In Portugal, the responsibility for education is divided amongst the Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity, which is responsible for providing the public network of preschool education; the Ministry of Education, which is responsible for primary and secondary education; and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education, which is responsible for higher education. In addition to public education, there are also private education providers that can be certified by the respective government department.
Portugal’s education system is divided into the following stages:
Preschool: An optional stage for 3-to-5-year-olds.
Primary education: Compulsory and free education for children aged 6 to 18. Primary education comprises three cycles:
The first cycle is for children aged 6 to 9. It focuses on integrating the development of studies and activities. Foreign language learning may also begin at this stage.
The second cycle is for children aged 9 to 11. It covers interdisciplinary areas of basic education.
The third cycle is for children aged 11 to 15. It expands on different disciplines and also includes vocational training elements.
Secondary education: A compulsory three-year stage that intends to prepare students for higher education or the labor market. There is a more traditional and a vocational track, with the latter being regarded as relevant for the diversity of educational options and the effectiveness of the system.
Higher education: Optional further education provided by universities and polytechnics. Historically, universities specialized in fields such as medicine, law, natural sciences, arts, social sciences, humanities, fine arts, architecture, economics, engineering, psychology, and teacher training for secondary teachers. Polytechnics offered vocational/technical training in fields such as nursing, education, and business. There is now significant overlap in fields offered by the two sectors, due to the vocational and academic shifts in several universities and polytechnics. The main differences between the sectors are generally in regard to the focus of training, academic staff and student profiles, and reputation.
Pedro Nuno Teixeira is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Economics at the University of Porto. In addition, he is the Director of CiPES (Centre of Research in Higher Education Policies) and Special Adviser to the president of Portugal on higher education and science matters. His main research interests are on the economics of education and the history of economics, and he is on the editorial board of several international journals in educational research including: Higher Education, Higher Education Policy, the European Journal of Higher Education, and the Journal of the European Higher Education Area.
Sofia Marques da Silva is Assistant Professor in the Department of Education Sciences at University of Porto and full member of CIIE (Education Research and Intervention Centre). She is coordinating the national Project GROW:UP: Young people growing up in border regions of Portugal and is member of the project SIRIUS 2.0—the European Policy Network on the Education of Children and Young People with a Migrant Background. She is a member of the Network of Experts on Social Dimension of Education and Training (NESET II). She is currently involved in a government initiative, INCoDe.2030, coordinating the Digital Inclusion Axis. She is the Editor in Chief of the Journal Ethnography & Education.