The range of schools Spain has to offer ensures families have peace of mind when starting a new life in the country. Whether you have young children just starting their educational journey or teenagers looking to find a university course, the Spanish education system has something to offer at every stage.
The Spanish education system has five levels:
- Primary (elementary)
- Higher education preparation
- Higher education (university or college)
Only primary and secondary education is mandatory in Spain and this is for children aged 6 up to 16. As in both the US and UK, mandatory education up to 16 comes without cost in Spain at public schools, but parents can also consider renowned private schools.
The different types of schools Spain offer ensure a perfect learning environment for all children.
What are Spain’s best private and international schools?
Spain has a wide range of prestigious and well-regarded private and international schools. In its annual report, El Mundo, a leading newspaper in Spain, stated that the top five schools in the country are privately operated. Madrid is home to three of these schools, while the remaining two are in Valencia and A Coruña, Galicia.
According to El Mondo, the highest-ranked international schools are distributed mainly among Madrid (10 schools), Andalucia (6 schools), Valencian Community (5 schools), and Catalonia (4 schools):
1. Aloha College (Andalucia)
2. British School Malaga (Andalucia)
3. Novaschool Sunland (Andalucia)
4. San Francisco de Paula (Andalucia)
5. San Pedro Int. College (Andalucia)
6. Sotogrande International School (Andalucia)
7. Lycée Français Molière (Aragon)
8. Aleman (The Canary Islands)
9. Oakley College (The Canary Islands)
10. American School Barcelona (Catalonia)
11. Benjamin Franklin (Catalonia)
12. Lycée Français Bon Soleil (Catalonia)
13. British School Barcelona (Catalonia)
14. American School Valencia (Valencian Community)
15. British School Valencia (Valencian Community)
16. Caxton College (Valencian Community)
17. King’s College (Valencian Community)
18. The Lady Elizabeth (Valencian Community)
19. Aleman (Madrid)
20. British Council (Madrid)
21. Hastings School (Madrid)
22. International College Spain (Madrid)
23. International School of Madrid (Madrid)
24. Kensington School (Madrid)
25. King’s College (Madrid)
26. Lycée Français (Madrid)
27. Lycée Français Molière (Madrid)
28. English Montessori (Madrid)
29. El Limonar (Murcia)
30. Aleman (Basque Country)
If you’re looking to buy a property close to one of these international schools, our data shows that real estate markets in the featured areas offer 25,500+ homes for sale in Andalusia, 18,000+ homes for sale in Valencian Community, 5,000+ homes for sale in Catalonia, 1,000+ properties in Madrid, and 1,000 properties in the Canary Islands.
Does Spain have a good school system?
Spain has a well-respected educational system and university students from around Europe and the world often look to study at one of their prestigious institutions. The schools of Spain deliver a high standard of education ensuring pupils have the opportunity to progress and find the right pathway to their future career or further education.
What subjects are taught in Spain?
Compulsory education, which includes secondary and elementary schools in Spain delivers a broad and well-rounded range of subjects to compound a good level of education for all pupils. Spanish schools tend to teach students in the Spanish language, with some exceptions for Catalan or Basque in certain regions. International schools may also teach pupils in English, so there are other options if needed.
Subjects covered include everything you’d expect at a standardized education level including languages, mathematics, literature, natural and social sciences, arts, humanities, and physical education.
Understanding the Spanish education system by age
As is customary, the first stage of education in Spain is preschool. Pupils do not have to attend school at this age, but many parents opt to send their child to preschool in preparation for primary schools in Spain, or due to parents needing to return to work. Children can attend a preschool from a few months old up until they turn six and are gently prepared for elementary school.
Spain has a nearly full enrolment of preschool due to parents returning to work. Spain does not offer a long parental leave, so many parents must send their children to preschool. Preschools have an attached cost, which understandably varies per age of child and institution used.
Guarderías are Spanish preschools that deliver the first stage of infant education. Spanish-speaking nursery schools are an excellent solution for expats looking to help their children pick up Spanish quickly.
Spanish Elementary School
Elementary schools in Spain are for pupils aged 6 to 12. This level of education is introductory and is intended to give children a solid and rounded education in cultural arts, oral expression, reading, writing, science, and math. There are both private and public primary schools in Spain, with fees attached to the former.
Spanish school hours are different by region, but there are two standardized schedules. Some schools are open from 9 am to 5 pm with a two-hour lunch break where many pupils go home for their lunch. Other schools open between 9 am and are open until 2 pm.
Spanish public schools do not generally have a uniform, though it is becoming more common in larger cities and towns. The majority of private primary schools in Spain do have a uniform.
Spanish elementary schools usually have a 10-week break in the summer.
Spanish Middle School and Spanish High School
Middle schools in Spain are not separate institutions so once pupils finish their elementary education, they will attend a secondary school. Pupils must attend secondary school from 12 to 16 in Spain. Compulsory secondary education, or Educación Secundaria Obligatoria (ESO), in split into two stages, known as ciclos. In the first ciclo, which covers years 1 to 3, pupils can repeat years if they need to. However, they can only repeat the 4th year if they have not had to repeat a previous year.
Pupils will study a range of core subjects at secondary school. These include mathematics, science, Spanish, and a first foreign language. There will also be additional optional courses such as music, religion and ethics, culture, music, and foreign languages. Areas of Spain that have a co-official language such as Catalonia, Basque Country, and Valencia, may also teach this language as a compulsory subject.
Most public Spanish secondary schools do not have a mandatory uniform but private schools do. Similarly to elementary schools, pupils have a 10-week summer break.
