Education in Spain

16 November 2015 0 Comments Category: Just Landed

If you´ve just landed in Spain and would like to enroll your children in school, you need to know what different types of schools there are in order to find the right one for your family. Keep reading to discover all the ins and outs of early education in Spain.

Education in Spain has changed dramatically, for better, in the last 20 years. Just the fact that religion and co-ed is now an option even in state schools is a great improvement. Yes, its performance in math, reading and science in general are below the average but now, you can choose from a variety of public, private and even international schools. You can in fact, home school your child, if you prefer, something that was simply “out of the question” before.

The Ministry of Education in Spain is responsible for…yes, education. But each autonomous region makes the vast majority of decisions as to what happens in their education system.

State schools are free in Spain from preschool until students turn 18, but in some regions parents must pay for books and extra-curricular activities. Remember that depending on where you live, some state schools in Cataluña, Galicia and even the Balearic Islands teach most subjects in their language or dialect.

School is compulsory for all children living in Spain (ages 6 to 16 years old) and although schools have an obligation to help foreign students integrate and must provide specific programs to their daily activities, the majority of foreign families prefer to send their children to an international school, at least until they dominate Spanish and are familiar with life in Spain.



For you to get a clear idea on how the education system in Spain is structured, take a look below:

Educación infantil: nursery and preschool: optional

The first six years of education is divided into nursery school (guardería) and preschool (escuela infantil). Both can be public or private.

If your kids are still at this age, nurseries and preschools are a fantastic way to introduce them to Spanish language and culture.

Educación Primaria: Primary School: compulsory

Primary school is also known as escuela or colegio. Children begin primary school in Spain at age 6, but this depends on when they were born. Primary School in Spain has three cycles:

The first one is for children ages 6 to 8

The second cycle is for kids age 8 to 10

The third cycle is for kids 10 to 12

In regards to homework, expect your kids to start from the very first year onwards and remember, exams with grades begin during the third year.

Subjects they will learn include: Spanish language, Maths, Biology, History, Geography, Physical Education and a foreign language. Think French or Chinese.

Educacion Secundaria or ESO: Secondary education – compulsory

Secondary education in Spain is divided into 2 and includes optional classes such as music. If kids don´t reach the expected level, they repeat a year, but in secondary classes, they cannot repeat more than twice. Once they graduate, they´ll be given a certificate and will be able to move on the Bachillerato and college, university or they can chose to study vocational training or even a blend of both.

Teamwork and a more holistic view of education is another breakthrough in education in Spain although some schools still maintain the old-school way of learning and teaching. Make sure you visit the school and talk to the director about their methods and techniques.

Subjects your kids will learn in secundaria include: Natural Sciences, Math, Spanish language, Social Science, Art, Music, Sports and Technology, as well as second languages.

Bachillerato: Upper secondary education: optional


The School Week and Academic School Year

The school week depends largely on each school and region. But most kids in primary school go from 9am until noon and then back from 3 to 5pm. You´ll have the option of sending your child to school with a packed lunch or if you prefer, you´ll have the option of school lunch (comedor).

Secondary school hours are from 8:30am approximately to 5:30pm.

The academic school year begins mid September and ends towards mid June with a 2-week break for Christmas, 1 week break for Easter or Spring holiday. Make sure you check the school calendar as schools are closed on national public holidays as well as holidays celebrated in autonomous regions. And in Spain, there are many of these.

For a list of American schools in Spain, visit this site. 

The National Association of British Schools in Spain has a website.

Where do you live in Spain and how will you be choosing a school for your kids?

Photo Credits: