Schools in Spain are not dissimilar to other countries and education is compulsory between the age of 6-16. Schools in Spain are free and supported by the Spanish national government unless parents choose private schooling.
The schooling system hierarchy is as follows
Nursery School (Ages 3 months to 3 years)
Preschool (Ages 3 years to 6 years)
Primary School (Ages 6 years to 11 years)
Secondary School (Ages 12 years – 16 years)
Higher Secondary Education/Baccalaureate (Ages 16 – 18)
University (ages 18 – 24+)
Nursery School & Preschool
This is referred to as Educación Infantil and is not compulsory and is split into 2 cycles, the first cycle being the first 3 years of the child’s life and the 2nd cycle being 3 years of the child’s life ie: ages 0-3 and 3-6. Nursery school (Guardería) is available to children from the age of 3 months until 3 years and will either be state run or private. Nursery schools are not free however working mothers may be able to seek financial assistance from the government. Nursery school fee are usually paid monthly. The difference of fees between state run and private nurseries will differ but private nurseries will often be more expensive.
Preschool (Escuela Infantil) is not compulsory but most parents choose to enroll their child when they are 3 years old. The aim of such early schooling is so that the child gains early development of social, emotional, intellectual and physical attributes. Very often preschools are located within the same location as a primary school. State run preschools are free so the parents but parents can choose between private and state run schools.
Primary school education is compulsory from the age of 6 -12 years old and is split into 3 cycles of 2 years each.
- 1st cycle (Primer Ciclo) 6 – 8 years
- 2nd cycle (Segundo Ciclo) 8 – 10 years
- 3rd cycle (Tercer Ciclo) 10 – 12 years
During the first cycle the school will assess the child’s development every term and parents are issued with a school report. If a child falls below the expected results, the child may have to repeat the year in order to carry on to the next cycle. The second cycle follows a similar fashion however the third cycle prepares the child for the secondary school system so there is a lot of homework and extracurricular activities.
The primary school curriculum focuses on natural and social sciences, Spanish language, mathematics, arts, literature, physical education and a foreign language. Religious studies are optional and the parents will be asked during enrollment if the child will be attending religious studies.
The secondary schooling which is compulsory is usually for children aged between 12 to 16 years of age and provides students with a more specialised level of education and prepares them for the baccalaureate. Secondary school is split into two, two year cycles. State run schools in Spain are free whereas private schools are paid by the parents although both are required to follow a certain compulsory subjects.
Compulsory subjects include natural and social sciences, history and geography, physical education, plastic and visual arts, Spanish and an autonomous community language (if applicable), a foreign language, literature, mathematics, music and technology.
During the second year of the second cycle, students can choose two of the following options: music, natural and social sciences, arts, and technology. Religious studies are optional and non catholics can choose study periods in lieu of religious studies. A second foreign language may also be chosen during the second cycle.
As with primary school, a student may be required to repeat their year if their results fail to meet the standards required. A student is only required to repeat a year once.
Higher Secondary Education/Baccalaureate
After the 4 years of compulsory secondary education, a student may choose to go onto Baccalaureate (Bachillerato) studies. Baccalaureate would be comparable with A levels in the UK or in some countries High School. A Baccalaureate certificate is required in order to gain university entrance. Baccalaureate studies can usually be continued at the same secondary school they have attended.
Baccalaureate studies consist of two parts, a specialist part with various pre selected branches to choose from and a core curriculum with compulsory subjects. The goal of Baccalaureate studies is so that the student can concentrate their focus on a certain discipline in order to prepare themselves for University.
If a student successfully complete the required standard of the Baccalaureate studies they will receive a diploma and may then opt for vocational training and/or University.
In order to gain access to University the student must pass an entrance exam. Entrance will be based on the exam results and the students previous academic record. University terms are usually 4 years, some disciplines require 6 years such as medicine. Universities in Spain are mostly state run but are subsidised heavily by the Spanish state so are much more affordable than they would be in the UK and USA however costs can vary depending on the studies undertaken. Spanish Universities will issue Bachelor Degrees, Master Degrees and Doctorates.
All in all Spain has a high level of education and moving to Spain with children may even benefit their education level as they will have the added benefit of learning a new foreign language.
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