Intermediate and Higher Vocational Training
Compulsory education in Spain ends at 16 but students who want to go to university can enter into further vocational training. Once high school is finished students can choose to attend a baccalaureate to go to a university or to vocational school.
The Spanish baccalaureate or bachillerato is an optional, two-year educational program for students hoping to go to university. The baccalaureate curriculum covers a range of subjects to prepare students for studying at university. There are four current baccalaureate curriculums: arts, social science, science and humanities, and general curriculum.
Once the baccalaureate is complete students can take university entry examinations and each university will look at both the examination score and the baccalaureate score before deciding to offer them a place to study.
For students who do not want to attend university there is the option of applying for vocational school. Vocational schools, or formación professional, provide job-focused training and prepare students for the world of work. Spain has three different types of vocational schools
1. Basic level.
2. Medium level.
3. Higher level.
Students must have their baccalaureate to attend higher vocational school.
Spanish University and Higher Education
Higher education in Spain takes place in 76 separate universities, of these, 45 universities are public or state-funded. Students can apply for university in Spain once they receive their baccalaureate and complete the necessary entrance exams.
Spanish universities are popular with international students as well as those from Spain. There are nearly 200,000 international students studying in Spanish universities.
Spain’s public universities have highly attractive fees, as are much more affordable than those in the USA or UK. Fees for a Bachelors course vary from €750 (£650) to €2,500 (£2,166) per academic year. The fees at private universities are understandably higher. Spain has some fantastic, world-renowned universities with the most reputable including:
- University of Barcelona.
- Autonomous University of Barcelona.
- Pompeu Fabra University.
- University of Valencia.
- Autonomous University of Madrid.
- University of Granada.
- Complutense University of Madrid.
- Polytechnic University of Catalonia.
Understanding the Spanish education system by institution type
Generally speaking, Spain has three different types of schools within its education system: public schools (colegios públicos) funded by the state, private schools (colegios privados) which are privately funded, and semi-private schools (colegios concertados) which are partially funded by the state and partially via private sources.
Public Schools in Spain
Public schools in Spain are the most common type of institution in the country. Public schools are free for all pupils and provide compulsory education up to 16, with some public institutions also welcoming older students. Pupils sometimes have to provide their own learning materials and textbooks, but the Spanish public education system has a solid reputation in Europe.
Semi-private schools in Spain
Spain’s semi-private schools, or colegios concertados are partially subsidized by the state and must follow the standards and curriculum set out by the government. They also have a 25% Spanish requirement for the student body. Most colegios concertados require pupils to pay a fee which varie from school to school.
Private schools in Spain
Spain’s private schools or colegios privados are fully privately funded. The fees charged vary vastly, with costs starting at €300 per year and ranging up to €30,000 per year for the most prestigious boarding schools. Private schools do not have to follow the Spanish curriculum and can offer courses to suit their pupils’ needs.
International schools in Spain
Many expats moving to Spain look for an international school for their children. International schools are private schools that deliver internationally recognized qualifications such as the International Baccalaureate. This can make it easier for children when moving from one country to another. International schools may also deliver lessons in both English and Spanish to aid the transition for new pupils.
Special Needs Education (SEN) in Spain
In Spain it is common practice to encourage all children to attend mainstream schools where possible. However, there is specialized help for pupils with a range of disabilities. Special needs education is known as Necesidades Educativas Especiales (NEE) in Spanish. Pupils may be able to access additional funding for support in mainstream schools. This requires an assessment at the local Centro de Valoración de Discapacitados. Furthermore, there are dedicated schools for pupils who require additional support or cannot manage in mainstream education.
Tutoring in Spain
Some newcomers to Spain may want to help their children with their studies at home or in a one-to-one private setting. There are plenty of private tutors in Spain who can help your children with their Spanish language development or across a wide range of different study areas. It is not uncommon to hire a tutor to help children improve their Spanish language before entering the school system.
Advantages of studying in Spain for foreigners
- Immerse yourself in new languages: there is no better way to learn Spanish than in a Spanish school or college. Immersing yourself with native speakers will quickly see your levels of proficiency increase.
- Great for your resume: studying abroad stands out on your CV. It shows you are resilient, open to change and of course, have the benefit of advanced language skills in more than one language. Bilingualism is particularly attractive to many employers.
- Foster independence: studying in Spain allows you to develop your independence and confidence.
- Access to scholarships: many Spanish universities offer full and partial scholarships to local and international students.
Disadvantages of studying in Spain for foreigners
- Language issues: it can be daunting to be surrounded by a language you do not know very well. You can take additional language classes but almost all teaching in Spanish universities will be purely in Spanish.
- High accommodation costs: if you are looking to move into student accommodation in Spain it can get expensive. However, if you are newly moved to Spain with your family this will not be a problem as you can stay at home while you study.
- High unemployment rate: Spain has a historically high unemployment rate, usually much higher than other European countries. This might make finding a job after graduation difficult.
Housing Market in Spain
The real estate market in Spain showcases an average listing price of $1,200,000, with a price range spanning from $490,000 to $70,000,000. The average price per square meter stands at $4,015/sqm.
The regions of Andalusia, Catalonia, the Valencian Community, the Community of Madrid, and the Balearic Islands emerge as highly sought-after destinations among second-home buyers.
Find your perfect Spanish home
With the above information, expats can feel better equipped to breeze through the process of moving their families abroad. If ready to take the next step and move nearby the ideal school or university, explore our range of apartments, villas or even mansions in Spain to suit your family here.