The Spanish education system is, as in every other country, key to the running and the perception of the nation. It is compulsory between the ages of six and sixteen, making it somewhat shorter than the English system but retains the idea of begin without cost and available to all.
Education in Spain is primarily structured into five different levels, spread over many years. Primarily it is considered to start with pre-school or Educación Infantil between the ages of 3 and 5, which is then followed by Educación Primaria between the ages of six and eleven and finally Educación Secundaria Obligatoria (eleven to sixteen) rounds off compulsory schooling. This, for many young Spaniards, is then followed by the Bachillerato, a qualification which is effectively the end of education for most young people. Following on from this, there is of course the option of university, and it differs from the English system in that it is not considered a chance to leave home, but instead many continue living with their parents whilst attending a local university, thus indicating once more with the idea of family as central to life as is traditional in Spain.
The system of exams in Spain is somewhat varied, with students awarded a Secondary Education Certificate (similar to the English idea of GCSEs) at the end of compulsory schooling, without which one cannot continue onto the Bachillerato, which in turn is necessary for university entrance. However, slightly different is the idea of University Entrance Exam or Selectividad, which can often vary greatly depending on the region in which it is taken. However as an alternative, vocational training is also offered, and there always remains the option of obtaining a job, however considering the economic state in Spain currently as well as the lack of qualifications held by the young person, this is not always a viable option.
The Bachillerato is particularly interesting to look at as regards the scope of elements that it allows students to study and primarily it is focused on Spanish language and literature as well as the local language. Following on from this there is co requisite of knowledge of a foreign language and then an emphasis on Philosophy as well as Physical Education, Spanish History and religious studies. As well as this there is the choice to specialise between arts, nature and health sciences, sciences and engineering, social sciences and humanities, allowing a much broader range of studies than in England. It, however, can only be awarded if the student passes every element of the course. Furthermore there are special awards for students who do particularly well in this, for example those who have an average of more than 97.5% can sit a special exam in order to stand a chance of gaining an ‘Extraordinary Baccalaureate Award’. In addition to this, those who are successful can sit the ‘National Spanish Baccalaureate Award’ which is only awarded to 15 students, in conjunction with a grant of 1200€.
Schools in Spain can be split into three categories as regards their organisation: there are of course state schools, who receive government support as well as being controlled by national regulations, however there exist also privately run schools, that are also funded by the state, and finally the colegios privados, completely privately run and financed, the majority being religiously controlled and single sex.
Uniform is another element of education that one must consider when looking at any educational system and Spain is no exception. In the vast majority of state run schools, uniform is not important and many do not subscribe, in contrast it is more a characteristic of private schools.
Terms are also similar to the European norm, with the school year being split into three: Christmas, Easter and summer, with a long summer holiday at the end, however the idea of half term does not exist here, instead the term is frequently broken up with long weekends because of religious holidays.
- Colegio - school
- Trimestre - term
- Vacaciones - holidays
- Privado - private
- Bachillerato – baccalaureate/equivalent of A levels
- Obligatoria – compulsory
- Navidades – Christmas
- Sistema – system
- Uniforme – uniform
- Lengua - language