Guide to Spanish education system

Published on 29 Apr 2020

As an expat in Spain with young children, at some point you will be surely asking yourself about Spanish education system, comparing it to your home country and making decisions about the future of your children. Below is a short guide of steps and stages, which Spanish education program comprises of.

Central responsibility for the education in Spain belongs to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, however the 17 autonomous communities have a lot of decision-making power when it comes to the education system.  In Andalusia it is the Ministry of Education and Sport. 

The compulsory education in Spain is between the ages of 6 and 16 and includes two stages: Primary (6 to 12 years old) and Secondary (12 to 16 years old), however the overall education system has more stages – let’s have a look:

1. Preschool has two cycles:

- Preescolar of 0-3 years which is offered by nurseries or Guarderias and the children are accepted as of the age of 3-4 months. This cycle is not free for families, although there are municipal nurseries with a limited number of subsidised spaces. 

- Educacion Infantil is the second cycle for the ages of 3-6 years old and although not compulsory but is attended by most Spanish children. This cycle is normally attached to the Primary school and is free for families, except of books and materials. At this stage children acquire communication and language skills, learn about their body and emotions, as well as get acquainted with reading, writing and mathematics basics. If your expat child is of this age, this is a fantastic way to let them learn the Spanish language and integrate amazingly fast. 

2. Primaria – Primary school is divided into 3 cycles, each of 2 years, and lasts from 6 to 12 years old. This is the first part of compulsory education in Spain. At this stage, the subjects include Spanish language and literature, Mathematics, Natural and Social Science, first and maybe second Foreign language (depending on the school), Citizen and Human rights, Artistic and Physical education. Children usually receive lots of homework and the families are expected to help with this. 

3. Educacion Secundaria (ESO) – Secondary school is the second part of the compulsory education lasting from 12 to 16 years old and is structured in two cycles. At this stage, the program consists of many more subjects including core academic and basic social science subjects, as well as optional courses to reflect specific ambitions and interest of each student. At successfully completing the ESO the students are awarded the Secondary Graduation Certificate and with this they complete Spanish compulsory education. 

4. Bachillerato (Baccalaureate) and Ciclos Formativos (Professional Training) is the next step of the upper secondary education which students may choose to continue with at the age of 16. The Bachillerato which includes 9-10 core subjects, lasts 2 years and is required for those who wish to attend University. The Ciclos Formativos program consists of two cycles, each of 2 years, and results in universally recognised through Spain qualifications in such professions as plumbing, electrical work, construction, hairdressing, etc. 

5. Higher education is offered by Spanish Universities and it usually requires at least four years of study to obtain a Bachellor degree. There are further programs for Master and Doctorate degrees. Andalusia counts with some of Spanish best national Universities, those of Granada and Sevilla are among the highest ranked in the country. 

When it comes to the choice of school, there is no general advise which would be right for everyone. Whether it should be private or public school, with international of Spanish curriculum, will depend on your personal situation, the age of your children and your long-term plans regarding life in Spain in general. We addressed those matters in the article “Which school in Malaga to enrol my children to”, as well as the enrolment procedure – in Andalusia it starts on March 1st for the following academic year starting in September. 

To conclude, education is an important topic for any family with children, and even more so if you are relocating to a new country. Intensive research is necessary and local advice is invaluable, so do not hesitate to get in touch in case you are moving to Malaga. We at Malaga Expat offer comprehensive relocation packages covering all aspects of relocation, from paperwork matters and assistance with property search to enrolling children to school and general advice. 

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