Education in Spain
Ministry of Education
MinisterPilar Alegría
General details
Primary languagesSpanish alongside co-official languages within respective regions, including Catalan, Basque and Galician
System typeDemocratic Constituchy (check for accuracy)
Literacy (2018 literacy rank =)
Post secondary1,633,358 (community college)
Secondary diploma80%
Post-secondary diploma41%

Education in Spain is compulsory and free for all children aged between 6 and 16 years and is supported by the national government together with the governments of each of the country's 17 autonomous communities.

In Spain, primary school and secondary school are considered basic (obligatory) education. These are Primaria (6–12 years old), which is the Spanish equivalent of elementary school and the first year of middle school, and Secundaria (12–16 years old), which would be a mixture of the last two years of middle school and the first two years of High school in the United States.

As of 2020–21, Spain has 9,909,886 students. The largest group corresponds to primary education, with 4,654,727 students followed by secondary education with 2,730,036 and university students with 1,633,358. The smallest group is those in vocational education, with 887,710 students.[1]

The Spanish education system is regulated by the Ley Orgánica 8/2013, de 9 de diciembre, para la mejora de la calidad educativa (LOMCE, Organic Law for the improvement of educational quality) that expands upon Article 27 of the Spanish Constitution of 1978.[2]

Spain is working towards reforming vocational education and modernizing education to halt and reverse the rising unemployment rates.[3][4]


The Spanish Constitution of 1978 establishes that the national government as well as the autonomous communities have competences in the Education. The articles that are about that fact are the 148th and the 149th.[5] The national government has the power to decide the academic and professional certificates and the requirements for their acquisition. It also establishes the subjects that are taught, the assessment criteria and its expression.[6][7]


The Biblioteca Nacional de España (National Library of Spain)
Library of Catalonia

Preschool education

Preescolar or Educación Infantil is encouraged for children under the age of six. There are two cycles of preschool which are divided by age; 0–3 years old and 3–6 years old. The first cycle is often held in daycare centers or preschools, escuela infantil colloquially guardería, and most of the time it is not free for pupils, although some city councils offer scholarships for their public preschool centers with limited places. The second cycle is free for all pupils enrolled in public schools that offer Educación Infantil (early childhood education), and is often held in Centro de Educación Infantil y Primaria, colloquially Colegio.[8] The second cycle of preschool in public schools focus in on emotional development, movement and control of body habits, communication and language, and positive body image. The documents required for public registration include proof of residence, passport or residence card, or child's birth certificate, and, in some areas, proof of the child's vaccinations and a medical certificate of health.[9][10]

Primary educations

Primaria or Educación Primaria, consists of six years, structured as three cycles, from first grade through sixth grade.


Secondary education

Secundaria or Educación Secundaria (ESO) consists of four years, structured as two cycles, from seventh to tenth grade:

First year of ESO (7th grade) Second year of ESO (8th grade) Third year of ESO (9th grade) Fourth year of ESO (10th grade)
Biology and Geology Biology and Geology. Physics and Chemistry Biology and Geology. Physics and Chemistry Students have to choose 2 of the following subjects: Biology and Geology, Economy, Physics and Chemistry, or Latin
Mathematics Mathematics Mathematics oriented to the academic teachings or Mathematics oriented to applied teachings Mathematics oriented to the academic teachings
Geography and History Geography and History Geography and History Geography and History
Spanish Language and Literature, as well as the co-official language, where applicable Spanish Language and Literature, as well as the co-official language, where applicable Spanish Language and Literature, as well as the co-official language, where applicable Spanish Language and Literature, as well as the co-official language, where applicable
First Foreign Language (English) First Foreign Language (English) First Foreign Language (English) First Foreign Language (English)
Physical Education (P.E.) Physical Education Physical Education Physical Education
Religion or Ethical Values Religion or Ethical Values Religion or Ethical Values Religion or Ethical Values
Some electives courses at some schools are the following:
  1. Classical Culture
  2. Initiation to Entrepreneurial and Entrepreneurial Activity
  3. Music
  4. Technology
  5. Arts
  6. Second Foreign Language
Some electives courses at some schools are the following:
  1. Classical Culture
  2. Initiation to Entrepreneurial and Entrepreneurial Activity
  3. Music
  4. Technology
  5. Arts
  6. Second Foreign Language
Some elective courses are the following:
  1. Classical Culture
  2. Initiation to Entrepreneurial and Entrepreneurial Activity
  3. Music
  4. Technology
  5. Arts
  6. Second Foreign Language
Some elective courses are the following:
  1. Scenic Arts and Dance
  2. Scientific Culture
  3. Classic Culture
  4. Philosophy
  5. Music
  6. ICT (Information and communications technology)
  7. Second Foreign Language
  8. Arts

