The Spanish education system is made up of primary, second, third-level and further education (University). State-funded education is available at all levels, unless you choose to send your child to a private institution.
A comprehensive private schools network (escuelas privadas) supports the Spain's state-funded school system (escuela pública). It includes many foreign and international schools. Around one third of Spanish children attend private schools, most of which are co-educational day schools.
State education is under the Ministry of Education and Science responsibility (Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia), although authority can be delegated to regional governments.
7 of the 17 autonomous regions (Andalusia, the Basque Lands, the Canary Islands, Catalonia, Galicia, Navarra and Valencia) have responsibility for their own education system (including higher education). State education is free but parents usually need to pay for school books (which are expensive, although they are provided free in certain cases), school supplies, and extra-curricular activities such as sports and arts and crafts.
Compulsory education (Educación Obligatoria) includes the basic general education (Educación primaria y ESO). It begins at six years of age in a primary school (escuela primaria) and lasts for ten years. At the age of 16 pupils receive a school-leaving certificate, which determines the course of their future education.
Those wishing to attend a higher secondary school, they can continue both to study for their baccalaureate (bachillerato) or to vocational school (formación profesional) providing specialized training for a specific career – Usually 2 or 3 years.
Most children enter primary education at the age of six, when it is compulsory. Having completed primary education at the age of twelve, children then move on to secondary education until the age of 16. Here's an overview of both levels:
The primary education sector includes state-funded primary schools, special and private primary schools. The subsidized schools also exist in Spain, which means that the education is partly funded, but not completely.
Moreover, although State education is free, parents will still have to buy books, material and pay for extra activities.
Secondary education consists of a four-year cycle, followed by a two cycle (non-compulsory studies - Bachillerato).
ESO (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria): The first 4 years are called ESO (Educación Secondaria Obligatoria). It begins at age 12 and each student main objective is to complete a broad and balanced curriculum, and to develop the knowledge and skills that will enable them to proceed to further education. Children can leave the education system at the end of this section (or at the age of 16).
At the end of those 4 years, students will obtain a certificate. For most of the students who choose to stay at school, they will then follow a 2 year program; Bachillerato academic course. There are 4 Bachillerato study fields: Arts, Humanities, Natural and Health Sciences and Technology.
At the end of the last 2 years, students will stand examinations during the month of May/June and the final result will be based both on those results and the two-years continuous assessment (Selectividad test). This mark will determinate the acceptance or disclosure of enrolling the university degree wished by the student.
Another alternative from Spanish public education are private schools. This includes international schools, international baccalaureate schools, bilingual and Catholic day schools.
Private primary schools receive no State support, nor they are subject to State control in relation to curriculum, school day, school year, etc. There is a limited element of State assessment of private schools because the State is required to ensure that children receive a certain minimum education. Many private primary schools do provide the basic curriculum as set out for national schools but they are not obliged to do so.
Teachers in private primary schools are not paid by the State and there are no requirements about their qualifications.
The normal registration period is in May for the following September and is usually done at the school. Enrolment in a Spanish school does not require an interview and in rare cases an examination.
In Spain, children must attend a state school within a certain distance of their home, so if you have a preference for a particular school, it's important to buy or rent a home within that school catchment's area. Town Halls and provincial Ministry of Education offices can provide a list of local schools at all levels.
The academic year in Spain runs from the first week in September to the end of June, with the main holidays are during Christmas, Easter and the long summer break. The school year is made up of three terms, each averaging around 11 weeks. School hours vary depending on the particular school and are usually from 09am until 4.30pm with a one hour break for lunch.
Those who wish to enrol a university course must take a general University entrance examination (PAU- Selectividad test). The final result will be based both on those results and the two-years continuous assessment.
This mark will determinate the acceptance or disclosure of enrolling the university degree wished by the student.
Regarding the variety of studies and university centres, Madrid boasts a large and diverse range of both State and privately funded third level institutions.
For undergraduates attending state funded third level institutions, there is an annual student contribution charge also known as a registration fee, which covers student services and examinations within the college. This charge varies from each institution, starting at 1,200€ aprox. for a public university.
The biggest and most awarded universities are:
For further information about the Spanish educational system visit:
Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte - Gobierno de España
Sede Central y Secretaría de Estado de Educación, Formación Profesional y Universidades
Jefatura de estudios
Calle Alcalá, 34. 28014 Madrid
Tel: 91 701 80 00
When planning to settle in Madrid for a long period of time, it is recommended to get yourself a "library card" at your closest local library. When getting it, you will be able to:
The card it's absolutely free to get. It only requires bringing your DNI, NIE, or Passport Number to obtain it instantly.
To see the full list of public libraries in Spain visit: https://bibliotecas.madrid.es/portal/site/bibliotecas
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