Education in España
UNESCO "UNION NACIONAL DE EDUCACION SUPERIOR CONTINUA ORGANIZADA"
"NATIONAL UNION OF
CONTINUOUS ORGANIZED HIGHER EDUCATION"
The standards in Spanish education have
greatly improved in the last 20 years through increases in spending and
educational reforms. However, the latest OECD/PISA survey
(2012) of educational standards
of 15 year olds across 65 countries and economies showed that Spain’s performance in mathematics, reading and science was still
just below the OECD average. Spain is currently
ranked 33 out of 65. According to PISA, the standards could
be raised if schools were allowed
more autonomy and by increasing teacher morale. Others feel that the
government should take back more control. Currently
the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport (Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte or MECD)
has overall responsibility for education in Spain but the
17 autonomous regions make most of the
decisions regarding their own education
Religious education is offered in state
schools but it’s optional. Schools are usually co-educational, and wherever possible, children with special needs
are integrated into mainstream school. It is legal, although
not popular, to home school children in Spain.
Choosing a school
Entrance to state
schools is generally allocated according to your
catchment area (for both primary
and secondary education),
so this may influence your decision on where
to live. Some state schools
in certain areas of Spain will teach
in the dialect of the given region,
instead of Spanish. So, in Catalonia, Galicia, Valencia or the Basque country, subjects may be taught in respectively Catalan, Gallego, Valencian or Basque. This
is not always
the case but is something to
investigate, as it will mean your child will be taught
in the regional dialect before learning Spanish. That said,
most children master both the local dialect and Castellano (Spanish) as part of their general schooling.
Schools vary considerably
in size and sophistication but often provide
a strikingly caring and kind environment for small children.
Schools in areas with concentrated foreign populations may lag behind
the general standards, as students don't speak Spanish as a first language and it can hold back the academic progess
of the classes. You may want
to find a satisfactory school for your children
before choosing a property, otherwise your child might
not be eligible to go to
your preferred school.
Local and international schools in Spain
Most students in Spain attend local schools, which are free. However, foreign families may consider
an international school to ease
their child's transition by continuing
education in a familiar language
and curriculum. Your child's age and length of time in Spain are just some factors
to consider. For more information on how to
choose a school in Spain, see Expatica's
guide to Spanish schools: local, private, bilingual and international schools.
Based upon the Ley
Orgánica de Educación or
Fundamental Law of Education,
education is compulsory for all children and young people who
are resident in Spain between the ages
of six to 16 years, with primary
education (primaria) lasting six years followed
by four years
of compulsory secondary education (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria or ESO), at the end of which a Certificate of Education is received. All students receive
basic vocational training
at secondary level.
Education authorities have an obligation
to help foreign
students integrate and must provide specific
programmes to do this.
State education is free of charge in Spain from preschool
to 18 years, although in some regions parents may be asked to
pay for books,
other materials and
extra-curricular activities. Financial
help may be available in some cases – check with your
own autonomous region.
For more information about different types of school in Spain, see Expatica's
guide on how to choose a school in Spain.
The school year
will vary from one region
to another and will also be affected
by what a child is studying,
their level and their particular school. In Spain the school
year generally starts in mid-September and runs through to
mid-June. There are three terms of roughly 11 weeks.
Spain has among the longest school
holidays of anywhere in Europe. Half terms
do not really exist, though compensation
is in the numerous local festival days and
non-teaching days that give children
and teachers more breaks in
the school year.
There are usually two weeks of holiday
over Christmas, two weeks over Easter
and a long summer holiday of around 10–11 weeks. Children moving up from primary to secondary
school will sometimes get an
extra week or two of summer holiday,
which may even include an
end-of-school trip abroad.
Check with the website of your autonomous community or school for
exact dates. Schools are also closed on
public holidays and local religious holidays. For information about public holidays,
see Expatica's guide to public holidays in Spain.
The school week in Spain
The daily timetable
varies depending on the school
and region. Generally, most children go
to primary schools from 9am to noon, with a long lunch break of up to
three hours before going back to school from 3pm to 5pm. Both private and
state primary schools normally look after a child from the beginning to the end
of the school day (9am–5pm). School lunch may be available, although some
children bring a packed lunch or children return home. Lunch is considered the
main meal of the Spanish day, and if your children eat the school lunch they
will be encouraged to eat the substantial meal alongside other children.
