Living and Learning in the Sun…
Education is compulsory in Spain from six to 16 years, and the school system is considered to be among the best in Europe. In recent years, an increasing number of state (or public) schools have incorporated bilingual teaching into their programmes (Spanish and English); while the Costa del Sol is also home to numerous highly regarded international schools offering classes in English, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish and French.
These tend to be the most popular choice for expats, of varying nationalities, although an increasing number of parents are keen for their children to enter the local state system and become fluent in Spanish and culturally integrated from a young age.
Some of the international schools (all fee paying) offer full bilingual teaching, while others teach exclusively in English (or another European language).
Most of the English-language schools are members of the National Association of British Schools in Spain (NABSS) and they all usually follow the UK curriculum and offer GCSEs, A/S and A levels. Many also now offer the International Baccalaureate diploma as an alternative to A levels.
Spanish state education is open to all EU citizens and is free from pre-school to 18, although parents are expected to pay for books, stationery and extra-curricular activities.
Villages and suburbs have their own nurseries and primary schools, while secondary schools tend to have a larger catchment area. The relevant catchment area is all-important: if you are set on a particular school, make sure you look for a home in the right area.
Spanish Education System
Pre-School Education (0-6 years)
This is an excellent way to integrate your children (and yourself) into the Spanish-speaking community.
Pre-school education (Educación Infantil) is divided into two three-year stages (0-3 and 3-6 years). It is not compulsory but is free during the second stage (3-6 years) in state-funded schools.
There are also a range of nurseries available, both state-funded and private – some run by expats.
Compulsory Education (6-16 years)
This consists of two stages:
- Primary education (Educación Primaria) from the age of 6 to 12
- Lower secondary education (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria – ESO) from the age of 12 to 16
Non-Compulsory Education (16-18 years)
Students can go down one of two routes (as long as they have their certificate to show they have completed ESO):
- Upper level of secondary education (Bachillerato)
- Intermediate vocational training
The former prepares students for university; or alternatively they can opt for vocational training, which begins with general training for the workplace and then moves into specialist areas and work experience placements.
Applicants for Spanish universities are expected to complete the Selectividad entrance exam in their final year of secondary school. Once accepted at a university, students study for three or four years and gain either a “licencia” (in academic subjects) or a “diploma” in vocational or technical subjects.
University graduates can then go on to do further study for the equivalent of an MA or PhD.