Education in Spain

The Spanish Constitution contemplates the compulsory secondary education for children between the ages of 6 and 16 in case they never repeat a year.

The structure of Spanish educational system:

  • Nursery/ Preschool, 0-6 years (Educación infantil);
  • Primary school, 6-12 years (Educación primaria);
  • Compulsory secondary education, 12-16 years (Educación secundaria);
  • Upper secondary education, 16-18 years (Bachillerato);
  • Basic vocational training, 16-18 years (Formación profesional de grado medio);
  • Advanced vocational training, 18-20 years (Formación profesional de grado superior);
  • Higher education (you can get more information about Spanish Universities here).

Schools in Spain can be public, private or religious. The number of students in private schools is considerably less than in public ones, that’s why normally they get more attention and are approached individually. Bilingual or trilingual education, a wealth of extra foreign languages and activities is also something typical of private schools. If you want your child to study in a prestigious school, you should apply for a place beforehand. It’s better to do that in February or March, because in September there can be no any vacant places left.

Studying in public schools is free, and parents only have to pay for the meals, textbooks, school supplies and sometimes for the uniform. It’s worth mentioning that families cannot choose any public school they like. The city hall gives a choice only between several schools which are the closest to the student’s place of residence.

Religious schools are somewhere in the middle between the public and the private ones. These schools follow the official curriculum approved by the Spanish Ministry of Education adding into it Catholic customs and traditions, such as morning prayers, solemn masses, religion-centred extracurricular activities, etc.


Nursery/ Preschool

The first six years of education in Spain are not compulsory and are divided into two stages. The first stage, or nursery, takes children from around three months to three years and is not covered by the state. The second stage known as “Educación infantil” is for children from 3 to 6 and is free only in public schools.


Primary education

Primary education in Spain is compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 12 and is divided into three equal stages of two years each. The objective of the primary education in Spain is to provide students with background knowledge of written and oral language, reading and calculating. The list of compulsory subjects includes Maths, Spanish, the dialect of the given region (Valencian, Catalan, Basque or Gallego), Foreign Language, Physical Education, Social Sciences and Art.


Secondary education

Compulsory secondary education in Spain usually lasts until the age of 16 and is divided into two equal stages of two years each. After secondary, students can choose to study for their bachillerato, undertake vocational training or leave education and start working.



Students with good academic results can enter bachillerato which is the fastest and the most effective way to the higher education in Spain. Depending on their future speciality, the students of Bachillerato have to choose an area they want to specialise in: art, sciences and engineering or humanities and social sciences. The curriculum is composed of general, core subjects and electives. At the end of bachillerato, the students have to undertake the national entrance exam Selectividadcomprised of two parts: compulsory (Spanish, Foreign language, the History of philosophy/ History of Spain + one core subject) and elective (two any subjects from the compulsory part). However, this system soon will be over. According to the last educational reform (Royal Decree 412/2014), Selectividad will be held for the last time at the end of 2016/17 academic year. From 2018 Universities will be able to set up their own access scheme and make their own exams.


Basic vocational training

Basic vocational training enables to obtain a technical qualification in 26 specialities: trading and marketing, chemistry, health care, textile production, power engineering, graphic design, etc. A student can start this stage having a Graduate Certificate of Secondary Education or passing an entrance exam.


Advanced vocational training

Advanced vocational training is available for those who have undertaken the basic vocational training or for the graduates of Bachillerato. At the end of this stage, students can enter a University without exams or leave education and start working.