This article was written by Algarve Life Stripped Naked:
Your child’s education is their future. Choosing the correct school when moving abroad is one of the biggest decisions a parent will ever face.
State Portuguese School – When we moved here, our children were 8 and 10 and we opted for the State system. A new life brings with it new challenges, a different lifestyle, knowledge of local culture and customs, and new friendships. There is no denying they were borderline age bracket for this, but they coped well after a few ups and downs. Children are far more resilient than we give them credit for. They stuck at it, failed the year a few times (its like the American system here, if you donʼt make the grade, you repeat the year) and are completely fluent in reading, writing, and speech.
My youngest, now 9, was born here, so had the advantage of Portuguese nursery, pre- school, then school. All 3 of mine are dyslexic. The schools provided psychologists and extra help. No uniforms are worn at state schools, and lunch money is approximately 1.40€ per day (2012). You do need to buy their school books though, and the cost varies from 30-250€ per year depending on the age of the child. Educational field trips, and day trips also have to be paid for (at cost price). Swimming lessons (depending on locality) are usually free. I am very proud of my 3 bi-lingual children, and what they have achieved.
One of the best gifts you can give your child is the gift of languages. That in itself brings huge advantages. One of mine is an actress now (in both languages), another has continued into higher education, and the little monster plays locally for Benfica. We chose Portugal as our home, so embraced the system. The only strong suggestion I would make is that you enlist the help of a local ʻATLʼ like ʻBEONʼ to help with homework. This averages out at about 150-200€ a month per child depending on hours spent there. The children are collected after school (if required), then sit in small quiet groups with a qualified teacher, homework done correctly, no stress for parents!!!!!
International School – A good option realistically if your child is 10 or older, or you are worried about putting them into the state system. There are a few International schools in the Algarve, so check them all out before you make a choice. Considerations are, can you afford to keep them at International school until they take their exams? Is it too far to travel? How good is the education? If you have a younger child and wish to educate them privately, the best option is the Colegio do Vilamoura. Here you can choose which side of the school (Portuguese or English) your child attends.
Many Portuguese families send their children to the English side for the language skills, and vice versa with English families opting for the Portuguese side. The other International schools educate in English, and offer Portuguese lessons. Uniforms are worn at International school, and lunch is around 7.00€ per day. International schools follow the national curriculum of the UK, and UK exams are taken (at a cost). There are educational field trips and trips away also (at a cost).
I have many friends with children in International schools, and they are flourishing well educationally and pastorally. If Algarve is a temporary home, then International is the perfect choice as your child can continue his or her education in their mother tongue. It can be scary for a child (and the parents) to be thrown into something new and unknown. It just depends if you embrace it, or play safe. Either way, education is hard work!!!