August 24, 2016 No Comments

Education Choices In Spain – An Important Issue for Expats

Anyone with children who is considering a move to Spain will no doubt have the education of their children at the forefront of their mind. It is important, before you relocate, that you have a clear grasp of the Spanish education system so that you can judge what is best for your child.

State schools in Spain are widely considered to be excellent and provide a free education for any child living in Spain between the age of 6 and 16. There is also the option to send children as young as three into full time education at a pre-school or kindergarten.

Primary school, known in Spain as Primeria, is for children aged between 6 and 12, while ESO, or secondary school, is for those from 12 up to 16, at which time they will receive their Certificate of Education. After the age of 16, children can study for the bachillerato, however this is not compulsory any more.

The school year and day will vary between different regions, or even different subjects studied by the child. Usually there are three terms in a school year, and in the summer there is a long school holiday from June to September. The Winter term runs to December, while the Spring term runs between January and Easter and the Summer holiday ends in June with the long break. Primary schools usually enjoy a long lunch break of three hours, breaking the day into two parts – between 9 AM and noon, and then 3 PM to 5 PM. Secondary days can vary and may either run continuously from 8 AM to 3 PM or alternatively in two parts from 8 AM to 2 PM and then again in the afternoon from 3:30 PM until 5 PM.

Primary Education

Almost every Spanish town has its own primary school, although of course there are differences in size and what they can offer. The majority accept pupils from the age of 3, and admittance is granted on the grounds of catchment area, so you need to be aware of local schools when house hunting in Spain.

One thing to consider is that lots of local Spanish primaries teach in their local dialect rather than standard Spanish, and expat children will therefore learn the regional dialect before they grasp traditional Spanish.

Secondary Education

There is a minimum of one secondary establishment in every Spanish town or city. Teaching is generally of a good standard with a broad curriculum on offer. Generally, teaching -like in primary education, is in the local dialect which results in an expat child having to struggle with two forms of Spanish at the same time as their school work.

The best way to research a good secondary school for your child in Spain is to ask your local estate agent. Remember that admittance to a school is generally on catchment area priority.

Children who successfully complete their secondary education, passing all their exams, receive the Titulo de Graduado en Educacion Secundaria, while those who do not attain this qualification receive a Certificado de Escolarization. Successful students can then either opt to leave the education system and get a job or they can choose to continue their education with either a vocational course or by studying for the higher qualificationl, the bachillerato. This qualification is not dissimilar to the UK A level award and is a rigorous course of study. Students elect for a specific area of study, such as sciences or arts, with a wide range of approximately 9 subjects being studied. Their attainment at this level will determine whether they can attend university entrance examinations, and which type of course they can access.

Those who opt for a vocational course can receive practical training towards a specific career such as hairdressing. Every vocational course lasts a period of 4 years, with the first two being a basic grounding in the subject and the final two years being only started at the age of 18. Successful completion of one of these courses results in a nationally recognised Spanish qualification.

Spanish state universities allow students to study for either a degree, professional qualification or a diplomatura. There are also polytechnic universities, most suited to those studying sciences. Currently, the Spanish university system is being pulled into line with other European institutions which is likely to mean that all undergraduate courses will last around 3 or 4 years while a Masters degree will take two years to complete.

If you decide not to go for a Spanish state education for your children, there is usually also the option of going to an international school where the international baccalaureate is studied. The downside is the expense, which can be as high as 3000 euros each term. The international schools in Spain have an excellent reputation, and there are also American, French, German and British schools available.


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