Oversubscribed, with waiting lists of 400 wannabe alumni for the more famous international schools, it is no surprise that many a parent and investor saw necessity and opportunity amidst growing demand and opened new schools. The likes of Google invested in the future of education long before we all turned to remote working and learning. Entrepreneur Tim Vieira, who created the Brave Generation Academy that encourages future-ready skills such as coding at his schools, explains his vision: “Parents and their kids are looking for more dynamic education and we want to prepare our kids for the future. Many investors and funds are also looking into schools for safe returns due to sheer demand and real estate appreciation”.
While retail and office real estate segments struggle post pandemic, and parents’ choices differ, one thing most parents seem to agree upon is that children are better off at school with their peers. With Lisbon’s growing popularity amid affluent entrepreneurs driving prime property demand to outweigh supply, schools are organically popping up like mushrooms, and now cater for every type of parent and every type of child, some with more affordable fees than others.
So-called ‘traditional’ schools are under fire in the UK, with the likes of Eton and elitism under scrutiny, and Education Ministers expressing concern over the quantity of pupils attending ‘traditional’ universities, potentially setting themselves up for future failure. Schools that cater to children’s strengths and differences or provide them with a different set of skills, values or teaching methods are now all the rage.
St. Julian’s – My alma mater
At a friend’s party in Monte Estoril, most guests had attended one of the three Anglo-Saxon international schools some 20 years prior, be it St. Julian’s in Carcavelos, St. Dominic’s or the American School (aka AISL). A Brazilian gentleman said he thought his sister attended St. Julian’s to which I obnoxiously exclaimed “If you’re not sure, then it probably wasn’t St. Julian’s” explaining quickly that there was a sense of belonging, pride and academically-speaking, it was the best of the three, sports wise too, hosting the annual ‘March festival’ on the school grounds. I was a very happy girl there and instantly felt at home, a novelty feeling despite being a professional chameleon having moved from Rio, London, Paris etc. That feeling seems to prevail to this day for expats in Lisbon according to a survey InterNations conducted in 2020 with a whopping 82% of expats touting Lisbon as the place they most felt at home in the world. Granted that the feeling I had at 13 may have had as much to do with the free and safe nature of Lisbon and its people as it did with the school, but to test my theory, we sought out the Brazilian’s sister. Suffice to say it wasn’t St. Julian’s.
Even back when it was a smaller school, St. Julian’s wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and thankfully we all have different ideas and needs. There are now many other options besides the above-mentioned longer-standing schools that count among them the Lycée Français Charles Lepierre of Lisbon and the German School of Lisbon.
The New Kids on the Lisbon Block include:
The United Lisbon International School
This truly international and integrated high school based near the waterfront in Lisbon’s Santos district follows the US curriculum and prepares their pupils for the International Baccalaureate system with an eye to the future through technology and hopes to contribute to a “sustainable and equitable world”. Chitra Stern, the brainchild behind the hugely popular Martinhal resorts in Sagres, Lisbon and Cascais, clearly has an eye for family-friendly establishments and is also behind this school, a natural progression as a developer with a deep-rooted family tradition in education.
The school based in Lisbon’s Campo de Ourique district follows the French National curriculum and relies upon some Montessori techniques for pre-school years, offering both a French/ English option, based on the French Ministry of Education’s curriculum, as well as an English/ Portuguese pathway based on the Portuguese curriculum, both running until the age of 16. To cater for the mass influx of affluent French that relocated to Lison for the lifestyle as well as the NHR programme, Redbridge was born as an alternative to the oversubscribed French Lycée of Lisbon. Three mothers got together realising the need for another francophone school in central Lisbon and created one that was “purpose-built and architecturally designed to meet the needs of our children” explain the developers Stone Capital.
The Cambridge International, Catholic Montessori school off the coast of Cascais is a British school, now catering to children from the age of 3 through to 15. The school surrounds its pupils with the natural beauty that Cascais has to offer, a green haven with its own working farm, vegetable garden, and cattle. It encourages parents to be more present, life-long learning, community service, and inspires more sustainable practices. Incredibly bright former St. Julian’s alumni opened and run the school, which promises to deliver on education, and then some.
For a more complete list of schools, you can visit this website: https://www.international-schools-database.com/in/lisbon