Education in Spain: Spanish School System Explained

Wondering whether to go private or put your children in the free state system of Spain?

We explain the basics of the Spanish state school education system below.

Many expats moving to Spain worry about whether to put their kids into a private fee-paying private International school or whether to educate them in the Spanish system.

We have a good interview with pupils of an International school here…

Fortunately the Spanish schools in general have a very good reputation.

The decision would appear to come down to your long-term outlook – are you going to move from Spain or do you anticipate living their for the rest of your life?

If so, your children may be best being taught in Spanish, effectively being raised as Spaniards.

However most expats in our experience, stay in Spain for 6/7 years on average before tiring of the lifestyle they loved when they moved to Spain and then move on for a change.

Foreign students are admitted and enrolled into Spanish schools without an admission examination and the system is free as long as you are from an EU country.

Escuela Infantil (Kindergarten) – for children aged 2-6 years old

This step is not compulsory.

Hours are usually from  9am – 12pm then from 15.00 – 17.00 hours.
From 12.00 – 15.00 hours there is lunch and a siesta.
Children are supervised during this time.

Colegios de Educacion (Primary School) – for children aged 6-12 years old

This stage of education in Spain IS compulsory.

Hours are usually from 9.00 to 12.00 hours followed by lunch and play between 12.00 to 15.00.

School usually continues from 15.00 to 17.00 hours.
Subjects studied: Knowledge of social cultural and environmental matters, artistic education, physical education, Castellano (Spanish) and literature, foreign language (usually French), mathematics and Catholic religion.

Instituto de Educacion Sedundaria (Secondary School) – for children aged 12-16 years old

Obviously this is compulsory.

Hours are usually from 8.00 – 12.30 hours.

Subjects studied: Castellano: Language and Literature, Foreign Language, Mathematics, Social Science, Physical Education, Natural Science, Arts and Crafts, Technological Education, Music, Foreign Language, modern or classical Religion (although this is optional).

Instituto de Educacion Sedundaria (Bacalaureate BUP) – for children aged 16-18 years old

This can be compared to GCSE’s and this stage is followed by University.

This stage is not compulsory.


  1. Can anyone help… looking to move to Mallorca as husband wants work there But Ave a 14 yr old who needs schooling we are wondering how we go about getting my daughter into a school n will hubby need a visa for working and living in Spain as be moving from Scotland thanks x

  2. Bacalaureate BUP is more equivalent to A-Levels than GCSEs. In the English educational system, GCSEs are studied from around 13 or 14 years old until a student is 16, at which point (if they choose to continue in education) they would begin A-Levels.

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