American, British and IB Schools in Lisbon & Cascais: Which is the best school for your family?

International families moving to Portugal are now spoilt for choice when it comes to English language international schools. In fact, the number of options has doubled in the past five years, making it more important than ever to truly understand what separates one from the other in order to make the right choice for your family.

English language international schools (as compared to the French or German school for example) offer either the American, British or IB curriculum in its entirety or parts thereof. In fact, most international schools mix and match curriculums, making it trickier for parents to truly understand what type of education the school will offer.

To illustrate, there are approximately 28 English language international schools in the Lisbon region. Schools that offer the British curriculum either in part or fully represent roughly 75% of the total whereas American curriculum schools have a 12% share. The vast majority of these schools offer or plan on offering the IB Diploma Program in Grades 11 and 12 (or Years 12 and 13 of the British system). At least two British curriculum schools are currently evaluating whether they will offer the British A-levels diploma instead of the IB Diploma Program. However, given the preponderance of schools offering the IB DP, families should consider whether it’s the right program for their child and consider the alternatives in the Lisbon region.

Despite its importance, curriculum is not the only factor one should consider when evaluating a school. A great school will make the most of any curriculum to make learning enjoyable, to provide children with the opportunities to discover their interests both inside and outside the classroom and support them in their personal development so that they can flourish into compassionate individuals, driven to make the world a better place.

So what are the best international schools in Lisbon?

I am often asked this question but it’s impossible to provide a real reply without understanding a family’s school wish list. This list is different for every family and can even be different for children within one family. An internet search will provide you with a list of schools but please don’t trust it fully. Do your research and visit the schools in person to get a feel for it and ask many questions.

A big factor for many is the answer to this question: what are the tuition and other school fees?

International schools cost roughly between €10,000 and €25,000 per year per child. The older the child, the more expensive the school fees. This varies by school as do the additional fees that you will need to pay. One notable expense is the so-called campus enhancement fee (every school has its own name for this) which is usually non-refundable at any point. It is paid either in one lump sum (generally €5,000) either upon joining the school or it can be divided over years at other schools so you may wind up paying more depending on the school’s fee structure and the number of years you remain at the school. Some schools include lunch and after-school clubs in their fees, some do not. Please read the fine print so that you are comparing apples to apples.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to this question: Will my child be happy and thrive at this school?

To find that “best” school for your child, compile a school wish list, do your research, visit schools and ask lots of questions. Our expert school advisors can simplify the process for you by recommending schools that best match your requirements, providing unbiased information about these schools, and supporting you throughout the application process.

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