In Portugal, the Ministry of Education, in articulation with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education has the responsibility for defining, coordinating, implementing and evaluating national policies for education, science and information society, articulating them with the policies of qualification and training. The Ministry performs these responsibilities through direct administration services of the State (central and peripheral services), indirect administration, advisory bodies and other entities.
In the Autonomous Regions of the Azores and Madeira, the Regional Governments, through the respective Regional Secretariats for Education, are responsible for defining the national education policy to a regional plan and manage human, material and financial resources. State-run schools are free of charge.
Compulsory education begins at the age of 6 and lasts for 12 years. It encompasses Basic Education and Secondary Education. Basic Education lasts for 9 years and is divided into three cycles: the first cycle corresponds to the first four years of schooling; the second cycle corresponds to the next two years (these two cycles together correspond to primary education); and the third cycle that lasts for three years and corresponds to Lower Secondary Education. The articulation of the three cycles is sequential and each cycle should complete and deepen the previous one, within a global perspective. Specific goals within each cycle are integrated into the overall objectives of basic education, according to their age and stage of development.
Basic education includes:
General Basic Education;
Specialized Artistic Courses;
Secondary education lasts for three years and corresponds to Upper Secondary Education and is organised into diversified forms according to different aims, either focusing on access to further studies or on preparation to active life. This level of education and training corresponds to three academic years and comprises different types of courses (Decree-law no. 139/2012, 5th June).
• The scientific-humanistic courses are focused on access to higher education;
• Courses with specific study plans offered by some private schools submitted to approval of the Ministry of Education;
• Specialized artistic courses are geared towards further study (music) or both entering the workplace and further studies (visual arts, audiovisual and dance);
• Professional and vocational courses are oriented to students’ professional qualification towards active life, also allowing access to further studies;
• Recurrent education – addressed to adults who have not completed this level of education at the regular age.
The permeability between courses oriented to working life and courses geared to continue studies is guaranteed.
Higher Education ensures a solid scientific and cultural preparation plus technical training that qualifies students for professional and cultural life while developing their capability to innovate and make critical analysis. The Portuguese higher education system is organized, according to Lei de Bases do Sistema Educativo (law that establishes the general framework of the educational system, briefly designated as LBSE) and Regime Jurídico das Instituições do Ensino Superior (Legal Regime of Higher Education Institutions, briefly designated as RJIES), as a binary system that integrates the university and the polytechnic systems.
Universities have a more academic nature and less professional oriented strand. It is oriented to offer scientific training, joining efforts and skills of teaching and research units and on the creation of knowledge, in order to guarantee a solid cultural and scientific preparation and to give technical training that allows students to exercise all kinds of cultural and professional activities,
Polytechnic, focused especially in vocational training and advanced technical training, is orientated towards applied investigation and development, focusing on the understanding and solution of problems, aiming to provide a solid technical and cultural training at a high level and to develop the ability to innovate and to critically analyse and teach theoretical and practical scientific knowledge, Despite this binary division of the Portuguese higher education system, though in exceptional form, there are some polytechnic institutions that are integrated in universities
University and polytechnic education is offered by public, private and cooperative institutions.
Structure of the national education system