Education in Spain : A guide for expats

Fonctionnement du système scolaire en Espagne

Tabla de Contenidos


Finding a school is certainly one of the most stressful steps if you are moving to Spain with young children. Which school to choose? How are they going to adapt? What languages ​​are spoken? Are there international schools?

Here is a guide to help answer these questions.


1. The Spanish school system 

Education in Spain is compulsory for all children from 6 to 16 years old.

The Spanish education system has five different stages, two of which are compulsory: 

  • Educación infantil, is the first stage of the Spanish educational system and is optional. It helps children up to the age of 6 years to develop their physical and mental skills. It is split in 2 cycles:
    • Up to the age of 3, the first stage is the Educación infantil de primer ciclo (nursery school)
    • From 3 to 6 years old, the second stage is the Educación infantil de segundo ciclo (preschool) 


  • Educación primaria, is the entry into compulsory education. It lasts 6 years and usually accompanies the children until age 12. This is the equivalent of primary school.


  • Educación secundaria is the second compulsory cycle in Spain. It lasts 4 years and accompanies the children until age 16. This is the equivalent of secondary school.


  • Bachillerato, is an optional stage for students who wish to continue their education for a further 2 years.  During this cycle, students begin to specialize in areas such as the arts, science and technology, economics and social or literary sciences. At the end of these 2 years, the students need to pass their high school diploma called “el Bachillerato” in order to take university entrance examinations (“el Selectivo”). 


  • Selectivo is a 3 days examination which combined with the Bachillerato score will determine which universities the students can attend.


2. Private school, public school or other?

As in most European countries, education in Spain is public and free. However, this is not the only possibility and depending on each individual’s situation, it may be advisable to opt for a private school or a “concertada” school (an intermediate education between the public and the private).

Private or public school in Spain ?

A- Public school

Schools run with public fundings are free in Spain up to university. In some Autonomous Regions (comunidades) such as the Comunidad Valenciana, the classes can be either in Valencian (the local language), or in Spanish.

If you are planning on staying long term or have young children, public school can be a good idea, as your child will be mixed with Spanish children and will learn the language quickly. 

It is also important to note that each school has some quotas and you will need to find out quickly about the enrollment dates and enrollment criteria of the nearest school to where you live in order to optimize your chances of entry.


B- Semi-private school (concertada)

The concertada school is a private institution that receives public funds. It is funded by a mixture of state grants and tuition fees. These establishments are therefore fee-paying institutions but they remain much cheaper than fully private establishments.

Please note that the concertada school is often a Catholic institution and that school uniform is mandatory.


C- Private school

The private schools are fully independent schools and are funded with private funds. Private schools in Spain vary a lot as well as their tuition fees. These international establishments make it possible to follow the school curriculum from other countries such as the US, the UK or France. The choice of international schools depends on where you live in Spain, and these establishments accept both Spanish students and expats.

If you are planning on staying short term or would like to prioritize an easy transition of your child over his integration, private schools are a good option. 

We detail below three of the most renowned international schools in Spain.


3. International schools

A- Lycée Français in Spain 

The Lycée Français is one of the most prestigious schools in Spain. The students follow the same school curriculum as in France with the exception of literature, geography and history following the Spanish program.

The children learn French, English and Spanish and many nationalities are represented, which allows them to be fully immersed in other cultures.

In the Comunidad Valenciana, we can find a Lycée Français in Valencia (Paterna) and in Alicante (el Campello).


B- British School in Spain

The British School is an establishment based on the British education, with English as the main language, and the possibility of choosing a 3rd language (after Spanish) from a certain age.

For no-english speakers, the advantage is to learn English from an early age with both an academically and a personally focused schooling.

Many British Schools are present in the Comunidad Valenciana : in Valencia, Xátiva, Alicante, Castellón.


C- American School in Spain

The American School is an establishment based on the American education, with English as the main language, and the possibility of choosing a third language (after Spanish) from a certain age. The schooling takes place in an innovative and cooperative environment with openness to other cultures.

In the Comunidad Valenciana, we can find an American School in Valencia and in Alicante.


4. Conclusion

Choosing a school for your children is an important decision and we have seen that it was possible to choose between a number of public schools, semi-private schools and private schools (including most of the international schools).

In order to choose the school that best suits your needs, it is crucial to ask yourself the following questions : How long will I stay in the region ? How old are my children ? What is my budget ? 

You want to know more about schools in Spain or you need help with the administrative formalities ? Contact us at [email protected]. 


Share on facebook
Share on facebook
Share on facebook

Deja un comentario