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K-12 Education System in Spain

According to the law, education is Spain is compulsory from the ages 6 to 16 years, which covers 6 years of primary education followed by 4 years of secondary education (ESO). After successful completion of the compulsory education, a certificate is issued.

Types of Schools in Spain

Schools in Spain are split into 3 classes-
  • State schools (In Spanish colegios publicos): Controlled and regulated by state government.
  • Privately run schools funded by the State (colegios concertados): Such schools get finds from state. 
  • Purely private schools (colegios privados): Operated and financed independent of the government. 

Infant Education (In Spanish: educacion infantil)

Infant education refers to the first 6 non-compulsory years of education which is divided into 2 cycles of 3 years each. 

First Cycle: This cycle is referred to as Nursery Cycle. It is for children up to 3 years of age
Second cycle: This cycle is pre-school education. It is free and for kids whose age is between 3 to 6 years old.  
  • Age group- 3 months to 6 years

Nursery School (In Spanish: guarderia)

Nursery school is for kids from 3 months old to 3 years old.  These schools are either state run or private.

Pre-School Education (Preescolar)

This is for children between the age group 3 years and 6 years. This education leads to the physical, emotional, social and intellectual development of a kid.

Primary Education (In Spanish: educacion primaria)

Primary education marks the beginning of 10-years of compulsory education in Spain. Primary education is for the children in the age group 6 to 12 years, and lasts for 6 years. Primary education is structured in three cycles of 2-years each. It is broken down into 3 two-year cycles- 

First Cycle- for students 6 to 8 years of age)
Second Cycle-for students 8 to 10 years of age)
Third Cycle-for students 10 to 12 years of age)
  • Age group: 6 years to 12 years
  • Duration: 6 years
Primary education is free and aims to provide basic education to children. It develops the written and oral communication skills, math and reading skills of the pupils.
  • Compulsory Subjects: knowledge of natural, social and cultural surroundings, artistic education, physical education, Spanish language and literature, official language and literature of the corresponding region, foreign languages and mathematics.

Compulsory Secondary Education (In Spanish: Educacion Secundaria Obligatoria or ESO)

Compulsory Secondary Education intends to provide cultural abilities to students, prepare them to accept and know their rights and duties, and guide them to integrate these abilities and skills into their social and work life, or to go for further education, such as vocational studies or the Baccalaureate. Compulsory education is divided into 2 two-year cycles-

The first cycle is from 12 to 14 years of age
The second cycle is from 14 to 16 years of age
  • Age group: 12 years to 16 years old
  • Duration: 4 years
Students who pass the Compulsory secondary education are awarded the “Certificate of Secondary Education” (Titulo de Graduado enEducacion Secundaria). With this certificate, students can pursue further education, such as Baccalaureate (Bachillerato) or vocational studies.

Spanish Baccalaureate (Bachillerato)

The General Organization of Education System Act (LOGSE) sets the Baccalaureate (Bachillerato) as a non-compulsory 2-year education. Students who have successfully completed their ESO can opt for this level. Bachillerato is for students who wish to pursue higher education at Universities or other institutions. Baccalaureate aims to prepare students for higher education, i.e university level or vocational education, and also for workforce.   This level of education lasts for 2 years, and leads to Bachillerato Certificate.
  • Age group- 16 to 18 years old
Education in the Baccalaureate basically focuses on the following-
  •  Arts
  •  Nature and Health Sciences
  • Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Technology
Students get to pick out their own subject areas as per their academic and professional skills or abilities and interests. Also, education at this level is split into two forms-
  • Core Curriculum- Includes general education subjects that every student has to study
  • Specialist- Includes a few pre-selected specific branches of academic or professional subjects, from which students have to select one.
Few common subjects of the Baccalaureate all over Spain are-
  • Physical Education
  • Philosophy
  • History
  • Spanish Language
  • Official Language and Literature of the Region
  • Foreign Languages

Vocational Education/Training

The vocational education prepares students to work and adapt to changes in their professional fields. Pupils can apply for vocational training after ESO or after the Spanish Baccalaureate. This level of education lasts for 2 years and admittance is based on the ESO certificate obtained through compulsory secondary education. Vocational training is divided into 2 cycles- 
  • Middle Grade Vocational Training Cycles (Ciclos Formativos de Grado Medio) - This course require students to possess a ESO diploma 
  •  Superior-level Training Cycles (Ciclos Formativos de grado Superior): This course requires students to hold a Spanish Baccalaureate. Students who successfully complete Superior-level Training Cycle, can directly apply to related higher education degree course.

