How to gain admission to schools in Spain? (private, public, and charter schools)

Presently, there are three educational models that exist in Spain:

Public Schools and Charter Schools

These two models are financed by the state and are attended by children from ages three to eighteen. The educational system is both free of charge and secular. In the case of charter schools, because of their private ownership, many complementary services have fees similar to those paid at private schools. Public schools are managed by the autonomous government education administration.

In order to gain admission to these schools the requisites include: having Spanish citizenship and filing the proper enrolment paperwork.

Private Schools

Private schools do not receive any government subventions and have absolute autonomy over their curriculum and different educational projects.

The calendar for access and enrolment is open throughout the entire school year and there is always availability. Private schools have complete control over admission and are able to establish their own requisites regarding admission and fees, which they inform personally and individually to families.

How private Spanish schools make admission decisions? Administrative exams

Due to their autonomous control over administrative decisions, admission and enrolment processes are established by each individual centre.

For the majority of international schools, language and academic level exams are necessary, in addition to equivalent education certificates and/or transcripts for older students.

What are the counterpart courses in the Spanish educational system?

In Spain, different international and foreign educational systems are recognized, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), American and British curricula. All are validated and have equivalences in the Spanish system, so they are fully compatible and the student can change from one to another without prejudice or loss of course.

Infant education (3º Infant to 5º Infant) in the Spanish system, which ranges from 3 to 5 years old, has its equivalent in the American system with Pre-School (Pre-kindergarten, Kindergarten). In the British curriculum, we have Fundation, Nursery, Reception (for 3 and 4 years) and Primary (Key Stage 1) with year 1, which complete the period up to 5 years. With regard to the International Baccalaureate system, Primary Years (PYP) ranges from 3 to 10 years old, divided between PYP Infant (3,4 and 5), which corresponds to Infant Education in the Spanish system, and PYP Primary (1 to 5), which corresponds to up to 5 years of Primary Education.

Primary Education (from 1st Primary to 6th Primary) includes from 6 to 11 years old. Equivalent in the American system to all Elementary School courses (Grade 1 through Grade 5) and the first Middle School course (Grade 6). The same applies to the equivalence to the British system: Primary Education covers the British Primary (Key Stage 1 & Key Stage 2) period from Year 1 to Year 6 and Year 7, the latter the first year of Secondary.

In Secondary Education (1st ESO to 4th ESO), in the American system it corresponds to Grade 7 to Grade 10 (from 12 to 15 years old) integrated in Middle School and High School. In the British system, it corresponds from Year 8 to Year 11 of Secondary. In IB, it is equivalent to Middle Years Programme 2 through MYP 5, with the first year MYP 1 being equivalent to 6th grade of primary school.

Finally, the Bachillerato (1st year of high school and 2nd year of high school, 16 and 17 years old) corresponds to the last two years of high school in the American system (Grade 11 & Grade 12), and to the British Sixth Form (Year 12 & Year 13). At IB, it is the IBDP 1 & IBDP 2 Diploma Programme (DP).

Curriculum equivalency table.

What is the age of begining education in Spanish system?

The Spanish education system is divided into four stages:

  1. Nursery school and pre-school (early learners education): from 4 months to 6 years old. This stage is not mandatory.
  2. Primary education: From 6 to 12 years old. Mandatory.
  3. Mandatory Secondary education: from 12 to 16 years old.
  4. A levels/High School Diploma: Optional. From 16 to 18 years old.

There also exists the possibility to carry out Medium Degree Professional Training for students from 16 to 18 years of age.

What age do children begin Schooling in Spain?

In Spain, schooling is compulsory for ages 6 to 16. It is a universal right of children that includes the Primary Education (E.P.) from 6 to 12 years old and the Compulsory Secondary Education (E.S.O.) from 12 to 16 years old.

Infant education (E.I.) is not compulsory and is offered in two cycles: the first cycle of early childhood education, from 0 to 3 years old, also known as nursery school, usually offered in private schools, and the second cycle of early childhood education, from 3 to 6 years old, offered by all schools.

