Schooling in Spain is state funded and compulsory between the ages of six and sixteen, given that no courses are repeated. Although non-university education in state-funded schools is free in Spain, parents must pay for books, materials, and sometimes uniforms for their children.
Once the required schooling is finished, a student can then opt to continue to high school (bachillerato) or move on to a vocational school. Only those who finish high school can be admitted to a university. There are three categories of Spanish schools in the Spanish education system: public schools (colegios públicos), state-funded private schools (colegios concertados), and private schools (colegios privados).
Since some private schools are publicly funded, the line between public and private is blurred. Spanish school hours depend on each type of school. Some may run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a two-hour lunch break. Other schools may begin at 9 and end at 2 p.m., the typical lunch time in Spain. Some schools may have only a one-hour lunch break and may or may not provide a cafeteria for children to eat at the school. For working parents, Spanish schools offer a paid morning program starting as early as 7 a.m. and an afterschool program with extracurricular activities, free or paid for, depending on the activity.
The literacy rate of a country, while not a perfect measure, is often used to rank educational systems worldwide. Literacy, in this case, is defined as a percentage of the population over the age of 15 that can read and write. According to the CIA World Factbook, 97.9% of Spain's population was literate in 2003. The figure encompasses a literacy rate in Spain of 98.7% among males and 97.2% among females. Other sources indicate that the Spanish literacy rate is actually higher. The structure of the Spanish Education System follows the Fundamental Law of Education, known as LOE in Spain.
Preschool in Spain is divided into two cycles, the first cycle is for children between the ages of 0-3 years old and the second cycle is for children from 3-6 years old. The first cycle of preschool is not free, although there are aid programs for families in need. The second cycle of preschool education in Spain is free for all students. This cycle is often considered as an integral part of the education system. Normally, the first cycle of preschool is taught in special nursery schools or daycare centers (colegios infantiles) and the second cycle is taught at primary schools. However, more and more primary schools in Spain are beginning to offer the first cycle of preschool as well.
SPANISH PRIMARY SCHOOL
Primary school in Spain, often referred to as simply “colegio,” is the beginning of the government required education in Spain. Primary school is made up of 6 academic school years from age 6 through 12. The system is divided into three cycles of 2 years each. Generally, the first cycle is from age 6-7, the second from 8-9, and the third from 10-11 years of age. The objective is to give Spanish students a common, solid basic education in culture, oral expression, reading, writing, and math. Required courses include social studies, art education, physical education, the Spanish language and, if different, the official language of the Autonomous Community, foreign languages, and math. The teaching methodology is directed towards developing pupils and integrating their different experiences and learning styles. Spanish primary education is focused on personalized, tailored classes depending on the level of each child.
SPANISH MIDDLE SCHOOL
After primary school in Spain students must continue on to Compulsory Secondary Education (ESO) which generally lasts from age 12 to 16. Spanish secondary education is divided into two cycles lasting two years each. Once a Spanish student graduates from ESO, students have three different choices: High school known as the Spanish Baccalaureate (Bachillerato), vocational/professional training (electrician, hairdresser, etc.), or enter the workforce.
SPANISH HIGH SCHOOL - SPANISH BACCALAUREATE
The Spanish high school Baccalaureate is non-compulsory free education that consists of one cycle in two academic years for students aged 16 to 18. The Spanish Baccalaureate consists of a series of required common classes, elective classes, and specialization classes known as “modalidades,” or concentration in a certain discipline. A student must specialize in one of the offered disciplines and if the students plan to continue on to university, certain concentrations may be required to be admitted into certain university programs. Required classes for the Spanish Baccalaureate include 2 years of both Castilian language and literature (or the co-official language) and foreign language, and 1 year of philosophy and civic responsibility, physical education, contemporary science, history of philosophy, and the history of Spain. Elective courses may include a second foreign language, information technology, dance, art, theater, music, or other classes depending on the school.
The specialization part of the Spanish high school Baccalaureate requires a student to choose one of 4 concentrations for which they will be required to take 3-4 classes per year. Each concentration has obligatory classes and others to choose from. The specialized concentrations and corresponding types of courses are:
Arts: The arts discipline is divided into two concentrations: art, image, and design; or performing arts, music, and dance.
Science and Technology: math, biology, physics, chemistry, geology, technical drawing, etc.
Humanities and Social Sciences: applied math, economics, Latin, Greek, contemporary history, geography, art history, business economics, etc.
Students who successfully complete the requirements of the Spanish high school Baccalaureate will receive a diploma. They may then opt for vocational training, a university education, or in some cases both. To continue on to a university they must take an entrance exam (Prueba de Acceso a la Universidad - PAU). The test results together with the student's academic record and grades will determine not only access to the university but also which degrees the student can pursue.
SPANISH VOCATIONAL TRAINING - FP
There are two types of vocational training in Spain: Middle Grade Training cycles (Ciclos Formativos de Grado Medio) for those who only have their ESO (compulsory education) diploma and Superior Training Cycles (Ciclos Formativos de Grado Superior) for those who possess a Spanish Baccalaureate diploma. Those who complete a Superior Training Cycle may then pursue certain university degrees.
SPANISH UNIVERSITY AND HIGHER EDUCATION
Spanish University studies are usually four years long, except for medical degrees and some others which are six years long. In accordance with the European Commission of Education and Training, Spanish higher education consists of: Bachelor degrees (Grado) for four-year programs, Master's degrees for two-year post-graduate programs, and Doctorates for post-master's education. There are many internationally recognized Spanish universities such as Complutense University of Madrid, the University of Barcelona, the University of Seville, the University of Granada, and the University of Valencia, among many others. Other historically important and reputable Spanish universities include the University of Salamanca and the University of Alcala.