The current system of education in Spain is known as LOE after the Ley Organica de Educación, or Fundamental Law of Education. State education in Spain is free but only conducted in Spanish and is compulsory from 6 to 16 years of age.
However, this does not seem to present a problem for young children who tend to pick up the language quickly. Attending a Spanish school is definitely one of the best ways of ensuring that both the child, and in most cases, the family, become integrated into the local Spanish community.
It is often a good idea for the family and especially the children to have some Spanish lessons prior to coming to Spain.
In Spain, children must attend the school closest to where they live, so if you decide to live an area full of British ex-pats, you're likely to find plenty of British children in the local school.
In order to get your child into a Spanish school, you will need all the necessary paperwork, proof of residency (usually in the form of proof of address), the child's full birth certificate, passport, photos, and immunization record etc. For specific information, it is best to contact the school direct, or the appropriate town hall.
If the child is older or in the middle of a GSCE or A level course, it may be advisable to consider an International School. Fees for day students are usually cheaper than in the U.K. and you will have the advantage of having your child privately educated. These schools also tend to offer qualifications better known to UK universities. Some schools offer a system of English and Spanish curricula which enables students to be qualified for either Spain or the UK.
Below Higher Education the system can be seen as consisting of four levels:
Children from 3 to 5 years old in Spain have the option of attending the Pre-school stage (infantil or popularly known as preescolar), which is non-compulsory and free for all students. It is regarded as an integral part of the education system with infants’ classes at almost every primary school. There are some separate nursery schools (Colegios Infantiles).
Children (whose parents chose that they should) enter pre-school (Educació;n Infantil) in the autumn of the calendar year in which they turn three years old. Following this pattern, the ages given here as corresponding to the different phases are the ages turned by children in the calendar year in which the academic year begins. Age ranges are inclusive: 3 to 5 years of age is 3 academic years.
Spanish students aged 6 to 15 undergo primary (colegio) and secondary school (instituto) education, which are compulsory and (like the preceding preschool from age 3) free of charge. Successful students are awarded a Secondary Education Certificate, which is necessary to enter the post-compulsory stage of Schooling (principally the Bachillerato) for their University or Vocational (Formación Profesional) Studies. Once students have finished their Bachillerato, they can take their University Entrance Exam (Pruebas de Acceso a la Universidad, popularly called Selectividad) which differs greatly from region to region. The compulsory stage of secondary education is normally referred to by its initials: ESO (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria).
Structured as two cycles of three years each:
The second of these two cycles is included in the general state provision of education and, although not compulsory, is followed by nearly all children. The first ‘cycle’, nursery care, is largely privately provided and funded although there are some subsidies.
Structured as three 2 year cycles:
Compulsory Secondary Education (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria or ESO) is structured as two cycles of two academic years each (total 4 years):
Upon finishing ESO the student has a number of options, including:
The post-compulsory programme offered by Spanish schools is the Spanish Baccalaureate, or Bachillerato. It encompasses grades 11 and 12, and is the normal option for those wishing to go on to university. There is often a substantial increase in the level of pressure and the workload, as this option is the most demanding. Upon completion, it entitles the student to sit the university-entrance exam (selectividad), or to follow some kind of higher vocational training.
The Spanish Baccalaureate is made up of two parts; the core subjects, and the specialist part (chosen out of five branches).
The core curriculum is as follows:
The specialist part has up to four subjects (depending on the branch taken).
At undergraduate level, some degrees have their own branch requirements (such as medicine, engineering degrees, law…) and some courses accept students from any branch, such as Language studies, Social Work, Educational Sciences or Tourism.
On satisfactory completion of compulsory secondary education a student is awarded the ESO diploma (he/she is a Graduate ESO, formerly Graduate Escolar), and is eligible for the different types of post-compulsory schooling.
After completing the Spanish Baccalaureate, the Spanish Baccalaureate diploma is awarded to those who pass every subject.
Students with appropriate qualifications and wishing to enrol in Spanish universities must usually take an entrance exam called PAU (Prueba de Acceso a la Universidad or University Entrance Examination), that consists in six tests, one for each subject and a test for each history or philosophy, foreign language (commonly English) and Spanish grammar and literature (Autonomous communities that have a co-official language, have also another test about co-official language grammar and literature), after passing their Bachillerato.
The Spanish School Leaving Certificate (ESO) is equivalent to a number of GCSE's
The Bachillerato is equivalent to A-levels. Therefore, Spanish students obtaining the appropriate grades required for entrance into universities in Europe, including Britain are not precluded.