In cities, the school day can end at
2pm, with only a short lunch break or no break at all. Some schools may also
opt to open half days in September and June. Schools in large cities may have
school activities before and after school.
Secondary school hours tend to be
longer, with some schools starting around 8–8.30am and finishing around 5.30pm.
In some cases, secondary schools might not provide supervision during the lunch
break, and your child will either need to return home, or you will need to
collect them. Older pupils can expect homework most nights.
Homework also plays a big role in
children's education in Spain. Studies show one in five children in Spain spend
two-and-a-half hours per day on homework, which led parents to threaten a 'homework strike' in 2016 against schools
that set weekend homework. This exceeds guidelines in Madrid, however, which
advise that five year olds (year one) should receive 10 minutes of homework per
day, increased by 10 minutes each year thereafter.
of the Spanish education system
The Spanish education system is divided
into four stages, two of which are compulsory:
preschool (educación infantil)
Primary (educación or escuela primaria) – compulsory
education (educación secundaria obligatoria)
education (bachillerato) – optional
in Spain (educación infantil)
The first six years of education in
Spain is known as educación infantil or
infant education. It is divided into two stages.
The first stage is nursery school (guarderia), which takes children from around three months up to
three years old, but it is not covered by the state. Guardería may be private or state-run but both charge fees (if
you’re a working mother you may be eligible for help with these).
The second stage is preschool (escuela infantil) which
take children from three to six years old. Preschools are often attached to
state primary schools and are free. Most children attend the three years of
preschool education and develop their physical and mental skills. From the age
of four they learn to read and write and by the time they complete their Educación Infantil they will know the alphabet. Emphasis is placed on
learning about various aspects of different cultures, the environment and road
Nurseries and preschools are an
excellent and easy way to introduce foreign children to the Spanish language
and culture. For more information, see our guides to childcare and preschool in Spain.
primary school (educación/escuela primaria)
Primary schools are known as escuelas or colegios (although the latter term is sometimes used to refer
to semi-private and private schools). It is compulsory for children to attend
primary school in the calendar year in which they turn six, and usually lasts
until age 12. There are three, two-year stages or cycles, making a total of six
Primer ciclo – age 6–8 years
Segundo ciclo – 8–10 years
Tercer ciclo – 10–12 years
Children study Spanish language and literature (and the language and literature
of the autonomous region if applicable), mathematics, natural and social
science (such as history, geography and biology), arts, a foreign language (and
sometimes a second foreign language in the tercer ciclo) and physical education. All pupils have daily reading time. In the third
cycle, they study Educación
para la Ciudadanía, which is moral/social studies. You can chose whether
or not you want your child to take religious (Catholic) education lessons when
you join the school.
There is no streaming in Spanish primary
education; classes are all mixed ability, and parents can see teachers if they
need to discuss their child's progress and problems. Homework can be given from
the first year onwards, and examinations can start from around the third year
of primary school.
Children are regularly assessed and
graded. Grades are:
insufficient (IN) – insufficient
suficiente (SU) – sufficient
bien (BI) – good
notable (NT) – very good
sobresaliente (SB) – outstanding
If pupils have not attained a satisfactory level of education at the end of the
first or third cycles they may have to repeat a year before moving onto the
next stage. It is common for pupils to attend classes during the school
holidays to catch up.
compulsory secondary education (Educación
After primary, students go onto
compulsory secondary education or Educación
Secundaria Obligatoria (ESO) between the ages of 12 and 16 years old, at an Instituto de Educación Secundaria, Colegio Privado or Colegio Concertado.
The secondary school system in Spain has
seen major changes in the past decade. It has moved away from the traditional
rote-learning model and is now more akin to the British comprehensive system.
The ethos is now more geared towards project work and continuous assessment
than the old-style fact learning. Spanish schools have a relaxed atmosphere
with less discipline than British schools, for example, and the family is
expected to help the child with their studies.
Secondary education is divided into two
cycles: from 12 to 14 years and from 14 to 16. In both cycles, there are core
compulsory subjects and optional subjects. The core curriculum is usually
Spanish language and literature (and the language and literature of the
autonomous region if applicable), mathematics, geography, history, a foreign
language and physical education. Optional subjects include music, technology, a
second foreign language and social/moral studies. At the end of the two years,
the curriculum has similar core subjects and students have to choose some
optional courses which include: natural and social sciences, music, technology,
plastic and visual arts. Religious education is optional.
