Expat Essentials

Expat Essentials: Dispatches’ guide to international schools in Portugal, Pt. 2

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.

If you are looking for culture in Portugal, you’re definitely going to find it. The country has given us the likes of late Gothic era painter Nuno Gonçalves, naturalist artist José Malhoa (known for The Drunks and Fado), and modernist Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso (who gave us Canção Popular a Russa e o Fígaro).

Aside from art, Portugal is a music mecca. Fado, known for its melancholic spirit, was born in Lisbon in the 19th century. Legendary cellist Guilhermina Suggia emerged onto the international scene in the 20th century from Porto. And of course, the country hosts numerous music festivals in the summer, including Festival Sudoeste, NOS Alive, and the biennial Boom Festival.

And if you enjoy the spirit of competition, Portugal has what you seek. International football icon Eusébio is considered one of the greatest players of all time, while Luís Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo keep the fire alive on the pitch today.

The Rally of Portugal, once known for spectators crowding around the stages without giving too much thought about their lives, has been a mainstay on the FIA World Rallying Championship schedule from 1973 through 2001, 2007, and 2009 to the present. And of course, Portugal is a golfer’s paradise, thanks to the perfect year-round weather.

Thus, it’s also the perfect place to send your children to international school.


International Christian School of Cascais: Established in 1980, the International Christian School of Cascais in the village of Cascais offers its students “an unparalleled, North American academic education based on Christian principles.”

ICSC is fully accredited with the National Association of Private Schools, and has been a member of the Association of Christian Schools International since 1983.

Students from more than 50 nations attend pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, all lead throughout their education towards a restoration of their relationship with God through a “Christian perspective on life from which a proper understanding and acceptance of one’s role in the home, school, at play, and work will be grounded in the Christian concept of love.”

  • Fees (2018-19 academic year): N/A; contact school for information
  • Requirements: Complete and submit application with required documentation;
    meet with the school director; schedule a placement exam; pay all required fees
  • Application Deadline: Applications are accepted year-round
  • Contact: admin@icsc.pt
  • Website: www.icsc.pt

International Preparatory School: Established in Cascais over a quarter-century ago, the International Preparatory School “provides a safe, welcoming environment for children from 3 to 11 years of age, to learn, play and develop.”

IPS moved into its current home in September 2010, a purpose-built facility flush with sustainable design, an atrium, and a multi-purpose pavilion set to be built in the future.

In the meantime, nearly 300 students from 37 nations are taught under the National Curriculum of England, with a strong emphasis on the English language and mathematics.

  • Fees (2018-19 academic year): €3,300 one-time non-refundable enrollment fee; €780 annual non-refundable registration fee; €2,500 – €4,000 annual tuition fee, depending on grade level; full schedule of fees here
  • Requirements: Complete and submit application form with required documentation; complete, sign and submit registration form with registration fee (upon acceptance)
  • Application Deadline: N/A; contact school for information
  • Contact: info@ipsschool.org
  • Website: www.ipsschool.org

KSI Algarve: Headquartered in London, Knightsbridge Schools International is a global international school chain, “providing a 21st-century international education in a variety of exciting global locations” for children between 3 and 18.

Eight years after KSI opened its first school in London, KSI Algarve in Olhão opened its doors to primary school students in 2016. The school is the first in the Algarve region to offer the IB Primary Years Programme, and provides English-language instruction alongside Portuguese and other languages.

KSI Algarve plans to continue to expand its educational programme to all students between 3 and 18 with every year that passes.

  • Fees (2018-19 academic year): €350 one-time registration fee; €280 annual re-enrollment fee; €4,551 – €6,269 annual tuition fee, depending on grade level; full schedule of fees here
  • Requirements: Complete and submit application with required documentation;
    attend an interview with the head of the school
  • Application Deadline: N/A; contact school for information
  • Contact: info@ksi-algarve.com
  • Website: www.ksi-algarve.com

Nobel International School Algarve: About 180 kilometres to the southeast of Lisbon is Lagoa, home to Nobel International School Algarve. The school is the largest day and boarding school in southern Portugal, located minutes away from the Atlantic Ocean.

