Education System in Portugal

The first medieval educational institutions were associated with Catholics. In 1290, first medieval university was founded.

Since 1920, Portuguese universities have been in existence. The oldest university, the University of Coimbra was founded in Lisbon, though now in Coimbra. In 1837, two polytechnic schools were established in Porto and Lisbon.

They were afterwards amalgamated into Universities of Porto and Lisbon formed in 1911. In 1852, industrial institutes were established.

Since 1960, public education was accessible to children aged 6-12 and many commercial technical and industrial schools were set up for skilled workers education.  

In 1971, the Portuguese Catholic University was established and by 1973 many public universities were established.

The period from 1960 to 1974 experienced a growth in Portuguese education system. After 1974, higher education institutions, basic and secondary schools were increased. 

During 1970 and 1980s, the Polytechnic institutes were established.

Modernization of basic and secondary schools took place in mid-2000s. Since the adoption of the Bologna process in 2006, the higher education system of Portugal has been transformed.

It led to new reforms in the higher education system of Portugal 

Primary Education
Primary and secondary education is compulsory in Portugal. Children aged 6 are required to enrol in primary education (Ensino Básico – 1º Ciclo) where they take a spread of academic subjects through grades 1 to 4 plus personal and social education.

Study content is more advanced during Ensino Básico – 2º Ciclo, at the end of which they have completed 6 grades and are prepared for middle school.

Middle Education
The 7th and 8th grades known as Ensino Básico – 3º Ciclo correspond to middle school. Subjects include Portuguese and two foreign languages, plus mathematics, natural sciences, physics, chemistry, social sciences and a choice of art.

Physical, moral and civic education completes the curriculum, plus light technical orientation to perhaps unlock a talent for a vocation.

Secondary Education
At grade 9, the education system divides. Students choose between an academic or a more practical program (multimedia, electronics, computing and so on).

Both share the same core subjects of Portuguese, philosophy, physical education, foreign languages and moral / religious education, with the balance of their schooling directed towards achieving their work goals in life.

Vocational Education

In Portugal, initial vocational training is effectively a third stream of secondary education. Following middle school, pupils enrol for three year vocational certificates. These include practical skills in technical and artistic crafts.

Outside of this formal system, numerous vocational colleges offer short and longer-term training too.

Tertiary Education
Portuguese EducationHigher tertiary education is provided by polytechnics and universities. The former have a practical bias while the latter are more academic.

There have been numerous complaints that poor controls have seen tertiary education standards fall, and protests by students and academics have been vociferous.

Notwithstanding this, Portugal boasts many fine academic institutions. The first medieval universities were established in the 13th Century.