According to andyeducation, the educational system in Portugal is divided into three main levels: pre-school, basic education and higher education. Pre-school education is not compulsory but highly recommended for children between the ages of 3 and 5. Basic education consists of 9 years of primary and 3 years of secondary school. At the end of this stage, students are awarded a certificate or diploma which allows them to pursue further studies or enter the labour market. Higher education in Portugal is provided by both public and private universities, as well as other institutions such as polytechnics, academies and colleges. Public universities are funded by the state while private universities are funded by tuition fees paid by the students. Higher education consists of Bachelor’s (3-4 years), Master’s (1-2 years) and Doctoral (3-5 years) degrees. The curriculum at all levels is regulated by the Ministry of Education (ME). In addition to traditional academic studies, Portugal also offers non-formal educational opportunities such as apprenticeships, distance learning courses and vocational training programmes. These non-formal programmes provide individuals with additional skills which can be useful in their professional career or everyday life. See educationvv for Portugal educational systems.