The Educational System in Spain

Schooling in Spain is financed by the state and is compulsory between the ages of six and sixteen, since courses are not repeated. Although non-university education in public schools is free in Spain, parents must pay for books, materials and sometimes their children's uniforms. Once compulsory schooling ends, the student will choose between going to the Institute (high school) or going to a vocational school (VET). Only those who finish Baccalaureate can access a university.

There are three types of schools in the Spanish educational system: public schools, colleges and private schools. Because some private schools are publicly funded, the line between public and private becomes blurred.

School schedules depend on the type of school. Some can run from 9 to 5 with a two hour break for lunch. Other schools can start at 9 and end at 2, mealtime in Spain. Some schools may have only one hour for lunch and may or may not have a cafeteria for children to eat in the center. For working parents, the schools offer a morning program, for payment, from 7 and after the school day a program of extracurricular activities, free or paid, depending on the activity.

The literacy rate of a country, although not a perfect measure, is often used to classify education systems around the world. In 2003, the literacy rate in Spain, according to the CIA World Factbook, revealed that 97.9% of the Spanish population could read and write. The figure includes a literacy rate in Spain of 98.7% in men and 97.2% in women. Literacy, in this case, is defined as the percentage of the population over 15 who is able to read and write. Other sources indicate that the literacy rate in Spain is actually higher.

The structure of the Spanish educational system follows the Fundamental Education Law, known as LOE in Spain.


Preschool in Spain is divided into two cycles, the first for children between 0 and 3 years and the second for children between 3 and 6 years of age. The first cycle of pre-school education is not free, although there are programs to help needy families. The second cycle of preschool in Spain is free for all students. This cycle is often seen as an integral part of the education system. Normally, the first cycle of pre-school education is taught in nursery schools or special kindergartens and the second cycle is taught in primary schools. However, more and more Spanish elementary schools are beginning to offer the first cycle of pre-school education.


The primary school in Spain, often referred to simply as "colegio", is the beginning of compulsory education. The primary school consists of 6 academic years from 6 years to 12. The system is divided into three cycles of 2 years each. Generally, the first cycle brings together the students of 6 and 7, the second cycle of 8 and 9 and the third cycle of 10 and 11 years of age.

The aim is to give Spanish students a basic and solid basic education in culture, oral expression, reading, writing and arithmetic. Courses include: social studies, arts education, physical education, Spanish language and, if different, the official language of the Autonomous Community, foreign languages ​​and mathematics.

The teaching methodology is aimed at the development of students and the integration of their different experiences and learning styles. Spanish primary education focuses on personalized classes and adapted according to the level of each child.


After primary school in Spain students must continue with compulsory secondary education (ESO), which generally lasts from 12 to 16 years of age. Secondary education in Spain is divided into two cycles of two years each.

Once a student graduates from ESO, he has three different options:

(1) High school known as Baccalaureate.
(2) Vocational training (electrician, hairdresser, etc.)
(3) Entering the labor market


The Baccalaureate is not part of compulsory education, it consists of a cycle of two academic courses for students of 16-18. The Baccalaureate brings together a series of compulsory common subjects, elective subjects and specialization classes known as "modalities", of concentration in a given discipline. A student must specialize in one of the disciplines that are offered and if the students plan to continue in the university, certain concentrations may be essential to access certain university programs.

The compulsory subjects of the Spanish Baccalaureate include 2 years of Spanish language and literature (or co-official language), foreign languages, a year of philosophy and civic education, physical education, contemporary science, history of philosophy and history of Spain.

Elective subjects may include: a second foreign language, information technology, dance, art, theater, music, or other classes depending on the school.

The specialization part of the Baccalaureate requires that the student choose one of the 4 concentrations for which 3-4 subjects per year are required. Each concentration has compulsory classes and elective classes.

Specialized concentrations and their corresponding types of courses:

(1) Art: It is divided into two concentrations: art, image and design, or performing arts, music and dance.
(2) Science and Technology: mathematics, biology, physics, chemistry, geology, technical drawing, etc.
(3) Humanities and Social Sciences: applied mathematics, economics, Latin, Greek, contemporary history, geography, art history, business economics, etc.

Students who successfully complete the Baccalaureate will receive a diploma. They can then opt for vocational training, university studies, or in some cases both. In order to continue in college they must pass an entrance exam (University Entrance Test - PAU). The test results along with the student's academic record and grades will determine not only access to the university, but also their options for choosing which studies to perform.


There are two types of vocational training in Spain: the Middle Level Training Cycles for those who only have an ESO (compulsory education) and a Higher Education Cycle for those who have a Baccalaureate degree. Those who complete a higher training cycle will be able to access certain university degrees in this way.


Spanish university degrees are generally four years in length, with the exception of medical degrees and some others lasting 6 years. For 2010, according to the European Commission of Education and Training, the higher education will be made up of: Bachelor's (Degree), for four-year programs, Master's, for 2-year postgraduate programs and Doctorates for studies Of post-masters.

There are many internationally recognized Spanish universities, such as the Complutense University of Madrid, the University of Barcelona, ​​the University of Seville, the University of Granada and the University of Valencia, among many others. Other Spanish universities of historical importance and of good reputation include the University of Salamanca and the University of Alcalá de Henares.

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