Spain currently has one of the largest expat communities in Europe, and for those looking to relocate knowing about education in Spain is a must. Since educational expectations vary from country to country, you'll want to know what to expect before you arrive.

If you're looking for the best education options in Spain for your children, read on for a look at what you need to know. 

A Closer Look at the Education in Spain

School in Spain will not just be a place of education for your child, it will also be where they cultivate friendships and learn to embrace the culture around them.

For this reason, it's important to know what to expect from the educational system in Spain so you can make the best choices for your child as they adapt to their new surroundings.


While the average age of preschoolers in the United States is 3-5 years old, in Spain children may start school as early as 1 year old.

Preschool is also broken up into two groups of "cycles." These cycles go from age 0-3 and from age 3-6. Typically, public preschool will begin in the 3-6 age range, which is convenient for parents looking to save money on tuition costs.


While it's easy to think of the word "college" when you hear "Colegio," the word actually refers to what we know as elementary school. In Spain, you'll find the elementary school system is broken down into six years of studies, starting from age 6 and continuing to age 12.

In Spain, school tends to run slightly longer than it does in the United States as well. Typically ending around 5 pm instead of 3 pm. However, children will enjoy a two-hour lunch break in place of the one-hour lunch break in the U.S.

Middle School and High School

In Spain, the middle school will start at about age 12 (similar to the starting age in the US). However, high school won't start until age 16 or 17, while in the United States high school may start around age 14 or 15.

Middle school, referred to as Educación Secundaria Obligatorio or ESO, is legally required for all children. However, once the children reach the age of 16 they can decide whether or not they wish to continue their education.

High school lasts for roughly two years (instead of four) and instead of the standard high school curriculum, students will spend more time studying skills that are adapted for their career choice.

Intermediate and Vocational Education

Some students may opt to go straight into intermediate or vocational school once they have finished high school. These educational programs typically last two years and are focused on specific job training.

During the students time at the vocational school, they will be enrolled in an apprenticeship to gain real-life job skills.

University and Higher Education

Finally, students may choose to move on to University or to a higher education program. Universities in Spain typically last about four years, however, students may study longer depending on the type of degree they are looking to obtain.

Similar to the United States college system, students can then move on to acquire the bachelors, masters, or doctorate degrees.

Home Schooling Options

When it comes to homeschooling, the laws can be more difficult to interpret. Technically, homeschooling in Spain is not legally recognized. However, the Spanish Constitution also states that basic education is "compulsory and free."

Your other option is to choose a homeschooling program based in the US, in which each educational stage will be tested and acknowledged by the US education system.

What to Look for in a School

While finding a new school for your child in Spain, there are some specific factors to look into. You want to make sure your child's physical, emotional and intellectual needs are being met.

Here are a few areas to consider before enrolling your child in a school:


Choose schools where the teachers have vast experience in the education system. It's highly beneficial if, in addition, to teach experience, the teachers and staff also have training in child development and child psychology.

Feel free to ask your school director about the background of the teachers as well as school counselors and deans.

Bilingual Teaching

With an increase in ex-pat moves, there is a steady rise in bilingual school opportunities. This is particularly useful if your child has yet to pick up Spanish fluently, or if your child is still young and developing their language skills. This way you can ensure that their English and Spanish skills are developing equally.

Studies have also shown that bilingual children have less behavioral problems, and are more adept at math, science, and music studies.

Extra Curricular Activities

Extracurricular activities is another area that's important in your child's development. Sports such as futbol or taekwondo teaches children discipline while allowing them to harness their energy in a productive manner.

Children may also be interested in activities like art, dance or even yoga classes, each of which gives children a healthy outlet for expression and emotional management.

Student to Teacher Ratio

The larger a class size the less individual attention a student will receive from the teacher. For this reason, favoring smaller class sizes are ideal.

Children in larger classrooms tend to get overlooked, and issues such as learning disabilities can easily go unnoticed.

Parent Involvement

Good schools will often encourage a fair amount of parent involvement, especially for younger students. It's important that home structures mirror the structures being taught at school so children can receive a clear and consistent message.

Look for opportunities such as PTA boards, parent education nights, or parent observation days as positive signs.

Adjusting to Your New Life in Spain

Looking into the education in Spain is one of the numerous steps you can take to better adjust to the new culture around you. Moves can be challenging at first, but the more you know the easier it will be for you and your family to feel at home.

If you are looking for more information about life in Spain, we suggest checking out our blog on nine reasons why you should be living in Marbella, Spain.

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