Post-16 education

Instituto Ramiro de Maeztu public high school

Spanish Baccalaureate or Bachillerato consists of two optional additional final years in high school (mandatory education is until students are 16 years old), required if the student wants to attend University. Once students have finished Bachillerato, they can take their University Entrance Exam, Pruebas de Acceso a la Universidad (PAU), popularly called Selectividad. Selectividad is composed of two parts: the "general" section, which is mandatory for everyone, and the "specific" section, which consists of focus topics based on the students' academic interests and is theoretically optional.[11] Selectividad is scored out of 14 points and students grade average and this score is then used to calculate students overall grade point average. In fact, 60% of this overall score is composed based on the students' GPA in Bachillerato and 40% of the score is based on the Selectividad grade.

First year of Baccalaureate (11th grade) Second year of Baccalaureate (12th grade)
Spanish Language and Literature, as well as the co-official language, where applicable Spanish Language and Literature, as well as the co-official language, where applicable
First Foreign Language (English) First Foreign Language (English)
Philosophy History of Spain
Physical Education
Science: Mathematics I 
Social science:Mathematics oriented to social sciences I Humanities: Latin I Arts: Basics of Art I
Science: Mathematics II 
Social science:Mathematics oriented to social sciences II Humanities: Latin II
Basics of Art II
Students have to choose 2 of the following subjects: Students have to choose 2 of the following subjects:

Science: Biology, Geology, Technical Drawing, Physics, Chemistry and Industrial Technology.

Science: Biology, Technical Drawing, Geology, Physics, Chemistry or Industrial Technology.

Social Science or Humanities: Economy, Greek, Contemporary World History or Universal Literature.

Social Science or Humanities: Business Economics, Greek, Art History, Geography.

Arts: Audiovisual Culture, Contemporary World History or Universal Literature.

Arts: Audiovisual Culture, Scenic Arts or Design.
Some elective courses are the following:
  1. Musical Analysis
  2. Second Foreign Language
  3. Applied Anatomy
  4. ICT (Information and communications technology)
  5. Artistic Drawing
  6. Volume
  7. Musical Language and Practice
  8. Religion
Some elective courses are the following:
  1. Musical Analysis
  2. Artistic Drawing
  3. Fundamentals of Administration and Management
  4. Religion
  5. History of Music and Dance
  6. Image and Sound
  7. Psychology
  8. Sociology
  9. Graphics and Plastics Arts
  10. Second Foreign Language
  11. ICT (Information and communications technology)
  12. History of Philosophy

Vocational education

University of Valencia oldest in the Valencian Community

There are three levels of education for professional skills acquisition besides the university education. These levels are Formación Profesional Básica or FPB (basic vocational education); Ciclo Formativo de Grado Medio or CFGM (medium level vocational education), which can be studied after the secondary education; and the Ciclo Formativo de Grado Superior or CFGS (higher level vocational education), which can be studied after the post-16 education.

There are 26 groups for these degrees and they include them by professional areas.[12] 18 courses can be studied in the FPB, 62 in CFGM[13] and 90 in CFGS.[14]


Schools in Spain can be divided into 3 categories:

University of Barcelona (UB) acclaimed for its prolific research output and extensive range of academic disciplines.

According to summary data for the year 2008-2009[15] from the ministry, state schools educated 67.4%, private but state funded schools 26.0%, and purely private schools 6.6% of pupils the preceding year. Usually, primaria is studied in a colegio and ESO and bachillerato are studied in an instituto. However, some schools only teach elementary school (K-6). K-12 schools also exist, although they are private schools or privately run schools funded by the State (colegios concertados). There are private schools for all the range of compulsory education. At them, parents must pay a monthly/termly/yearly fee. Most of these schools are run by religious orders, and also include single-sex schools.

Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) offers a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

All non-university state education is free in Spain, but parents have to buy (or make a contribution towards) their children's books and materials. (Subsidies, loans or second hand book sales are offered by Spain's Autonomous Regions (Comunidades), in some schools and by some local councils.) This, nominally at least, also applies to colegios concertados. Many schools are concertados, state funded up to the end of Primaria but purely private for the high school years. This drop in the proportion of pupils in educación concertada is matched by increases of approximately equal size in the proportion in both state and purely private education for ESO and Bachillerato.[15]

Schools supply a list of what is required at the start of each school year and which will include art and craft materials as well as text and exercise books. From 2009, this figure was around £300 and in 2011 was nearer £500; as of 2011, the cost of books averaged 170 euros for preschool and 300 euros for elementary school students.[16] In some regions, the autonomous government is giving tokens to exchange them in bookshops for free. This was adapted in 2006 in regions such as Andalusia, where pupils from 3 to 10 years old will get the books for free, and in subsequent years it is expected for all compulsory years. School uniform is not normally worn in state schools but is usually worn in private schools.

There is a largely uniform admissions process for state funded schools, both colegios públicos and colegios concertados. The main admissions procedures for pupils wishing to join a school in the autumn are carried out in the spring of the year in question.

Parents can choose the school to which they wish to send their child. It is not uncommon for there to be insufficient places in a popular school for all the children for whom places are requested. In such cases, places are allocated according to rather strictly defined admissions criteria as defined in Annex IX to the order establishing the process.

Public schools

Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) consistently ranks high in national and international university ranking

Schools run directly by the public authorities or privately with public assistance (concertada) provide education free of charge, but (depending on the family's financial status), parents may be required to supply consumables such as textbooks and school uniforms as well as contributing to after school activities.

Primaria public schools (6–12 years old) are called centro de educación infantil y primaria (CEIP), colloquially colegio or cole, and secundaria public schools (12–16 years old) are called instituto de enseñanza secundaria (IES), colloquially instituto. Public (state) schools in Spain are free.

Private schools

Private schools in Spain vary:some of the schools teach entirely in Spanish; some are run as Catholic schools; some are private and bilingual or trilingual and some are international schools which place emphasis on a second language, generally English.[17] Private schools that are state subsidized (educación concertada) are required to follow the Spanish syllabus, while international schools are free to follow other curriculums typically from other countries such as the US or UK. Private schools tend to be more costly especially in Barcelona or Madrid. Fees include tuition as well as school supplies and uniform.[18]

School terms

University of Granada renowned for its strong programs in humanities, sciences, and technology

Broadly similar to the British three-term system, but with slightly shorter holidays at Christmas (22 December – 7 January) and Easter (one week - 40 days after Ash Wednesday), and longer in the summer (normally from 23 June to 15 September). In 2005, the summer holiday ran from 22 June until 1–15 September, depending on the regions. The British half-term holiday does not exist, but there are frequent odd days and long weekends relating mainly to religious holidays and regional and national holidays. Schools use the trimester system (September to December, January to March/April, March/April to June).

Bilingual teaching models

In Spain, Spanish coexists with Basque, Catalan and Galician as the medium of instruction. Aranese (Aranés) is official in a small area of Catalonia and primary education is offered in this language. The linguistic model chosen by the regions with their own language varies per community.[19]

Basque regions

University of the Basque Country

Basque Country historically provided three teaching models: A, B or D.[20] Model D, with education entirely in Basque, and Spanish as a compulsory subject, is the most widely chosen model by parents.[21] In addition, Navarre offers the G model, with education entirely in Spanish, without a Basque language subject option.[22] Model A offers Spanish as tuition language and Basque is learnt as a language subject. Model B offers 50% of the classes in Spanish and Basque.

The Basque Country approved its bilingual model in a decree of 1983.[20] Navarre enacted its corresponding decree in 1988.[22]

Catalan regions

Main article: Education in Catalan

Polytechnic University of Catalonia

Catalonia and the Balearic Islands employ language immersion in Catalan.

After the 1970s, when Spain became a democracy, Catalonia was given rights over its own education system. A law passed in 1983, "Llei de Normalització Lingüística", defined the language immersion system of Catalonia. By 1986 the entire region had already switched to it.[23][24]

The Balearic Islands took more time to make language immersion effective. A decree enacted in 1997 established that Catalan must be used in at least 50% of lessons. Schools have freedom to add more lessons, and usually they do.[25]

Valencian Community offers different levels of immersion in Catalan (also known as Valencian in this territory),[26] with the highest level having the widest adoption.[27] Before implementing that model, the community offered two paths. One path taught Catalan in the Catalan language subject and used it as tuition language in either Social or Natural Science. The other path provided immersion in Catalan, approaching the level of the newer advanced immersion.[26]

The immersion models have faced strong opposition by Spanish nationalists. They allege that schools are used as indoctrination centres and that this imposes barriers which worsens academic performance.[24][25][28][29] There is no serious investigation that proves that academic results are worse for bilingual students. Also proficiency in Spanish amongst Catalan students is the same as the Spanish average.

