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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisation of the education system and its structure


2.Organisation and governance

2.3Organisation of the education system and its structure

Last update: 27 November 2023
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The Portuguese education system is divided into different levels of education.

It begins with pre-school education, an optional cycle for children from three to six years old, followed by basic education, which comprises three sequential cycles:

  • the first cycle of four years (expected attendance ages: from six to ten years old).
  • the second cycle of two years (expected attendance ages: from ten to 12 years old), corresponding to ISCED1.
  • the third cycle of three years (expected attendance ages: from 12 to 15 years old), corresponding to ISCED 2 (lower secondary education).

Upper secondary education is a three-year cycle (expected attendance ages: from 15 to 18 years old) (corresponding to ISCED 3) and includes five types of courses:

  • science-humanities courses
  • vocational courses
  • specialised artistic courses
  • own-school-curriculum courses
  • apprenticeship courses

ISCED 4 corresponds to post-secondary non-higher education, while ISCED 5 corresponds to short cycle higher education programmes.

Higher education is structured according to the principles of the Bologna Process and is designed for students who have successfully completed a upper secondary education course or obtained a legally equivalent qualification.

ISCED 6 comprises the Licenciatura (or equivalent) programmes, and ISCED 7 the Master programmes (or equivalent). Lastly, ISCED 8 corresponds to a doctoral programme (or equivalent).

For further information on the structure of the Portuguese education system, please consult the publications The Structure of the European Education Systems 2021/22: Schematic Diagrams and Compulsory Education in Europe – 2021/22.

Home education

The Portuguese education system boasts different types of teaching schemes that are intended for families who, for reasons of professional mobility or other personal circumstances, wish to take on greater responsibility for their children’s education, choosing to teach them outside of school.

Decree-Law No 70/2021, 3 August approves the legal framework for individual tuition and home schooling and is designed for students covered by compulsory schooling who intend to learn the Portuguese curriculum (general basic education and upper secondary education science-humanities courses) and also defines the rules and procedures regarding enrolment and attendance, as well as the process of supervision and monitoring, as well as certification of learning, so all students develop the skills, attitudes and values stipulated in the Exit Profile of Students Leaving Compulsory Education Profile of Students Leaving Compulsory Schooling.

Students being educated via home schooling or individual tuition are subject to evaluation and certification of learning, in accordance with the Exit Profile of Students Leaving Compulsory Education and the regulations in force (Decree Law No 55/2018, 6 July, Ordinance No 223-A/2018, 3 August, and Ordinance No 226-A/2018, 7 August).