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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisational variations and alternative structures in single-structure education


5.Single-structure primary and lower secondary education

5.4Organisational variations and alternative structures in single-structure education

Last update: 6 February 2024

Other provision

Basic education can also be concluded and certified via different pathways adapted to each student’s profile and individual characteristics, such as:

  • Alternative curricular pathways (Percursos Curriculares AlternativosPCA);
  • Integrated education and training programme (Programa Integrado de Educação e FormaçãoPIEF).

Alternative curricular pathways

Between 2016 and 2018, alternative curricular pathways were an exceptional measure used when students’ school results showed no progress, even after other measures were taken to improve performance. These aimed to refocus the educational path with specific models and guidelines.

Decree-Law No 55/2018, 6 July, establishes basic and upper secondary education curricula. It provides guiding principles for its design, implementation and how learning is assessed, thus guaranteeing all students acquire the appropriate knowledge, capacities and attitudes to develop skills in the Exit Profile of students leaving compulsory education. Schools manage over 25% of the basic curricular models, developing plans for curricular and pedagogical innovation or other areas, such as the alternative curricular pathways.

According to Article 7 of Ordinance No 181/2019, 6 November, with amendments introduced by Ordinance No  306/2021, 17 December, Alternative Curricular Paths can be designed and developed. Bearing in mind the guiding principles of innovation plans, schools can temporarily manage the basic curriculum model for a set of same-grade students.

Integrated education and training programme

The integrated education and training programme (PIEF) was created as part of the Elimination of Child Labour Plan (Plano de Eliminação da Exploração do Trabalho Infantil - PEETI). This is regulated by Joint Order No 882/99, 28 September, published in the Diário da República, 2nd series, No 241, 15 October 1999, later revised by Joint Order No 948/2003, 25 August. This provision is currently regulated in Article 9 of Decree-Law No 55/2018, 6 July.

This programme was established to improve the response to cases of students leaving school because they were involved in child labour or other forms of exploitation of minors. This was done via social reintegration through school, becoming a socio-educational and training measure geared towards inclusion.

The programme also develops competencies for citizenship, as well as social, community and solidarity activities.

It is temporary and exceptional, designed for young people between 15 and 18 who are at risk and/or in danger of educational and social exclusion, conferring certification of competences for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd cycles of basic education.

The PIEF measure is based on practical and differentiated work methodology, in order to promote education, vocational development and the conclusion of compulsory schooling.

Close monitoring by the pedagogical team, tutor and the local intervention officer, usually a social worker, facilitates a closer link between the school, family and social partners, creating the conditions for the reintegration of children and young people in the school environment.

Organisational variations

In basic education there are some organisational variations, designed to successfully meet pedagogical needs that occur in different circumstances.

Education for itinerant students

Education for itinerant students is designed for the children of itinerant workers who often travel far from their place of residence (fair and circus workers, travelling salespeople, seasonal workers, culturally itinerant groups, etc.).

As a result, these students attend various schools over the academic year (host schools) for varying lengths of time, thereby making use of the statute for itinerant schoolchildren.

The Ministry of Education created the database of students who are children of itinerant workers. The DGE, in partnership with the DGEstE and the schools where students are enrolled, monitors these students’ educational path from pre-school to upper secondary education.

Education for itinerant students aims to ensure educational continuity, as well assess the learning of itinerant workers’ children who are of compulsory school age, thus contributing to school success and reducing absenteeism.

For more information, see the Direção-Geral de Educação website.

Home schooling and individual tuition

Home schooling and individual tuition are regulated by Decree-Law 70/2021, 3 August. This legislation defines the rules and procedures regarding enrolment and attendance, as well as the monitoring and certification of the learning process, in accordance with the Exit Profile of students leaving compulsory education.

For more information, see the Subchapter 2.3. Organisation of the Education System and its Structure.

Distance learning

Distance Learning (E@D) is regulated by Ordinance No 359/2019, 8 October, following Decree-Law no. 55/2018, 6th July. It establishes basic and upper secondary education curricula, as well as the guiding principles of its design, implementation and learning evaluation. This way, it guarantees that all students have the respective knowledge, capacities and attitudes to acquire the skills contained in the Exit Profile of students leaving compulsory education.

Distance learning is an alternative for students unable to attend face-to-face classes. By using information and communication technologies (ICT) in the teaching and learning processes, everyone has access to education. This method is based on new pedagogical approaches (both teaching and learning), as well as innovative organisation and management of curricula that meet the specific needs of students and their particular contexts, while ensuring the necessary information security.

Distance learning (E@D) functions within a virtual learning environment, which is supported by a learning management system based on a flexible, personalised and inclusive pedagogical model. This allows multiple means, languages and resources to be included, information to be presented in an organised way, and interactions between the various participants when constructing and expanding virtual learning environments, enabling each student to progress successfully.

E@D is currently based at Fonseca Benevides upper secondary school (with 3rd cycle), in Lisbon. It is the only official educational provision of this type, provided by the Ministry of Education for basic (from the 2nd cycle onwards) and upper secondary education. Distance recurrent upper secondary education is also available.

Bilingual education

Following on from an Early Bilingual Learning Project in basic education, the Bilingual Schools Programme in English (Programa Escolas Bilingues em Inglês - PEBI) was created from the 2016/17 school year as part of a partnership between the Ministry of Education (through the Directorate-General for Education) and the British Council Portugal, which is monitored by the Directorate-General for Schools.

By encouraging early provision and sequential follow-up and coordination between levels of education, PEBI aims:

• to gradually develop the communicative proficiency in English of students in compulsory schooling that is integrated with syllabus content;

• to promote inclusive and intercultural education;

• to develop students’ ability to simultaneously support communication in English and knowledge of curriculum content in the language;

• to allow teachers to acquire good practices for teaching English and essential learning in the language;

• to support school management in the sustainable and high-quality implementation of the programme;

• to gradually increase the bilingual school network, to include 7 % of public schools by 2025.

In basic education, PEBI consists of integrated development of essential learning in several non-linguistic subjects in English and learning English to develop literacy in the language. The amount of integrated learning regarding subjects, of and in English varies between 30% (seven to eight hours per week) in the 1st cycle and 36% (11-12 hours per week) in the 3rd cycle, using the methodology and resources appropriate to this cycle of education.

Institutional support is given to schools by the Ministry of Education and the British Council, via supporting documents, monitoring and specialised training.

In 2022/2023, following a national call for applications, the network of bilingual schools increased 37 schools (from pre-primary to ISCED 2).