Galician regions

In Galicia, Galician is used as tuition language in 50% of classes, except in preschool education which uses the majority mother tongue. This model approved by the People's Party has received criticism from the European Council.[19]

Asturleonese regions

University of Oviedo building in Oviedo

Although Spanish is the official language of all schools in the Principality of Asturias, in many schools children are allowed to take Asturian-language classes from age 6 to 16. Elective classes are also offered from 16 to 19.[30] Asturian is not co-official in the principality, but is protected by law (Ley 1/1998, de 23 de marzo, de uso y promoción del bable/asturiano — "Law 1/1998, of 23 March, of Use and Promotion of Bable/Asturian")

Leonese is not official or used in education in the Autonomous community of Castile and León, and Extramaduran is not recognised or official in Extramadura.

Aragonese regions

Main article: Aragonese language

The 1997 Aragonese law of languages stipulated that Aragonese (and Catalan) speakers had a right to the teaching of and in their own language.[31] Following this, Aragonese lessons started in schools in the 1997–1998 academic year.[31] It was originally taught as an extra-curricular, non-evaluable voluntary subject in four schools.[32] However, whilst legally schools can choose to use Aragonese as the language of instruction, as of the 2013–2014 academic year, there are no recorded instances of this option being taken in primary or secondary education.[32] In fact, the only current scenario in which Aragonese is used as the language of instruction is in the Aragonese philology university course, which is optional, taught over the summer and in which only some of the lectures are in Aragonese.[32]

Occitan (Aranese) in Val d'Aran

The protection of Aranese, a dialect of Occitan, is guaranteed in Article 3.4 of Catalonia's 1979 Statute of Autonomy. Subsequently, Law 7/1983, on linguistic normalization, declares Aranese the language of Aran, proclaims certain linguistic rights of the Aranese and directs public service to guarantee its usage and teaching. Aranese is taught on all levels of compulsory education and has been the medium of instruction in the Aran Valley since 1984.

Fala in Extremadura

Fala is not recognised or official regionally in Extramadura, and not used in education.

International education

Pompeu Fabra University known for its focus on social sciences, humanities, communication, and information technology.

As of January 2015, the International Schools Consultancy (ISC)[33] listed Spain as having 210 international schools.[34] ISC defines an 'international school' in the following terms "ISC includes an international school if the school delivers a curriculum to any combination of pre-school, primary or secondary students, wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country, or if a school in a country where English is one of the official languages, offers an English-medium curriculum other than the country's national curriculum and is international in its orientation."[34] This definition is used by publications including The Economist.[35] In 1977 the International Baccalaureate authorized the first school in Spain to teach the Diploma Programme.[36] There are now 86 IB World Schools in Spain, of which 71 deliver an international education but in Spanish.[37][38]