Parents choose to start their children’s schooling according to their needs and family situation: nurseries accept children from the age of 4 months (when maternity leave ends in Spain), or even earlier, but parents may decide to delay schooling until the age of 1 year, 2 years, etc. From the age of 3, 95% of children are enrolled in school in Spain.

How to get validation and homologation of foreign studies in Spain?

1º.-  Students who have previously studied at schools outside of Spain can request degree  or certificate homologation. Those students who desire to enrol in Primary or Secondary education  programs do not have to carry out any homologation procedures.

Qualifications or degrees should fulfil various requisites in order to be homologated:

  • Qualification or degree must be valid according to the education system of the country of origin.
  • Qualification or degree must guarantee the the completion and passing marks of the studies undertaken.
  • A sufficient equivalence must exist between the foreign degrees and the corresponding Spanish qualification.
  • All studies must be completed with passing marks according to the country of origin’s educational system.

2º.- For those who wish to apply for homologation to enrol in a A levels/High School Diploma program, the following documentation and paperwork is required:

  • Certificate of payment of required fee.
  • Notarised photocopy of national identification document (NIF/ Passport/ NIE/ other document)
  • Notarised photocopy of official certificate or diploma to be homologated, or if required, official accreditation certifying the passing of corresponding final exams.
  • Notarised photocopy of certified completed courses, detailing the different subjects studied, the corresponding marks received, and the years in which each course of study took place.

It is very important to remember that not all matriculation deadlines are the same throughout Spain.

3º.- The following are competent authorities who process and resolve foreign qualifications and degrees included in the equivalency charts approved by the Ministry of Education.

  • Areas of High Educational Inspection in Autonomous Communities
  • Ministries of Education in foreign Spanish embassies

The Ministry of Education is responsible for the homologation processing of the remaining foreign titles and degrees.

When applications for study are requested in the Autonomous Communities in Galicia, Catalonia or the Basque Country, applicants should direct their requests directly to the corresponding education ministries.

For more information, click on the following link: https://goo.gl/s8Atkn

How to access university in Spain?

To access university in Spain, the essential requirement is to pass the Selectividad exam, which is given to all students at the end of their high school studies. However, if the International Baccalaureate Diploma is obtained, the grade obtained grants access to the university, without having to be presented at the general or specific selectivity stage. If you want to access a degree with a limited number of places, you will have to apply for the specific stage of the selectivity.

There are other types of admission for those who have completed a Higher Degree Vocational Training or have studied in Higher Degree Special Education Institutions. Adults over the age of 25, on the other hand, must take an entrance exam similar to the Selectividad, while those over the age of 40 will only have to pass a personal interview, without the need to take any type of exam.

What is the school calendar and timetable in Spanish schools?

The Spanish school calendar begins in the month of September and finishes at the end of June.

Private schools tend to commence during the first week in September, whereas public schools tend to postpone the beginning of the school year for a few more days.

During the school year, various holiday breaks take place. The first holiday period is at Christmastime and it continues through the Epiphany (6th of January). The second holiday period takes place during Holy Week, which falls on a different date each year, some years occurring in March and others in April. Lastly, summer holidays commence around the end of June and continue until the beginning of the new school year in September.

By general rule, schools often carry out trimestral exams coincide with the school period directly prior to holidays. During these periods, progress exams and reports tend to take place as a way to monitor the progress of each student in each corresponding subject of study. Lastly, regarding timetables, the most common timetable used in private Spanish schools is from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Many schools offer extracurricular activities that take place either after lunch, during the mid-day break period or in the afternoon once the school day has end.

Are students required to wear uniform in Spanish schools?

Uniforms are not obligatory in Spain, however, uniforms are generally the option of choice in private schools. In Best Schools you can find a number of schools where students are permitted to wear normal clothes. In general, public schools do not require uniform use, although some exceptions do exist.

Which religious education is provided in schools in Spain?

As mentioned in the Spanish Constitution in article 27, “the powers guarantee parents the right for their children to receive the religious and moral education that is in accordance with their individual standards.” What this means is that each student is entitled to receive a religious education in accordance with the beliefs of their family. What it does not imply is that it is mandatory for a child to enrol in a religious course in school. Schools often offer alternative options for students who do not desire to partake in religious education.