Expat Essentials

Expat Essentials: Dispatches’ guide to international schools in Portugal, Pt. 1

It’s a fundamental reality of being an expat: One of the biggest challenges for English-speaking expat families – even for well-paid corporate nomads – is finding satisfactory, English-language international schools.

Such schools cater to expat students, with curricula tied to the host nation in question, or an international education organization such as Edexcel, Cambridge International Examinations, and International Baccalaureate; if you’re curious about the International Baccalaureate program, Dispatches Europe has a primer for your convenience.

Wherever you’re headed, do not wait to get there before starting the application process with your preferred international school, which can be lengthy.

Portugal is the oldest state on the Iberian Peninsula it shares with Spain, and one of the oldest nation-states in Europe, having been settled and invaded repeatedly since prehistoric times.

The country came into its own in 1139, when Afonso I fought and defeated his mother, Theresa of Portugal, for control of what was then the County of Portugal, which was part of the Kingdom of Galicia. A few centuries later, the nation becomes the first to establish a global empire, thus also becoming the first superpower in the world. Portuguese explorers sailed around the Cape of Good Hope, found a sea route to India, and landed upon Brazil between the 15th and 16th centuries.

Today, Portugal is a smaller global power than it was long ago, but it is a highly developed nation with a high-income advanced economy and equally high living standards. It’s among the Top 10 best places to be if you’re LGBTQIA, has one of the best road networks in the world, and is the most peaceful country in the European Union (and the third in the world).

You’re in luck, expats: It also has a lot of English-language international schools, enough for three guides!

Aljezur International School: Established in 2010 by the invitation of Câmara Municipal de Aljezur, Aljezur International School in Aljezur focuses on a “cross-curricular emphasis on sustainability and environmental responsibility” with its student body of 68, which includes 10-to-18-year-olds from 19 nations.

AIS is also the only school in the Algarve region of Portugal with an open-to-all University of Cambridge International Examination Centre, for those who wish to take the IGSCE exams with AIS students. The school follows the British national curriculum programme, “adapted to the life and culture” its students experience in Portugal. Also: AIS’ “stage, not age” philosophy allows students who are ready to take the IGSCE and AS/A Level exams to do so without having to wait until they are at the right age to take them.

  • Fees (2017-18 academic year): €1,500 initial enrollment fee, €1,200 refundable; €5,850 annual tuition fee; full schedule of fees here
  • Requirements: N/A; contact school for information
  • Application Deadline: N/A; contact school for information
  • Contact: info@aljezur-international.org
  • Website: www.aljezur-international.org

Carlucci American International School of Lisbon: More than 60 years ago, Carlucci American International School of Lisbon was established in Portugal’s capital as the only licensed and accredited American school in the country.

Founder Anthony A. McKenna pledged “to serve the children of the American engineers who were contracted to help with the building of the Salazar (now 25 de Abril) Bridge.”

The current name of the school — originally, CAISL was St. Columban’s, then American International School of Lisbon — was made official in 2001, in honor of American ambassador to Portugal Frank C. Carlucci.

Today, 40 percent of the 675-strong student body hails from Portugal, 14 percent from the United States, and the rest from 37 other nations. All grades are covered at CAISL, so your littlest ones can be enrolled alongside your university-bound children.

The “student-centered educational community” allows students to pursue an American high school diploma and, if desired, the IB Diploma in the last two years of high school. CAISL’s mission is to develop “the whole child” into a life-long learner who actively seeks “the knowledge and skills necessary for continuous personal growth.”

  • Fees (2018-19 academic year): €500 non-refundable one-time registration fee; €1,953 non-refundable annual building fee; €8,528 – €18.076 annual tuition fee, depending on grade level; full schedule of fees here
  • Requirements: Complete and submit application form with required documentation
  • Application Deadline: Students accepted year-round
  • Contact: info@caislisbon.org
  • Website: www.caislisbon.org


Colégio Luso Internacional de Braga: Founded nearly two decades ago in 1999, Colégio Luso Internacional de Braga in Braga provides “a balanced and relevant high-quality education to the Portuguese and International community” in the far north of Portugal.

CLIB welcomes students 3-to-18 years of age, who learn under the English National Curriculum. Students set to graduate from the school take the Cambridge IGCSE and AS/A Level exams for the AICE Diploma.

CLIB’s mission is to offer “all of the students an academically rigorous program with a cross-cultural character in an open and modern atmosphere that incorporates new technologies and focuses attention on the student.”

