Private: Spanish Education System

A Comprehensive Guide to the Spanish Education System for Expatriate Families

As an expatriate family moving to Spain, one of the most important considerations is the education system for your children. Understanding the Spanish education system will help you make informed decisions about your children's education and ensure a smooth transition into the new environment. In this guide, we will provide you with valuable information on navigating the education system in Spain, from primary to higher education.

Primary Education in Spain

Primary education in Spain is compulsory and free for children aged 6 to 12 years old. The primary education system is divided into three cycles, each lasting two years. The first cycle is called "Educación Infantil" and is for children aged 3 to 6 years old, although it is not compulsory. The second cycle is known as "Educación Primaria" and covers the ages of 6 to 8 years old, while the third cycle is for children aged 8 to 12 years old.

During primary education, children are introduced to a wide range of subjects, including Spanish language and literature, mathematics, natural and social sciences, physical education, and foreign languages. The curriculum is designed to provide a solid foundation for further education and personal development.

Expatriate families moving to Spain may choose between public, private, or international schools for their children's primary education. Public schools are funded by the government and follow the Spanish curriculum, while private schools may offer alternative teaching methods or religious education. International schools, on the other hand, provide education in different languages and often follow international curricula.

Secondary Education in Spain

Secondary education in Spain is divided into two stages: "Educación Secundaria Obligatoria" (ESO) and "Bachillerato." ESO is compulsory and lasts for four years, from ages 12 to 16. During this stage, students continue to study a wide range of subjects, including Spanish language and literature, mathematics, foreign languages, natural and social sciences, physical education, and arts or technology.

After completing ESO, students can choose to pursue "Bachillerato," which is a two-year pre-university program. Bachillerato offers different academic pathways, such as sciences, humanities, or arts, allowing students to specialize in their areas of interest. Successful completion of Bachillerato is a requirement for university admission in Spain.

Similar to primary education, expatriate families have the option to enroll their children in public, private, or international schools for secondary education. Public schools are the most common choice among Spanish families, as they are free and follow the national curriculum. Private schools may offer specialized programs or alternative teaching methods, while international schools provide education in different languages and follow international curricula.

Higher Education in Spain

Spain is home to several prestigious universities and higher education institutions, offering a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs. The higher education system in Spain is divided into two main types of institutions: universities and non-university higher education institutions.

Universities in Spain offer bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs across various disciplines. Some of the top universities in Spain include the University of Barcelona, Complutense University of Madrid, and Autonomous University of Madrid. Admission to universities is competitive, and students are required to take the "Prueba de Acceso a la Universidad" (University Entrance Exam) to qualify for admission.

Non-university higher education institutions, also known as "Formación Profesional" (FP), offer vocational and technical education programs. These institutions provide practical training in specific fields, such as healthcare, engineering, tourism, and business. FP programs are highly regarded in Spain and can lead to rewarding career opportunities.

Expatriate students who wish to pursue higher education in Spain may need to meet certain requirements, such as language proficiency and academic qualifications. It is advisable to contact the chosen university or institution directly for detailed information on admission procedures and requirements.


Navigating the Spanish education system as an expatriate family can be a complex process, but with the right information and guidance, you can make the best decisions for your children's education. Understanding the structure of primary and secondary education, as well as the options available for higher education, will help you choose the most suitable educational path for your family's needs.

Whether you opt for public, private, or international schools, Spain offers a diverse range of educational opportunities that cater to the needs of expatriate families. Take the time to research and visit different schools to ensure they align with your educational preferences and goals.

Remember, the Spanish education system is constantly evolving, so it is essential to stay updated with the latest information. Consult official government websites, educational institutions, and local expatriate communities for the most accurate and up-to-date information on the Spanish education system.

By familiarizing yourself with the Spanish education system and making informed choices, you can provide your children with a quality education and a smooth transition into their new life in Spain.