See also


  1. ^ "Estadística de las Enseñanzas no universitarias 2019-20" (PDF). www.educacionyfp.gob.es (in Spanish). p. 5. Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 October 2020. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  2. ^ "Text (in Spanish) of the Ley Orgánica de Educación" (PDF).
  3. ^ "Education and Training Monitor 2016" (PDF). 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  4. ^ "Education Policy Outlook" (PDF). April 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  5. ^ "The Spanish Constitution" (PDF). BOE.es - Agencia Estatal Boletín Oficial del Estado. pp. 42–45. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
  6. ^ "Real Decreto 126/2014, de 28 de febrero, por el que se establece el currículo básico de la Educación Primaria". BOE.es - Agencia Estatal Boletín Oficial del Estado (in Spanish). pp. 19349–19420. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  7. ^ "Real Decreto 1105/2014, de 26 de diciembre, por el que se establece el currículo básico de la Educación Secundaria Obligatoria y del Bachillerato". BOE.es - Agencia Estatal Boletín Oficial del Estado (in Spanish). pp. 169–546. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
  8. ^ donQuijote (2018). "The Spanish Education System". Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  9. ^ Expat. "Preschool in Spain". Expatica. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  10. ^ "State schools". Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  11. ^ "Como funciona la selectividad".
  12. ^ "Título LOE - Todo FP │Ministerio de Educación y Formación Profesional" (in Spanish). Retrieved 24 October 2020.
  13. ^ "Ciclo Formativo de Grado Medio - Todo FP│Ministerio de Educación y Formación Profesional" (in Spanish). Retrieved 24 October 2020.
  14. ^ "Ciclo Formativo de Grado Superior - Todo FP│Ministerio de Educación y Formación Profesional" (in Spanish). Retrieved 24 October 2020.
  15. ^ a b Data and Numbers for the year 2008-2009 p4, retrieved 25 February 2009, Ministry of Education, Social Policy and Sport
  16. ^ Ambrosoli, Carlos (30 August 2011). "¿Cuánto le va a costar la vuelta al cole?" (TV news report (video)) (in Spanish). Canary Islands, Spain: Antena 3 Canarias. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  17. ^ "Education in Spain State or Private". Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  18. ^ "Private and international schools in Spain". 2015. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  19. ^ a b Ormazabal, Mikel; Vizoso, Sonia; Zafra, Ignacio; Bohórquez, Lucía (18 February 2018). "Cuatro modelos educativos para la España plurilingüe". El País (in Spanish). ISSN 1134-6582. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  20. ^ a b "Decreto 138/1983, de 11 de julio, del Departamento de Educación y Cultura, por el que se regula el uso de las lenguas oficiales en la enseñanza no universitaria en el País Vasco". Noticias Jurídicas. Departamento de Educación y Cultura.
  21. ^ Eustat. "Alumnado matriculado en enseñanzas de régimen general no universitarias en la C.A. de Euskadi por territorio histórico y nivel de enseñanza, según titularidad del centro y modelo lingüístico. Avance de datos 2018-19". www.eustat.eus. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  22. ^ a b "DECRETO FORAL 159/1988, DE 19 DE MAYO, POR EL QUE SE REGULA LA INCORPORACIÓN Y USO DEL VASCUENCE EN LA ENSEÑANZA NO UNIVERSITARIA DE NAVARRA". www.lexnavarra.navarra.es. 1 June 1988. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  23. ^ Arnau, Joaquim (1997), "Immersion Education in Catalonia", Bilingual Education, Springer Netherlands, pp. 297–303, doi:10.1007/978-94-011-4531-2_30, ISBN 9780792349327
  24. ^ a b Benítez, Enrique (11 July 2017). "Catalonia's Language Immersion Education". Enrique Benítez. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  25. ^ a b Educación (19 November 2017). "Catalunya, Balears y Comunitat Valenciana: tres modelos lingüísticos escolares en el punto de mira". eldiario.es (in Spanish). Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  26. ^ a b Beltran, Adolf (20 September 2016). "Marzà sustituye las líneas educativas por un programa de seis niveles con certificaciones oficiales de idiomas". eldiario.es (in Spanish). Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  27. ^ S.L, EDICIONES PLAZA. "Los colegios castellanoparlantes abrazan los niveles más altos de plurilingüismo". Valencia Plaza (in Spanish). Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  28. ^ "In Catalonia, language and identity go hand in hand | DW | 21.10.2017". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  29. ^ Wong, Alia (3 November 2017). "Is Catalonia Using Schools as a Political Weapon?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  30. ^ "Las cuencas lideran la escolarización de estudiantes de llingua astur…". archive.ph. 12 April 2013. Archived from the original on 12 April 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2022.
  31. ^ a b Huguet, Ángel; Lapresta, Cecilio; Madariaga, José M. (2008). "A Study on Language Attitudes Towards Regional and Foreign Languages by School Children in Aragon, Spain". International Journal of Multilingualism. 5 (4): 275–293. doi:10.1080/14790710802152412. S2CID 144326159.
  32. ^ a b c Martínez Cortés, Juan Pablo; Paricio Martín, Santiago J. (2017). The Aragonese Language in Education in Spain (PDF). Leeuwarden: Mercator. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 October 2022.
  33. ^ "Home - ISC Research". www.iscresearch.com.
  34. ^ a b "International School Consultancy Group > Information > ISC News". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  35. ^ "The new local". The Economist.
  36. ^ "SPAIN". International Baccalaureate®.
  37. ^ "Find an IB World School". International Baccalaureate®.
  38. ^ Clark, Nick (8 July 2014). "The Major International School Curriculums". Retrieved 21 March 2018.

Further reading

Economic aspects