Education and Study

One of the main concerns for families moving to Spain is education so finding a good school for their children. There is a variety of private, international, public and semi-private schools, which can be Catholic or secular, single gendered and co-educational.

Before making a choice there are certain things that should be considered before making a choice i.e. length of stay, budgets, primary teaching language and curriculums. Expats who stay for a short amount tend to send their children to international schools.

Education in Spain is essential for children aged 6-16, the academic school year starts from September up until June.

Entry into a state school is allocated depending on what area you are living in, this many influence your decision on where you want to live when looking for property. Many state schools in certain areas will teach in the dialect of the region instead of in Spanish so this should be researched into.

Structure of Spanish education system

The education in Spain is divided into four stages – two of these are mandatory

  • Nursery and Preschool (educación infantil) – Optional
  • Primary education (educaciónor escuela primaria)  – Compulsory
  • Secondary education (educación secundaria obligatoria) – Compulsory
  • Upper secondary education (bachillerato) –optional


Education Ages
Kindergarten 0-3 years old
Pre-Scholar/Infants 3-6 years old
Primary 6-12 years old
E.S.O 12-16 years old
Upper Secondary 16-18 years old
University 18-21 years old
University Post Degree 18-22 years old

Pre-School/ Nursery

Education in Spain for infant children is divided in two stages which is the first six years of education

  1. Nursery school – This takes children from 3-4 months – 3 years of age which are not covered by the government. Some nursery’s are private or even state run which charge fees
  2. Pre-School – Is for children aged between 3- 6 years and are generally attached to state primary schools. Here children can develop their mental skills, learn to read & write and also learn the alphabet. Pre-schools are free and children are taught the importance on different cultures and environment.

Primary School

It is compulsory for children to attend primary school in Spain when they turn six years old until the age of 12. There are many semi-private and private schools that are available where children can get admission. There are three, two year stage cycles which makes the 6 academic years

  • Primer Ciclo – 6-8 years old
  • Segundo Ciclo – 8-10 years old
  • Tercer Ciclo – 10-12 years old

Primary school children will have the opportunity to study Spanish language, literature, maths, arts, foreign languages and social sciences i.e. geography, biology and history. In the third cycle of primary school moral/social studies can be studied and parents are able to choose if they want their child to take religious education lessons when joining the school.

Classes in primary schools are mixed and parents can see teachers like in the UK if they wish to discuss a child’s progression.

Parents should note that if children have not obtained a good grade at the end of the first or third cycle, they may be required to repeat a year to move to the next stage. In most cases pupils will attend classes in the school holidays.

Secondary Education – Compulsory

Secondary education is compulsory in Spain and is for children aged 12-16 years old. The schooling system has changed over the last few years with it now being more project work and assessments.  Like the primary schools in the country, secondary school is also divided into two cycles

  • 12- 14 years old
  • 14-16 years old

There are compulsory subjects and optional subjects in both cycles and the core curriculum is in the Spanish language and literature.  Children can choose subjects from music, foreign languages, social/moral studies and technology. At the end of the two years the curriculum has other core subjects and students will be required to chose optional courses such as natural and social sciences, music, technology, plastic and visual arts and religious education.

Secondary school children are assessed and if they don’t meet satisfactory levels they will be required to repeat the year.

After students have completed four years and pass the standards, they will be awarded a Graduate of Secondary Education Certificate. This will then allow students to move to the next level of higher secondary education which then they can apply to go to university.

Compulsory education generally ends at the end of ESO and when students are aged 16 they can study for upper secondary and take an intermediate vocational training course to help them with specific jobs.

Upper Secondary Education

Students have the option to go to upper secondary school to study for university entrance or to do vocational studies. This is studying for two more years and at the end of this students will earn a certificate which is equivalent to A-Levels in the UK. This certificate is required by those who wish to go to university as well as sitting an entrance exam. The student will need to take 7-8 examinations over three days which are similar to the upper secondary exams. The scores will then be combined to provide a university grade. The final grade will then determine what students are able to study

State universities and Polytechnic universities

Those students who have passed the upper secondary exams with acceptable marks and want to attend university will be required to take an entrance exam. There are many state universities which provide degrees, post degrees and professional qualifications.

Home Schooling

Home Schooling is not illegal in Spain, but many parents prefer to send their children to a school. Parents who wish for their children to be home school can contact the Association Para Le Libre Educacion organisation who can provide support and guidance on home schooling.

Semi-Private Schools

There are former private schools in Spain known as Semi-Private schools and are subsidised by the Spanish government. Fees for Semi-private schools are low and are a good choice for parents who wish for their children to be in small classes. Some semi-private schools take on children from the age of 1 years old.

The language in semi-private schools are in Spanish or in the regional co-official language, and the curriculum will also be the State Spanish curriculum.

Private Schools

Expats will find that in Spain there are many private schools which uphold various curriculums and have annual tuition fees. Parents choose to send their child to a private school due to the good quality facilities and the array of extracurricular activities as well as the small class sizes.

Subjects are taught in the primary language Spanish, unless the school is international or bilingual. Demand for private schools is quite high and in order to get children into a private school expats will need to negotiate well.

Another factor to consider about private schools is the fees, for private schools it can vary and parents are advised to contact the school for more information on tuition and the curriculum.

International Schools

Spain has international schools which are also private schools teaching an international curriculum, This can be either the International Baccalaureate or the curriculum from another country.  International schools are chosen by those parents who will be in the country for a short period of time as it would allow their children to follow the same curriculum as their home country and in the language they know.

Parents must keep in mind that international schools are generally found on the outskirts of the city which will make the commute longer than usual. In addition to this, international schools have high tuition costs.

For admission in an international school it is a good idea to contact the school directly to find out what the process is and what documents they require for admissions.