Education in Spain

By | April 29, 2011

Geoffrey Donoghue of Always Marbella property sales and rentals, reports on the latest news and events. For more information please visit Always Marbella’s website at


The Spanish education system has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. Previously the system was elitist and secondary education was mostly private. University was out of the question for the majority of young people.

Today the story is very different. School attendance is now free and compulsory for all children between the ages of six and 15. Ninety- five per cent of children aged four to five are now in pre-school education and more than 55 per cent of children stay on at school until the age of 18. The student body at universities now numbers over a million. It is interesting to note that female students now outnumber the males in secondary education and in the first years at university.

Spain has 29 state and two private universities. The oldest university is Salamanca, founded in 1230. Catholic education still represents approximately 20 per cent of the whole system, up to university level.

For families intending to make their home in Spain, state education is free but it is conducted only in Spanish. However, this does not seem to present much of a problem to young children who tend to pick up languages very quickly. Attending a Spanish school is definitely one of the best ways of ensuring that both the child and, in most cases, the family become integrated into the local Spanish community.

In order to enrol a child in a Spanish school it is necessary to apply to the provincial governor’s office to validate the schooling from abroad. This can also be done in your home country before you leave. Most schools will accept the student on a provisional basis until all the paperwork is issued.

If the child is older and in the middle of a GCSE or A level course it may be advisable to consider an International School. The majority of these are day schools but some do have boarding facilities. These schools tend to offer qualifications better known to UK universities. Some schools offer a system of English and Spanish curricula which enables students to be qualified for either Spain or the UK. Many International Schools are changing over to the International Baccalaureate which is fast becoming the internationally recognised qualification for Europe. It is now becoming acceptable to UK universities and other higher education institutions.

When choosing an international school there are many things to consider, not least of all the costs for school fees and materials as well, as the location of the school and the amount of travelling that needs to be done to and from the school. Within expatriate areas there all many such schools to choose from. All schools will welcome you 01 an inspection visit and tour of the school. Most produce a brochure outlining the school facilities and costs, etc. The Costa del Sol is particularly lucky to have a good selection of schools.

The National Association of British Schools in Spain (NABSS) was founded in 1978 and represents the interests of some 40 schools, dotted around Spain, mainly in the areas where there are a high number of expatriates. The main aim of the association is to protect the interests of the member schools and those of the parents and children. The association uses well qualified staff and up-to-date teaching methods. The schools are also popular with Spanish parents for the quality they offer. Further details can be obtained by visiting their website at National Association of British Schools in Spain.

An extract from BlevinsFranks excellent book, “Living in Spain”, sixth edition.

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