Education System in Spain

Spain is a popular study destination for students all over the globe. Spain has developed a culturally diverse student populace, which over time, has infused the Spanish education system as one of the most appealing in Europe.

The education system in Spain is administered by the Ministry of Education. The present education system in Spain is known as LOE, named after the Fundamental Law of Education (In Spanish: Ley Organica de Educacion). As per this education system, education is free and mandatory to attend for total of ten years duration, from 6 years old to 16 years old.

Spain is a popular study destination for international students. It attracts thousands of international students every year  to study Under Graduate and Post Graduate programmes.

Spain Educational System: Timeline

Spain's education system has undergone significant changes over the decades. The Spanish education system is constructed along the principles set out in the 1978 Constitution. 3 chief educational reform laws were declared:

In the year 1983 the Law of University Reform, or LUR (In Spanish: Ley de Reforma Universitaria) allowed universities to provide their own degree courses of study called “Own Titles” (In Spanish: titulos propios), along with the degree programs officially acknowledged by the Ministry of Education and Culture. With this law, Universities could set their own curriculum. 

In the year 1985, the Organic Law on the Right to Education, or LODE (In Spanish: Ley Organica del Derecho a la Educacion) was passed, giving Spain's independent communities the authority to manage and supervise their own schools. Also, with this law, the compulsory and free education started in Spain. 

In the year 1990, the Organic Law on the General Organization of the Educational System, or LOGSE (In Spanish: Ley Organica de Ordenacion General del Sistema Educativa) restructured the primary and secondary education. Under this law, compulsory education was extended from 8 to 10 years, and curriculums were alerted to incorporate more technical subjects and foreign languages. 

Spain Education System: A Quick Look 

The education system in Spain is essentially split into following levels:

Pre-Primary Education (In Spanish: Educacion Infantil or Preescolar) 

The education before 6 years is called as pre-primary education and is split into two cycles:
  • The first cycle is up to the age of 3 years 
  • The second cycle is from 3 to 6 years of age 

Primary Education (In Spanish: Educacion Primaria or Colegio)

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. 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)
Each cycle has a pre-set course of study.

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

Compulsory Secondary Education, also referred to as ESO, includes 4 years of education from the 12 to 16 years old. It is divided into 2 two-year cycles-
  • The first cycle encompasses 12 years old to 14 years old
  • The second cycle is from 14 to 16 years of age. 
Secondary education is free in all state schools and in some private schools which are publicly funded. Secondary education has a pre-determined curriculum set by the Ministry of Education.Students who pass this level are awarded the “Certificate of Secondary Education” (Titulo de Graduado enEducacion Secundaria).

Post-Compulsory Education

After you have completed your compulsory secondary education and received the “Certificate of Secondary Education”, you’ve mainly 3 choices:
  1. Leave school 
  2. Continue your education by going in for the Spanish Baccalaureate, or Bachillerato 
  3. Continue your education through vocational courses/programs, called as Ciclo Formativo

Spanish Baccalaureate (Bachillerato)

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. This level is for the students whose age is between 16 years to 18 years. This level of education lasts for 2 years, and leads to Bachillerato Certificate. Successful completion of this stage can help student to apply for various courses at university level or move on to vocational training. The education at this level is split into 2 divisions- 
  • Core Curriculum- Includes subjects that every student has to study
  • Specialist- Includes a few pre-selected branches of subjects, from which students have to select one.

Vocational Training/Education

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 clear this cycle/level are eligible to apply directly to the related higher education degree course/program.

Higher Education

Higher education in Spain is carried out by the 82 Universities (Univeridades) of Spain. The structure of higher education in Spain is in conformity with the provisions set in the Bologna Process. As per this system, University studies have “ECTS Credits”, and each year students have to gain at least 60 credits. 

Types Higher Education Institutions in Spain

Higher Education in Spain is provided by the public and private Institutions, either as faculties, Higher technical schools of engineering and architecture , University schools , University colleges, and 
There are 4 types of higher education institutions in Spain-
  • University schools (escuelas universitarias) – It offers 'short-term' 3-year courses 
  • University colleges (colegios universitarios) – It offers 3-year courses leading to alicenciado, as well as 5-year courses/programs leading to professional employment
  • Faculties (facultades) – It offers long-term courses/programs in all academic fields, except technical course of study.
  • Higher Technical Schools of engineering and Architechture (escuela superior de ingenieria y arquitectura) – This institution offers long-term technical courses.

Language Education

Spanish and its co-official languages are taught at language schools. Also, languages of special interest for cultural, social and economic motives, like Japanese, Chinese, and so on are taught at varying levels.

Art Education

Art education is imparted in various fields-Music, dance, drama, art and design, and preservation and restoration of cultural property. Arts education comprises of-
  • Music and dance Elementary education
  • Professional art education: This includes professional music and dance along with the middle and upper grades of plastic arts and design.
  •  Higher artistic education: This includes higher education or advanced studies in music and dance, drama, preservation and restoration of cultural property, visual arts and design.

Higher Education Degree Structure: Snapshot

Official degrees are adapted to the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and are valid in any country within the EHEA. Official degrees are divided into 3 levels-

Bachelor’s degree (Grado) – This is the first level of official degrees and is equivalent to undergraduate degree. It calls for an aggregate of 240 credits, and lasts for 3 to 4 years, depending upon the course of study. It is taught in the following disciplines: Sciences, Social Sciences, Health Sciences, Law, Arts and Humanities, Engineering and Architecture.  

Masters degrees (Posgrado) – This is the second level of official degree and requires 60 to 120 credits. It lasts for two years.  Provides specialized or advanced academic or professional studies.  The completion and public defense of a thesis is mandatory at this level.

Doctorate degree or PhD (Doctorado) – This is the last level that lasts for 3 to 4 years and is split into 2 stages-
  • Training Period- It requires 60 credits
  • Research Period-The completion and public defense of a thesis is mandatory at the end of research period.

Education System of Spain: At a Glance

Level/Stage  Age group
 Kindergarten/Nursery 0-3 years
 Pre-Primary Education/Pre-School 3-6 years
 Primary Education 6-12 years (COMPULSORY)
 E.S.O- Compulsory Secondary Education 12-16 years (COMPULSORY)
 Bachillerato/Ciclos Formativos de Grado Medio 16-18 years
 University (Diplomatura- 3yrs)
Ciclos Formativos de grado Superior)
 18-21 years
 University- Licenciatura and Postgraduate degree 18-22 yrs

As a student in Spain, there is plenty to discover and learn.  Be a part of it!
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