The School and Education System in Spain has greatly improved in the last 25 years through increases in spending and educational reforms. The latest PISA survey of educational standards of 15-year-olds across many countries and economies showed that Spain’s performance in reading, mathematics, and science is slightly above the OECD average. Spain is ranked 30 out of 70. The country also scored highly in terms of students’ sense of belonging at school and universities, ranking 1st out of all developed countries assessed.
Culture, the Ministry of Education, and Sport (Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte or MECD) has responsibility for education in Spain but the 17 autonomous regions make most of the decisions regarding their education systems.
Religious education system in Spain is offered in state schools but it is optional. Schools are mostly co-educational, and wherever possible, children with extra needs are integrated into mainstream school. It is legal, but not popular, to home school children in Spain.
Choosing a school in Spain
- 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 co-official language 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 co-official language of the given region, before learning Spanish. That said, most children master both the local dialect and Castellano (Spanish) as part of their general schooling.
Compulsory education in Spain
- Based upon the Ley Orgánica de Educación or Fundamental Law of Education, education in Spain is compulsory for all children and young people who are resident between the ages of 6 to 16 years, with primary education (primary) lasting six years followed by four years of compulsory secondary education (Educacion Secundaria Obligatoria or ESO), at the end of which a Certificate of Education is received.
- All students receive basic vocational training at the secondary level. Education authorities have an obligation to help foreign students integrate and must provide specific programs 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.
The structure of the Spanish education system
The Spanish education system is divided into four stages, two of which are compulsory:
- Nursery and preschool (educación infantil) – optional
- Primary (educación or escuela primaria) – compulsory
- Compulsory secondary education (educación secundaria obligatoria)
- Upper secondary education (bachillerato) – optional
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.
Homeschooling in Spain
Not many parents choose to home school their child in Spain but it’s not illegal and there are organizations such as the Association para le Libre Educacion (ALE) to advise and support those who do. This is all about The School and Education System in Spain.