In Spain education is a fundamental and universal right. It is free of charge and compulsory up to 16 years of age. The Organic Law on Education (LOE) regulates Spanish education and the education system, which is divided into stages, cycles, grades, academic years and levels of teaching. It should also be pointed out that the Autonomous Communities have administrative competences in matters of education and there are therefore differences between them, so it is advisable to follow the school’s indications.
Infant Education is the educational stage covering the period from birth to six years of age. It caters for children with the aim of aiding their physical, emotional, social and intellectual development. It is divided into two cycles: the first comprises the period up to three years of age, which is not usually free, while the second cycle is free and lasts from three to six years of age.
Primary Education is the educational stage covering the period from six to twelve years of age, a total of six academic years. It is compulsory and free of charge. The purpose of Primary Education is to provide the pupils with basic academic learning while also contributing to the full development of their personalities.
Compulsory Secondary Education (ESO) is a compulsory and free educational stage which completes the basic education. It consists of four academic years, covering the period from 12 to 16 years of age. The aim of this stage is for the pupils to acquire basic notions of the humanities, art, science and technology. Particular attention is paid to the vocational guidance of the pupils.
Once this stage has been completed pupils can choose between the following two options: Baccalaureate and Vocational Training. In terms of content, timetables and free configuration, they are the responsibility of the educational authorities of the Autonomous Communities.
The Baccalaureate forms part of secondary education but is of a voluntary nature. It consists of two academic years, which are usually studied between 16 and 18 years of age. There are different modalities and specialized training is provided in keeping with the perspectives and interests of each pupil. The modalities on offer are: Science, Humanities and Social Sciences and Arts. The Baccalaureate is the first step towards gaining access to higher education. As with Compulsory Secondary Education, the content, timetables and free configuration are the responsibility of the educational authorities of the Autonomous Communities.
In Spain there are a wide variety of universities throughout the country, both public and private. Everyone who has successfully completed the Baccalaureate in Spain can go to university. Foreigners from countries outside the European Union, including those who have begun their studies or who wish to begin them in Spain can also go to university, as well as students who have finished them in another country and wish to expand their studies with Master’s or Doctoral post-graduate courses.
It is very important for foreigners to have their Baccalaureate studies approved by the Spanish system, a step which can be performed through the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport. In the event that students have already completed their studies in their own countries and only wish to pursue post-graduate studies, it is not necessary to validate or approve the qualification, they just have to confirm the equivalent level of education, a procedure which is performed at the university they apply for.
In the event that you have obtained a university qualification in another country and you wish to have it officially recognised as equivalent to a Spanish university degree, you have to have it officially approved. This procedure is performed through the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport and also on the Ministry’s website.
To go to university in Spain it is necessary to pass the university entrance exam known as the PAU. Foreign students are exempt from sitting this exam, a measure which was approved by the Ministry of Education in 2014 to facilitate the admission of foreigners to public universities. However, private universities can decide how to administer their own entrance exams.
The Ministry of Education has launched a portal called “What to study and where to study?” which, as its name suggests, is useful for providing information for students who wish to go to a Spanish university, especially what degree to study and at which university. On the following website there is further information on the Spanish Service for the Internationalization of Education.
Vocational training includes all kinds of studies and education aimed at labour insertion, reinsertion and upgrading and its main aim is to improve workers’ knowledge and skills.
In Spain vocational training also depends on the educational authorities of the Autonomous Communities. There are two types of access to specific vocational training qualifications:
Middle Level Training Cycle: access is possible in two ways: the first, by obtaining an ESO (Compulsory Secondary Education) qualification, and the second, by means of a specific entrance exam for which you need to be at least 17 years of age.
Higher Level Training Cycle: access to the higher level is possible by obtaining a Baccalaureate or middle-level qualification, provided that it is in the same branch. Once these studies have been completed it is possible to get into university without sitting the university entrance exam.
The aim of art and sport education is to provide high-quality artistic and sporting training. To train future professionals of music, dance, visual arts, design and the conservation of cultural assets. As for sports education, it requires an entrance exam by means of which students can gain access to the said teaching. There are two levels of sports education: middle level and higher level.
In Spain you can access many language teachingcourses. It is very important to ask the different NGOs to help you choose one in keeping with your circumstances for learning Spanish.
You can also learn another language at the Official Language Schools run by the Ministry of Education and the educational authorities. They teach European languages, the co-official languages of the Spanish State and other international languages. The courses cater for different levels of knowledge, from the most basic upwards (from level A1 to level C2 of the Council of Europe) with different purposes, both general and specific.
The Ministry of Education offers training for adults in the field of management and therefore offers the following page with all the relevant information related to Learning Throughout Life (ALV). Everyone must have the opportunity to train and expand their skills, knowledge, abilities, aptitudes for personal and professional development.
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport offers aid and/or grants to help you with your studies. It takes into account the applicant’s economic situation and whether he or she meets the requirements for granting the aid. The grants are usually applied for until October. It is very important to bear in mind that all the information on grants and university studies is provided at the educational centres themselves.
You can access all the information on Grants, Subsidies and Awards of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport on its website.