Nobel’s curriculum is a modified version of the British national programme, welcoming students ages 3 to 17 from more than 30 nations to experience “an innovative and positive learning environment” with small class sizes, Portuguese lessons alongside English-language instruction, and a “project-based learning approach” designed to engage students.

Cambridge and Edexcel GCSE examinations, as well as British AS and A Level programmes, are available to senior-school level students.

  • Fees (2018-19 academic year): €230 non-refundable annual registration fee; €5,238 – €14,796 annual tuition fee, depending on grade level; 20 percent tuition fee discount for third and additional child
  • Requirements: Complete and submit application with required documentation
  • Application Deadline: N/A; paid placement on waiting list if no space available
  • Contact: admissions@nobelalgarve.com
  • Website: www.nobelalgarve.com


Oeiras International School: Oeiras International School in Lisbon is a secondary school covering ages 10 through 18. OIS is an IB Middle Years, IB Diploma and IB Career-related programme school housed in The Quinta, built in the 17th century by Flanders native João Baptista Sinel de Cordes who worked as an official in the Royal Excise Office during the rule of Filipe the Third.

The school’s mission is to provide quality education “with a special focus on the development of the Sciences, the Technologies, Engineering, the Arts and the Mathematics (STEAM),” all with the goal of creating “a respectful community of independent and passionate lifelong learners who are aware of their roles and responsibilities in an ever-changing world.”

  • Fees (2018-19 academic year): €1,280 – €1,940 annual registration fee, depending on grade level; €3,840 – €4,820 tuition fee per term (three terms per year),
    depending on grade level; full schedule of fees here
  • Requirements: Undergo English and maths exams; complete and submit questionnaire; undergo interview; submit required documentations; sign academic contracts; pay registration fee
  • Application Deadline: Applications accepted year-round
  • Contact: info@oeirasinternationalschool.com
  • Website: www.oeirasinternationalschool.com

Oporto British School: Waving the Union Jack in Porto is the Oporto British School, the oldest British school in Continental Europe; it opened in the summer of 1894.

From 11 boys in the mid-1890s to over 400 students from Portugal, the United Kingdom, and other nations today, OBS “is committed to providing a high-quality international education for its pupils.” The school has been an IB World School for a quarter-century, as is the only such school in northern Portugal; the IGCSE programme is also offered.

  • Fees (2018-19 academic year): €70 non-refundable pre-registration fee;
    €300 non-refundable acceptance fee; refundable deposit of one-term’s fee, fee depending on grade level; €7,020 – €12,000 annual tuition fee, depending on grade level; €500 annual capital and maintenance charge; full schedule of fees here
  • Requirements: Complete and submit application form with pre-registration fee and required documentation; undergo an assessment and interview; pay acceptance fee within three weeks of offer
  • Application Deadline: Applications accepted throughout the year
  • Contact: school@obs.edu.pt
  • Website: www.obs.edu.pt/en


St. Dominic’s International School: Established in 1975 by the Irish Dominican Sisters, St. Dominic’s International School in São Domingos de Rana aims “to nurture people and cultivate international-mindedness and a sense of global citizenship by offering a quality international education which develops the unique intellectual, social, physical, emotional, moral and spiritual characteristics inherent in each person.”

SDIS is a full IB World School, and was one of the first to offer the IB Middle Years Programme E-assessments. The school also offers personalized programmes for students with learning difficulties and those who are learning English for the first time.

  • Fees (2018-19 academic year): €1,000 non-refundable pre-registration fee, deducted from first term fee upon acceptance; €3,500 one-time non-refundable capital levy fee; €959 – €1,778 non-refundable annual registration fee, depending on grade level; €2,877 – €5,334 tuition fee per term, depending on grade level; full schedule of fees here
  • Requirements: Complete and submit enquiry form; undergo interview with admissions; undergo online placement test (for Grade 6 and above); complete and submit registration form with registration fee; complete and submit health, photo, and school ID forms
  • Application Deadline: Applications accepted year-round
  • Contact: school@dominics-int.org
  • Website: www.dominics-int.org
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