Education in Portugal is regulated by the State through two ministries - the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education. There is a system of public education and also many private schools at all levels of education. While the basic literacy rate of the Portuguese population is 93%, the functional literacy is amongst the lowest in Europe. The higher-education rate in the country still remains the lowest in the European Union, this rate was around 7% in 2003 and improved to 11% in 2007. The education system is divided into the following stages:
Pre-primary education: Pre-primary education is optional from the ages of three to five, and is provided in both state-run and private nursery schools. State-run nursery provision is free of charge; fees are payable for private nursery schools. The schools are known as Jardins-de-Infância (Kindergartens).
Pre-higher education: Basic Education lasts for nine years divided into three stages of four, two and three years respectively. A Diploma or Certificate is awarded at the end of the third stage. Secondary education whether public, private or cooperative is compulsory and consists of a three-year cycle after basic education. Access is through the Certificate of Basic Education. There are two types of courses: general courses and technical or vocational courses, providing instruction in technical, technological, professional fields and in the Portuguese language and culture.
Secondary education: It is only after the ninth grade of basic schooling that the Portuguese General Education system branches out into different secondary programmes, one higher education-oriented (general secondary courses) and the other more work-oriented (technological secondary courses).
Other types of school education: There are also special modalities of school education. The programmes offered by vocational schools, those of the apprenticeship system and those of recurrent studies are considered as a special modality of school education. These programmes are not regular, because they are not included in the mainstream regular progression of the education system. They are designed to respond to specific educational needs of different target-groups of the population.
Higher education: Portugal has two main systems of higher education:
Portugal is also part of the Bologna Process which is aimed at establishing a European Higher Education Area by 2010.
For an indepth guide to the education system in Portugal, click here.