Artistic Education

Artistic Education provides teachings in the field of music, dance, drama and visual arts & designs. The artistic education is further broken down into-

Musical Education: Trains students to work in the area of music as performers, teachers, or researchers. The courses of such education are available at elementary level that lasts for 4 years, at medium level that lasts for 6 years- 3 stages of 2 years each, and at higher level that lasts for 4-5 years, focusing on various specialities.

Dance Education: Trains students to work in the area of dance as performers, teachers, or researchers. Classical, Spanish and contemporary dance forms are taught at the middle level.

Drama Education: This education lasts for 4 years wherein students are trained to high quality technical and artistic education that will help them in their professional field.

Visual Arts and Design Education: This education includes 2 phases-
  • Training phase- wherein students are trained in visual arts and design
  • Higher Non-University Studies- wherein students are taught about conservation and restoration of cultural property, design, ceramics and glass.

Language Education

Language education aims to teach the foreign language and official language of the region. This education is divided into 2 levels-

Elementary level: This level lasts for 3 years, i.e. comprises of 3 one-year courses/programs and requires 360 hours. Students who want to study at this level must possess compulsory secondary education certificate. Once you complete this level, an ‘Elementary Phase Certificate’ is issued by the local official language school, thereby helping you to gain admittance to higher levels.

Higher Level: This level lasts for 2 years, i.e. comprises of 2 one-year courses and requires at least 240 hours of education. After successful completion of this level, students are given an ‘Aptitude Certificate’ by the related state or regional authorities.

Grading System

Secondary Education

ESO – Obligatory Secondary Education (In Spanish: Escuela Secundaria Obligatoria) and Bachillerato

A 10- point grade scale is used in E.S.O and Bachillerato educational levels.

 Scale  Grade Description (In Spanish)  Grade Description (In English)  US Grade
 10.00  Matricula de Honor  Matriculation with Honours  A+
 9.00-9.99  Sobresaliente  Outstanding  A
 7.00-8.99  Notable  Very Good  B+
 6.00-6.99  Bien  Good  B
 5.00-5.99  Suficiente  Sufficient/Pass  C
 3.00-4.99  Insuficiente  Insufficient  D
 0.00-2.99  Muy deficiente  Very Insufficient/Fail  F



Honor Roll (Matricula de Honor): The “Honor Roll” averages all of the grades gained during the 2 year Bachillerato. A school can select 20 students and confer them with this title. The students who receive this title get their 1st year tuition fee waived at any public University (Varies depending upon the University)

Academic Year

 The school year is split into 3 terms with a long summer vacations of almost 3 months
  • Winter term that starts from September and runs till December
  • Spring term- begins from January to Easter
  • Summer term- commences after Easter and runs till late June

School Hours

Primary School: The school hours for primary schools can vary but is usually from 09.00 – 12.0009.00 – 12.00 and 15.00 – 17.00.
ESO or Bachillerato: The school hours for ESO or Bachillerato is generally from 08.00 – 15.0008.00 – 15.00 or 08.30 – 14.00 and 15.30 - 17.30 (1/2 days a week).

Application Procedure

To get admission to schools, contact the school directly. The procedure varies depending upon the school and area/region of school.
Following documents are required-
  • A  Certificate of Voter Registration (Certificado de Empadronamiento or Volante de Empadronamiento) issued by the town hall which verifies the student is a resident in the school's catchment area
  • Birth certificate of child and its photocopy
  • A medical certificate issued by a doctor
  • 3 passport-size photographs of the child (Recent)
For admittance to Secondary schools or higher, submit evidence that your education records and credentials are verified by the Spanish Ministry of Education. The process is called as homologacion or convalidacion. An official form is given by the Ministry of Education, and you can even take that form from your nearest Spanish Embassy/consulate. Fill in the form and submit it along with the records to the Department of qualification, accreditation and certification. 

** All documents must be translated into Spanish.

Spain K-12 Education at a Glance


 In Spanish  Guarderia Educacion Infantil   EducacionPrimaria ESO   Bachillerato
 In English  Nursery  Pre-School Education  Primary Education  Compulsory Secondary Education  Post-Compulsory Secondary Education
 Age group(in years)  0-3  3-6  6-12  12-16  16-18

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