longer single cycle of study. Some polytechnic institutions will offer the second study cycle in cooperation with a partner university, others are planning not to award any study programme beyond the first study cycle (licenciatura). Doctorates are only awarded by the universities.

There are also special higher education institutions linked with the military and the police. These specific institutions have generally a good reputation and are popular among the youngsters because its courses are a passport to the military/police career. These state-run institutions are the Air Force Academy, the Military Academy, the Naval School and the Instituto Superior de Ciências Policiais e Segurança Interna.

 International partnership programmes



Admission and inequalities

Admission to state-run higher education level studies requires either a secondary school credential, Diploma de Ensino Secundário, given after twelve study years, or an extraordinary exam process available to anyone aged 23 or older. Admission to private institutions is at the total discretion of each school.

With secondary school credential

Students must have studied the subjects for which they are entering to be prepared for the entrance exams, but they are not required to have previously specialised in any specific area at the secondary school. Students sit for one or more entrance exams, Concurso nacional for public institutions or Concurso local for private institutions. In addition to passing entrance exams, students must fulfil particular prerequisites for the chosen course. Enrollment is limited; each year the institution establishes the number of places available. At the universities this is called the numerus clausus. For the public institutions the exam scores count for the final evaluation, which includes the secondary school average marks. Then the students have to choose six institutions/courses they prefer to attend, in preferential order. The ones, who reach the marks needed to attend the desired institution/course, given the attributed vacant, will be admitted. This means that the students could not be admitted at its first or second choice, but be admitted at the third or even sixth choice. In some cases, those entering polytechnics or nursing and health technologies schools, should have some previous vocational training and preference will be given to applicants from the catchment area of the institution concerned.

 Extraordinary Exam Process

Even without a complete secondary school education, anyone 23 or above can apply to state-run higher learning institution through the Exame Extraordinário de Avaliação de Capacidade para Acesso ao Ensino Superior (extraordinary exam to assess the capacity to enter higher-level studies), also called the Ad-Hoc exam. The process consists of the general Portuguese exam, an interview to evaluate motivation and CV, and additional exams specific to each school and course, obligatorily written and oral. Candidates approved go through a separate numerus clausus or enrolll directly at the discretion of the school's board.





The public university courses demanded generally, until mid 2000s, much higher admission marks than most similar courses at the polytechnic institutes or private institutions. This was a major statistical fact among the higher education subsystems in Portugal. However, it is not possible today characterize precisely a course's quality level by the higher education subsystem it belongs (polytechnic or university) because there are selective courses demanding high grades and having great reputation and popularity in both subsystems after many years of reforms and reorganization in the polytechnical subsytem. In parallel with the Bologna reform, two major regulatory initiatives have been implemented from the academic year 2005/06, namely: access rules have enforced minimum grades of 95/200 in the national access examinations for all candidates in every sector of higher education; and a minimum number of 10 students per degree programme has been required for public funding, with this limit being announced to increase to 20 students from 2006/07. For the other side, higher grades inside the higher education institutions were more frequent for those students of private, public polytechnic and some university courses that were globally the worst pre-higher education applicants. This implied a long-lasting reputation of lower teaching standards and easier entrance requirements in many public polytechnic, university, and private courses of some Portuguese institutions which were or are generally seen as being rather relaxed. Like in any other country in the world, this appears to be an injustice for thousands of others students admitted to more rigorous and selective institutions that will face the same competition in the labour market, where the graduation marks are many times decisive. This have allowed so many other inequalities such as the future impossibility of obtaining a masters or doctoral degree for that students with lower marks (usually less than 14, out of 20 for masters degree, or 16 out of 20 for doctorate), and the higher average completion time for graduation and subsequent entrance into the labour market, with so different standards in so many heterogeneous institutions. Currently, after changes introduced by the Bologna process, master's degrees can be awarded to any student who had completed the first study cycle (licenciatura) and enroll in the second study cycle (mestrado).

For instance, medicine is traditionally and effectively one of the most wanted courses in Portugal, and because of that, one of the most demanding in terms of exams and prerequisites. Normally a student who wants to attend the Medicine Faculty at one of the seven Portuguese public universities which exclusively offer this graduation course, have to get very high grades in the Chemistry and Biology entrance exams and have to have done an almost-brilliant secondary school course. Architecture, economics, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, computer sciences, biochemistry, dentistry or pharmacy at the main public universities, are on a smaller scale, another examples of courses which are traditionally the most selective and prestigious. In contrast with these, like in any other educational system in the world, there are many courses offered by polytechnic institutes, private universities, and public university departments, where the entrance requirements are sharply below the average. There are also some courses with low or even no demand and condemned to be extinguished.





To get the necessary equivalencies to enter in a Portuguese university it is necessary that before leaving your country, you take all your school documents to the consulate of Portugal.

More information:

Cirep – The Ministry of Education’s Centre for Information

and Public Relations (Centro de Informação e Relações

Públicas do Ministério da Educação)

Av. 5 de Outubro, 107, 1069-018 Lisboa

Tel: 217 93 16 03

Fax:217 96 41 19

e-mail: cirep@min-edu.pt






Palácio Foz – Praça dos Restauradores – Apartado 2596


Tel: 21 321 95 00/01

Praça Carlos Alberto, 71- 4050-157 PORTO

Tel: 22 204 61 10





Higher Education

Secondary Education Essential Education

Middle School II (3º ciclo) Compulsory Education

Middle School I (2º ciclo)

Primary Education (1º ciclo)

Pre-school education


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