Students are assessed regularly and may
have to repeat a year if they don’t reach the expected level of attainment.
Secondary students cannot repeat a year more than twice.
If students complete the four years and
passes (aprobado) the expected standards they will be awarded a Graduate
of Secondary Education Certificate or Graduado
en Educación Secundaria. They can then move onto the next level of higher
secondary education to do their bachillerato, which will allow them to apply to a university. Less
academic students may be awarded a school certificate (certificado de escolaridad/escolarización).
Compulsory education ends at the end of
ESO. At 16, students can choose to study for the bachillerato, undertake intermediate vocational training (formación profesional,
or Ciclos Formativos), which will be geared towards a specific job, or
leave education completely. Some students combine lessons in school with workplace
training in order to earn a Certificado
de Técnico which can lead to a job, further training or onto Bachillerato studies.
Although not compulsory, students can
continue their education by studying for university entrance or entering
At 16, students who wish to continue their education can study for a further
two years to earn the Bachillerato certificate. It is roughly equivalent to UK ‘A’
Levels. This is the certificate needed to go to university although students
will also have to sit an entrance exam (Prueba de Acceso a la Universidad or the ‘Selectividad’).
All students take a number of core
subjects including Spanish, a foreign language and history but they also have
to specialise in one area: natural and health
sciences, sciences and engineering, social sciences, the humanities or the
arts. Some nine subjects are studied with the yearly exam results of each
subject aggregated to provide an overall mark up to 10.
A pass at Bachillerato will allow a student to take university entrance
To undertake the state-supervised Selectivo, the student will take 7–8 examinations over three
days that mimic their Bachillerato examinations. Then they will be provided with an
aggregate score up to 10 (like the Bachillerato system). This will be combined with their Bachillerato score to provide the overall university grade –
although the Bachillerato exam results will account for 60 percent of their
final aggregate mark and their Selectivo 40 percent. The final grade will define what they can
study at university.
The vocational courses provided by the institutos are intended to provide practical training for a
working skill such as plumbing, electrical work, hairdressing etc. The
vocational courses last four years and result in qualifications universally recognised across Spain. There are two parts to the Ciclos Formativos:
Grado Medio – this lasts two
years and provides a basic level of training.
Grado Superior – this lasts a further two years and can only be started when a student is
18 years old. If a student passes his Grado
Superior he obtains access to the
university system. Grado Superior is open also to direct entry from students who have passed their Bachillerato.
universities and polytechnic universities
Those who have passed the Bachillerato with acceptable marks and who want to go on to
university take an entrance exam in June. There are state universities
throughout Spain that provide ‘degrees’ (diplomaturas) and
professional qualifications (licenciaturas) and post degree education. Read more about higher education in Spain.
in Spanish schools
Lessons in Spanish state schools are taught in Spanish or sometimes in the regional language, such as Catalan or Basque. Schools
usually assess the children’s ability in Spanish and if they need
help with the language, they
can be given extra lessons.
Schools may put children in the appropriate class for their
level of understanding – which could be with younger children
– until their language has improved to the point
that they can follow lessons with children of their own age.
As a rule, the younger the child, the
quicker the new language is acquired.
Some children may have to
repeat a year.
Some schools in areas where there
are lot of expats offer intensive language or ‘bridge’ classes for the
first few weeks alongside the usual curriculum. If a school does
not offer extra help you may
have to organise
private lessons with a tutor or through a language centre in cities.
As part of an initiative between
the MECD and the British
Council, around 84 state preschools and 43 secondary schools in Spain offer a bilingual integrated Spanish-British curriculum. These programmes are offered in the second cycle
of the educación infantil or preschool, when children are around four years
old and run up to the end
of Educación Secundaria Obligatoria around the age
of 12. Contact the British Council in Spain for
Special needs schools in Spain
Students with special
educational needs may be educated within mainstream state schools, units within mainstream
schools or within specialist special needs schools.
If you have
a child with special needs, get any documentation
from any previous school translated into Spanish.
Home schooling in Spain
Not many parents
choose to home school their child
in Spain but it’s not illegal
and there are organisations
such as the Association para le Libre Educacion (ALE) to advise
and support those who do.
Copyright http://www.unesco.vg/Education_Worldwide.htm Contact email@example.com