Secondary Education (Ensino Secundário)

Find out about the school system for children aged 14-18 and post-secondary education...

Secondary school education (Ensino Secundário) lasts for 3 years and is compulsory. It is free to students who have obtained their basic education diploma. Students must decide whether to opt for general education or vocational training. Four types of secondary education are available:

  • General Secondary Education (cursos científicos humanisticos)
  • General and Vocation Secondary Education (cursos tecnológicos)
  • Art Education (cursos artísticos especializados)
  • Vocational Education (cursos profissionais)


In post-compulsory schooling there are two type of assessment – internal and external. Internal assessment consists of a general written test in every subject at the end of the tenth and eleventh years and in some subjects at the end of the final year. Based on a general test plus continuous assessment the Class Council decides whether the student should advance to the next class or repeat the year. External assessment takes the form of final written examinations in the twelfth year in most of the subjects. In order to pass, students must achieve a pass mark in every one of their course subjects.

Exams results are averaged to produce a final grade between 0 and 20. A grade of 10 or above is required to pass. It is on this final grade number that universities and polytechnics choose their undergraduates.

On successfully completing their secondary education students are awarded a certificate (diploma de estudos secundários) indicating the courses and the final marks obtained. Those who complete a technical course will also receive a level III vocational training certificate (diploma de qualificação profissional de nivel III). Once a student passes their secondary education they can go on to apply for higher education

Higher Education (Ensino superior)

The higher education system consists of public universities (universidades), polytechnics (escolas politécnicas), and a number of private or cooperative institutions of higher education.

Students who have successfully completed the three years of secondary education and have a secondary school diploma, or legally equivalent qualification, may apply. Depending on what type of higher educational establishment they apply to, students may also have to pass either a national examination organised by the Directorate-General of Higher Education (Direcção – Geral do Ensino Superior), or an entry examination set by the institution.

Graduate qualifications may be a bachelor degree (bacharelado), which requires three years of study, or licentiate (licenciatura) degree, needing four to six years.