The vocational training is also a common possibility after ESO or after the Spanish Baccalaureate. There are two different types of programmes: Middle Grade Training Cycles (Ciclos Formativos de Grado Medio), which have the ESO diploma as a requirement, and Superior-level Training Cycles (Ciclos Formativos de grado Superior), which have the Spanish Baccalaureate as the principal requirement. After completion of the Superior-level Training Cycle, students are entitled to direct entrance to several related University degrees.
Schools in Spain can be divided into 3 categories:
According to summary data for the year 2008-2009 from the ministry, state schools educated 67.4%, private but state funded schools 26.0%, and purely private schools 6.6% of pupils the preceding year.
All non-university state education is free in Spain, but parents have to buy all of their children's books and materials. This, nominally at least, also applies to colegios concertados. Many schools are concertados = state funded up to the end of ESO but are purely private for the bachillerato years. This drop in the fraction of pupils in educacion concertado is matched by increases of approximately equal size in the fraction in both state and purely private education for bachillerato.
There are private schools for all the range of compulsory education. At them, parents must pay a monthly/termly/yearly fee. Most of these schools are run by religious orders, and include single-sex schools.
Schools supply a list of what is required at the start of each school year and which will include art and craft materials as well as text and exercise books. Expect to spend a minimum of around ninety pounds (GBP) per child, but in some regions, the autonomous government is giving tokens to exchange them in book shops for free, this is being adapted in 2006 in regions, such as Andalucia, where kids from 3 to 10 will get the books for free, on the following years it is expected for all compulsory years. School uniform is not normally worn in state schools but is usually worn in private schools.
Article 84 of the governing law defines the principles to be applied in the admission of pupils to publicly funded schools. The details of the implementation of these principles vary from Comunidad to Comunidad.
In the Comunidad de Madrid there is a largely uniform admissions process for state funded schools, both colegios publicos and colegios concertados. Here the main admissions procedures for pupils wishing to join a school in the autumn are carried out in the spring of the year in question.
Parents can chose the school to which they wish to send their child. It is not uncommon that there be insufficient places in a popular school for all the children for whom places are requested. In such cases places are allocated according to rather strictly defined admissions criteria as defined in Annex IX to the order establishing the process .
The royal decree governing the same process in Extremadura includes admissions criteria structured in a very similar way but differing in the number of points allocated, notably for residence near to the school.
Primary school hours at present are typically from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., or full time classes from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., depending on each school, except during June and September when they work mornings only, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. There is a move towards a single session day in primary schools which would bring them in line with secondary schools. To achieve this, each school submits to the education authority a programme of extracurricular activities to be offered in the afternoons, and if approved, the proposal to move to a single session day is put to a vote by the parents for their approval.
Some schools have a dining room and provide lunches, but many do not. Many schools offer the possibility for working parents to take their children as early as 7:00 a.m., and which in some cases includes breakfast as well as providing sport or leisure activities. Secondary schools (Instituto de Enseñanza Secundaria or commonly Instituto, or IES) work from 8:30 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. throughout the school year. In both cases, there is a break that normally lasts half an hour, starting at about 11:00 a.m. At some secondary schools there are 2 breaks of 15 minutes. (2009)
Broadly similar to the English three term system, but with slightly shorter holidays at Christmas (December 23-January 7) and Easter (one week), and longer in the summer. In 2005, the summer holiday ran from June 22 until September 1/September 15, depending on the regions. The English half-term holiday does not exist, but there are frequent odd days and long weekends relating mainly to religious holidays and regional and national holidays.
Each year, there are several awards for excellent students:
The normal duration for University courses is 4 years, except Medicine and some more, which are 6. University studies have "ECTS credits" as a measure for the lessons, and normally, 60 ECTS are taken each year, so, each course comprises 240 ECTS credits. Passing every subject, and getting the 240 ECTS credits, gives the right to obtaining an academic degree (Grado), architecture or engineering qualification.
Postgraduate courses are Master's degrees (Master), and Doctoral degrees (Doctorado). The access is regulated by the university itself, through the Doctorate Commission. It is necessary to have the degree course, architecture or engineering.
Own degrees are no regulated studies leading to an unofficial degree, recognized only by the granting university. These courses have the same structure as the regulated studies.
The universities regulate access to their own degrees and they fix the academic fees. They can also offer unofficial postgraduate degrees. Spain has many internationally recognized universities.