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Education in Spain

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Education in Spain

Spanish Constitution of 1978.[1] Education is compulsory and free for all children aged between 6 and 16 years, and is supported by the national government together with the governments of each of the country's 17 Autonomous Communities.


  • Up to secondary level 1
    • Primary school 1.1
    • Spanish Baccalaureate (Bachillerato) 1.2
  • Comparative with British and Irish Qualifications 2
  • Vocational Training 3
  • Provision and Costs 4
    • Admissions to publicly funded schools 4.1
      • Community of Madrid 4.1.1
      • Extremadura 4.1.2
      • Andalucia 4.1.3
  • School terms 5
  • International education 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Up to secondary level

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).

Primary school

Structured as three year cycles:

  • First Cycle (6 to 8 years of age)
  • Second Cycle (8 to 10 years of age)
  • Third Cycle (10 to 12 years of age)

Spanish Baccalaureate (Bachillerato)

Spanish Bachillerato is the post-16 stage of education, comparable to the A Levels/Higher (Scottish) in the UK, the French Baccalaureate in France or the International Baccalaureate.

There are two parts, a core curriculum with the compulsory subjects, and a specialist part with a few pre-selected branches to choose from. The core curriculum is as follows:

  • Spanish Language and Literature: 1st and 2nd years
  • Co-official language (in case of Catalan, Basque, Galician and Valencian): 1st and 2nd years
  • First foreign language (English, French, German or Italian; mostly English): 1st and 2nd years
  • Philosophy: 1st year
  • History of Philosophy: Only 2nd year.
  • Physical Education: Only 1st year
  • Spanish History: Only 2nd year
  • Science to the contemporary world: Only 1st year
  • Optional subject (2nd foreign language, psychology, information technology...): 1st and 2nd year
  • Catholic Religion/All World Religions Studies: 1st and 2nd year (Optional)

The specialist part has up to four subjects (depending on the branch taken).

  • Plastic Arts, Image and Design:
    • Volume (sculpture) (optional on the 2nd year)
    • Artistic drawing
    • Technical drawing (optional on the 2nd year)
    • Audiovisual Culture (first year)
    • History of art (2nd year)
    • Design (2nd year and optional)
    • Plastic Graphic Expression Techniques (2nd year and optional)
    • Information and communication technologies. (Optional)
  • Performing Arts, Music and Dance:
    • Musical Analysis (1st and 2nd year)
    • Applied Anatomy (1st year)
    • Audiovisual Culture (2nd year)
    • Performing Arts (1st year)
    • Musical Language and Practice (1st year)
    • History of Music and Dance (2nd year)
    • Music (Optional)
    • Performing Arts Workshop (2nd year and optional)
  • Nature and Health Sciences:
  • Sciences & Engineering:
    • Physics,
    • Maths,
    • Chemistry,
    • Technical Drawing
    • Industrial Technology
  • Social Sciences:
    • Applied Maths,
    • Economics,
    • Geography,
    • History of the Contemporary World (only 1st year)
  • Humanities:
    • Latin,
    • Greek,
    • History of Art/World Literature (only 2nd year)
    • History of the Contemporany World (only 1st year)

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.

Comparative with British and Irish Qualifications

The Spanish School Leaving Certificate (ESO) is equivalent to a number of GCSEs, Junior Cert(in Ireland). or Standard Grades(in Scotland).

The Bachillerato is equivalent to A-levels, Leaving Certificate(in Ireland). and Scottish Highers . Therefore, Spanish students obtaining the appropriate grades required for entrance into universities in other parts of Europe, including Britain, are not precluded.

Vocational Training

The vocational training is also a common possibility after ESO or after the Spanish Baccalaureate. There are two different types of programs: Middle Grade Training Cycles (Ciclos Formativos de Grado Medio), similar to BTEC Level 3 extended diploma, and Superior-level Training Cycles (Ciclos Formativos de grado Superior), similar to BTEC Level 4/5 diploma. After completion of programs, the students are awarded with a technician diploma.

Provision and Costs

Schools in Spain can be divided into 3 categories:

  • State schools (colegios públicos)
  • Privately run schools funded by the State (colegios concertados)
  • Purely private schools (colegios privados)

According to summary data for the year 2008-2009[2] 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 purely private for the bachillerato years. This drop in the fraction of pupils in educación concertada is matched by increases of approximately equal size in the fraction in both state and purely private education for bachillerato.[2]

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. From 2009, this figure was around £300 and in 2011 was nearer £500; as of 2011, the cost of books averaged 170 euros for preschool and 300 euros for primary students.[3] In some regions, the autonomous government is giving tokens to exchange them in book shops for free (due to the economic crisis, this has all but ceased in the Valencian region), this is being adapted in 2006 in regions, such as Andalusia, 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.

Admissions to publicly funded schools

Article 84 of the governing law [4] 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 autonomous community to autonomous community.

Community of Madrid

In the Community of Madrid, there is a largely uniform admissions process for state funded schools, both colegios públicos 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 choose 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.[5]


The royal decree governing the same process in Extremadura[6] includes admissions criteria structured in a very similar way but differing in the number of points allocated, notably for residence near to the school.


An analogous decree for 2007 governing the same process in Andalusia[7] is notably different again in the way it allocates points.

School terms

Broadly similar to the English three term system, but with slightly shorter holidays at Christmas (23 December – 8 January) and Easter (one week - "Semana Santa"), and longer in the summer (normally from 23 June to 15 September). In 2005, the summer holiday ran from 22 June until 1–15 September, 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.

International education

As of January 2015, the International Schools Consultancy (ISC)[8] listed Spain as having 210 international schools.[9] ISC defines an 'international school' in the following terms "ISC includes an international school if the school delivers a curriculum to any combination of pre-school, primary or secondary students, wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country, or if a school in a country where English is one of the official languages, offers an English-medium curriculum other than the country’s national curriculum and is international in its orientation."[9] This definition is used by publications including The Economist.[10] In 1977 the International Baccalaureate authorized the first school in Spain to teach the Diploma Programme.[11] There are now 86 IB World Schools in Spain, of which 71 deliver an international education but in Spanish.[12]

See also


  1. ^ Ley Orgánica de EducaciónText (in Spanish) of the
  2. ^ a b for the year 2008-2009Data and Numbers p4, retrieved 25 February 2009, Ministry of Education, Social Policy and Sport
  3. ^
  4. ^ La Ley Orgánica 2/2006, retrieved 23 September 2009
  5. ^ Annexes to Order Establishing Admissions Process., see Annex IX for criteria for allocating places, retrieved 17 May 2009, The 'Consejeria de Educacion' of the Comunidad de Madrid
  6. ^ Decree 42/2007 - Extremadura., see Annex (there is only one) 'CRITERIOS DE PRIORIDAD PARA LA ADMISIÓN DE ALUMNOS', retrieved 17 May 2009, Boletin Oficial del Estado - Extremadura
  7. ^ Decrehie -----/2007, of the 20th February - Andalucia., retrieved 23 February 2010
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^

External links

  • Spanish Ministry of Education (Spanish)
  • The Spanish university system
  • Spain Study Guide for International Students
  • Courses and universities in Spain
  • Spanish Ministry of Education, Social Politics and Sports In Spanish.
  • Information on education in Spain, OECD - Contains indicators and information about Spain and how it compares to other OECD and non-OECD countries
  • Diagram of Spanish education system, OECD - Using 1997 ISCED classification of programmes and typical ages. Also in Spanish
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