  • Fees (2018-19 academic year): N/A; contact school for information
  • Requirements: N/A; contact school for information
  • Application Deadline: N/A; contact school for information
  • Contact: r.publicas@clib.pt
  • Website: www.clib.pt

Colégio Luso-Internacional do Centro: “ONE SCHOOL FOR THE WORLD” is the slogan of Colégio Luso-Internacional do Centro, located 133 kilometres to the north in Marihna Grande. CLIC’s aim under its slogan is to provide its students “the necessary tools to face successfully the challenges of the 21st century [in] an increasingly globalised and demanding world that is in constant change.”

Students as young as 3 and as old as 18 are taught under the English National Curriculum adapted to work with the Portuguese national curriculum when needed. Upper school students take the Cambridge IGCSE and AICE Diploma exams. The school provides a wide range of extracurricular activities and offers international trips, as well.

  • Fees (2017-18 academic year): €270 – €615 monthly tuition fee, depending on grade level; full schedule of fees here
  • Requirements: N/A; contact school for information
  • Application Deadline: N/A; contact school for information
  • Contact: geral@clic.edu.pt
  • Website: www.clic.edu.pt

CLIP – Oporto International School: Located in Northern Portugal, Porto is the second largest city in the country after Lisbon, and is one of two cities recognized as a global city by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group. There, you will find CLIP – Oporto International School.

Established in 1990 with 44 students, CLIP now boasts more than 1,000 students between the ages of 3 and 18 from more than 40 different nations. The school is fully accredited by the Council of International Schools, and students are taught on an international curriculum based on the National Curriculum for England.

CLIP aims “to nurture and inspire” its student body in fields of critical thinking, global leadership, and ethics “through the provision of a challenging, inclusive international education.”

  • Fees (2017-18 academic year): (Notice: Fees updated the April prior to the upcoming academic year) €50 non-refundable pre-registration fee; €750 refundable deposit; €500 annual registration fee; €6,480 – €9,310 annual tuition fee, depending on grade level; full schedule of fees here
  • Requirements: Download, complete and submit application with pre-registration fee
  • Application Deadline: N/A; contact school for information
  • Contact: info@clip.pt
  • Website: www.clip.pt/en

Colégio Europeu Astoria: Lisbon’s Colégio Europeu Astoria is a unique primary school in that students receive a bilingual education in English and Portuguese until the third grade, when German is added alongside. This is so students “can ‘taste’, touch and have a sight of a different culture which opens their horizons envisioning a world larger than the country where they live, in the tail of Europe.”

Students at Astoria learn under the Modern School Movement standard of education, which focuses on each student’s particular way of learning to allow them “to explore their creativity independently.” Students who graduate from Astoria come away with a Cambridge primary school diploma.

  • Fees (2018-19 academic year): N/A; contact school for information
  • Requirements: N/A; contact school for information
  • Application Deadline: Students accepted year-round; waiting list available
  • Contact: info@colegioeuropeu-astoria.com
  • Website: colegioeuropeu-astoria.com

Colégio Santiago Internacional: Nearly 200 kilometres to the southeast of Lisbon along Portugal’s Algarve coast is Colégio Santiago Internacional in Tavira. The bilingual school follows the English National Curriculum and uses differentiated and individualized learning in consideration of each individual student’s learning needs.

CSI believes in educating the whole child, with the goal of developing each member of its student body into responsible global citizens in a unique atmosphere of learning. Information technology plays a crucial role in the mission of CSI, offering more differentiation in the learning process.

  • Fees (2017-18 academic year): €320 annual registration fee; €600 one-time refundable security deposit; €3,958 – €6,230 annual tuition fee; depending on grade level; full schedule of fees here
  • Requirements: Complete and submit an application with required documentation
  • Application Deadline: N/A; contact school for information
  • Contact: info.csitavira@gmail.com
  • Website: csi-tavira.com


Escola Internacional da Madeira: Prefer the island life for yourself and your little ones? Then head nearly 1,000 kilometres southwest of Lisbon to the Portuguese island of Maderia, the home of Escola Internacional da Madeira in the town of Funchal.

Established in 1997, EIM is a primary school aimed at educating its students in both the Portuguese national curriculum and an English-language programme. From as young as 4 years of age, students “are immersed in the English language” in totality. From this experience, students leave EIM for secondary education with “an excellent level of fluency in both English and Portuguese.”

  • Fees (2018-19 academic year): €250 – €330 monthly tuition fee,
    depending on grade level; admission fee (unlisted) to be paid upon acceptance/space availability
  • Requirements: Complete online form to begin admissions process
  • Application Deadline: N/A; contact school for information
  • Contact: info@ismadeira.com
  • Website: www.ismadeira.com
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