If you’re thinking of studying in Spain, or moving to Spain with school-age children, then you’ll need to know something about Spanish schools and the options available to you.
The Spanish school system is standardised throughout the country according to the Ley Organica para la Mejora de la Calidad Educativa, which is a law designed to improve the outcomes of the school system in Spain. School attendance is compulsory for children aged from 6 to 16.
Before pupils embark on compulsory education there are two stages of pre-school. The first stage, up to the age of three, is usually attended in specialised colegios infantiles (nursery schools) and has to be paid for.
The second stage, from 3-6 is free for all children so even though not compulsory, attendance is high. This is usually offered by primary schools.
Primary school – known simply as ‘colegio’ – is taught in three two-year cycles from the ages of 6-12. Each cycle offers a set curriculum based on national and regional standards. The first cycle focuses on the basics of literacy and numeracy whilst the third cycle offers a broader range of subjects to prepare students for their compulsory secondary education.
There are two stages of secondary education in Spain. Compulsory secondary education (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria or ESO) runs for four years from the age of 12 to the age of 16. As with primary school, the curriculum is set by the ministry of education.
In the final year, students can, however, choose to focus more heavily on academic subjects with a view to post-compulsory secondary education or focus more on vocational studies. On completing the ESO, students receive the Titulo de Graduado en Educación Secundaria.
A choice at 16
At the age of 16, students in Spain can either leave school, continue on to studying for the Spanish Baccalaureate (Bachillerato) or continue a vocational education, often at the same place they studied their ESO.
Studying for the Bachillerato consists of a core curriculum of Spanish, a foreign language, Philosophy, PE, History, Science and Religious studies as well as an optional subject such as IT. Students also study one of a number of branches based on their interests – Arts, Nature and Health Sciences, Science and Engineering, Social Sciences and Humanities. Many university courses require a specific branch of the Bachillerato as a condition of entry.
The percentage of students going on to university in Spain is quite high at around 40%. Spain has some prestigious and highly-regarded universities such as the Complutense University of Madrid and the historically important University of Salamanca.
Spain has four types of University:
- University schools (escuelas universitarias), offering shorter courses such as undergraduate courses
- University colleges (colegios universitarios), where three years of study lead to a licenciado
- Faculties (facultades) offering longer courses in all subjects
- Higher technical schools of engineering and architecture (escuela superior de ingeniería y arquitectura), where long technical courses are completed
Spanish universities offer both official (internationally recognised) degrees and non-official degrees that are generally only recognised in Spain. Official degrees are the 4-year Grado (Bachelor’s degree), 2-year Posgrado (Master’s degree) and the 3-5 year Doctorado (PhD).
The non-official degrees are specific to each university, don’t give access to postgraduate courses and are generally linked to specific sectors in Spain.
International schools in Spain
Outside of the regular education system, there are also a number of International Schools in Spain which offer education in English and are aimed at the children of non-Spanish families living in the country.
The Spanish government has been making concerted efforts in recent years to improve educational standards within the school system in Spain. Spain now offers a high level of education to all pupils and no matter what you’re looking for you’ll be sure to find it easily amongst the schools in Spain.
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