Learn about the education system in Spain

All posts Leave a comment   Published on par Jonatan Carbonell

An important aspect of moving to a foreign country with your family, and one that is not always obvious, is understanding how the school system works.  In Spain, schooling is only compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16, but it is obviously common for students to continue their studies after the age of 16. Furthermore, the education system is generally the same throughout Spain, but it is not impossible that some autonomous communities have some variations.

General organization of studies in Spain

Education policy is the responsibility of several institutions: the Ministry of Education and the various governments of the 17 Autonomous Communities.

It should be borne in mind that there are several official languages in Spain: Castilian (Spanish), Catalan, Basque and Galician. In the Autonomous Communities that have their own language (Catalonia, the Valencian Community, the Balearic Islands, the Basque Country, part of Navarre and Galicia), secondary education is taught in Spanish and in the regional language.

The new system regulated by the LOE (Organic Law of Education) is subdivided as follows

  • Infant education: infant education (0-3 years and 3-6 years).

  • Primary education: primary education (6 to 12 years).

  • Secondary education: compulsory secondary education (12-16 years).

  • Upper secondary education with baccalaureate or intermediate vocational training (16 to 18 years old).

  • Higher education.

As mentioned above, compulsory education begins at the age of 6 and ends at the age of 16. At the end of compulsory education, pupils receive the title of “graduado en educación secundaria obligatoria” (graduate in compulsory secondary education). This qualification gives access to general upper secondary education in preparation for the “baccalaureate” or to specific “middle-level” vocational training.

The evaluation is continuous for both types of training; in the first case, the young person receives the title of “baccalaureate” (three branches: arts, science and technology, humanities and social sciences), in the second case, the young person receives the title of “technician” in the corresponding speciality.

Types of schools

If you want to enroll your child in a Spanish school, you can choose between:

  • Public schools, i.e. public schools run by the State and local governments.

  • Charter schools, i.e. “semi-private” schools financed by the State and school fees. The government imposes certain management conditions (e.g. maximum number of pupils per class).

  • Private schools, i.e. public schools financed exclusively by school fees.

It is also important to know that there are two types of school days, each school chooses the one it prefers:

  • Continuous day: classes are held only in the morning.

  • Split day: classes take place in the morning and in the afternoon.

The number of public schools is very high due to the importance of the Catholic religion in Spain, and many of these schools offer catechism classes for children.

Day care and preschool

All Spanish cities have nurseries and kindergartens. You don’t have to enrol your child in the local nursery or kindergarten, you can do it wherever you want.

Nursery school is optional. Registration begins at the beginning of May. Below is the list of documents required for registration:

  • The completed and signed application form

  • The child’s birth certificate

  • Health history and proof of immunizations

  • A certificate of census registration from the nearest municipality.

Elementary School

The principle is the same as for nursery and kindergarten, you can register your child wherever you want, regardless of where you live.

In primary school, the length of the school year is a minimum of 175 days and runs from September to the end of June, but in general the annual number of school days is 200. Children attend classes 5 days a week (Monday to Friday) for a total of 25 hours per week (as opposed to 30 hours in Catalonia). Each day consists of 5 lessons of 45 to 60 minutes.

School holidays:

  • 12 weeks in summer

  • 15 days at Christmas

  • Between 8 and 11 days at Easter

  • 7 public holidays chosen by the central government

High School

Students attend classes 5 days a week (Monday to Friday), 30 hours per week. Each day consists of 6 lessons of 60 minutes. All communities have a continuous school day except Catalonia, which has a mixed school day (five mornings and three afternoons). In addition, holidays are more or less the same as in primary school.

The grades obtained during the years of the baccalaureate, as well as the French system, are important for access to the university of your choice.

The baccalaureate concludes with the General Baccalaureate Test (PGB).


In some cases, students have to pass an entrance exam before they can enter the university of their choice. Competition can be stiff, since, as mentioned above, acceptance into a university depends largely on grades obtained during high school and in the final exam (Bachillerato).

Tuition fees are relatively the same as in France, around 1,000 euros per year. Excellent students are entitled to lower fees (scholarships). Applications should be made as soon as possible, as soon as the results of the final exams are received, and should be submitted to the universities and sent to the students’ secretariats.


When and how to register

Before the enrolment period, you will have the opportunity to visit the schools you are interested in. In fact, unlike in France, there is no school map, which means that you are not dependent on an establishment depending on where you live. Therefore, the choice is wider, hence the interest of visiting several schools to find the one that suits you best. All state and charter schools organise open days, but also individual appointments if you are unable to attend the “official” open days.

In February/March, you will have the opportunity to discuss the educational projects, see the facilities and ask any questions you may have during these meetings. The dates of the open days are usually indicated on the schools’ websites, but feel free to call the schools directly to arrange your visits.

In April the pre-enrolment period takes place, i.e. the choice of schools is made in order of preference. This list will only be sent to the school at the top of your list. You can apply online or offline. On the website of the Community of Madrid you will find the documents you need to fill in to apply for a place. These pre-enrolment dates depend on Easter (usually the following week).

A first allocation list and a waiting list will be published at the beginning of May. At the end of May, depending on the choices of each person, the final allocations will be made.

Rates :

  • It depends a lot on the school, its location and its status (private or public), but the fees are usually low.

  • There are scholarships and grants for Spanish and foreign students.

  • There are significant price differences between regions, but in general Madrid and Barcelona are the most expensive.

  • Finding a student job is not a simple matter, so it is best not to rely too much on it.

  • For accommodation, some universities have their own student campuses. Prices also depend on the location.

  • Most Spanish or foreign students are covered by health insurance.

  • Students over the age of 28 who are not covered must take out private insurance.


You can also read our article on how to live and settle in Spain and the 7 mistakes you shouldn’t make when settling in.


Visit us at tas-consultoria.com and find out about all the services we offer especially for expatriates.

Published on par Jonatan Carbonell

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