Education system in Spain

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Main Page - Education systems by country - Spain


The Spanish system was restructured in 1990. Currently, it is divided in the following educational stages:

Educación infantil (Infant Education)

It is not compulsory and provides education for children up to 6 years of age.

Educación Obligatoria (Compulsory Education)

It is divided into Primary (Primaria) (from 6 till 12 years of age) and Secondary Education (ESO) (from 12 till 16). In total, these two blocks last for 10 years. They are the basic teaching blocks and therefore they are free of charge or subsidised by the government. There are also private schools available.

At this stage, the students can choose to leave education, continue to study bachillerato (the main route to university), start a vocational course (formación professional) or study a non-regulated course (estudios no reglados).


This is a two year teaching block for students from 16 to 18 years of age. Its purpose is to prepare the students for either a university degree or an advanced vocational course. At the end of this stage the students have the option to go to a private university or a state funded one. It is necessary to carry out an entry test at the end of Bachillerato in order to apply to a public university.

Formación Profesional/Ciclos Formativos (Vocational courses)

This is divided in two phases: medium and advanced. The course aims to prepare students with the basic professional skills they will need in their future jobs. The students do not need to complete the advanced phase to start a job, although the extra skills provided will enhance their opportunities to develop their career.

Within this area, the students also have the option to develop their craft skills in a Ciclo Formativos de Artes Plásticas y Diseño. This option teaches the students the materials, tools and most advanced as well as old fashioned techniques to successfully apply an artistic craft.

Estudios No Reglados

These are complementary courses to mainstream education. They can be completed in private centres. They include activities such as: Company environment, environmental courses, food and drink, civil aviation and so on.

There are also options for those students unable to successfully complete the compulsory secondary education. These students can carry out an entry test (if they are over 18) to access Formación Profesional. Alternatively they can go to Private academies for several courses since most of them do not have entry requirements other than to pay their fees. They can also carry out Formación Ocupacional (Ocupational Formation) courses to improve their standing in the market place.

Formación Ocupacional

It is a combination of flexible courses (sometimes organised by a private company) for people over 16. Mostly they are for people without a job to improve their practical skills. They are funded by the European Social Fund and also by the council in each County or Comunidad Autonoma.

Alternative Education

Some private centres carry out alternative education such as democratic schools. However, a very small percentage of children attend these schools and they are widely unknown. There are also private international schools available.


A thorough examination of each stage in the Spanish education system. (Visited 08-July-05, Editor's note: there seems to be a problem accessing this page in some browsers - it may be to do with popup blocking)

Short overview in Spanish of the education system. (Spanish) (Visited 08-July-05) The same kind of overview but in English. (Visited 08-July-05)

Spanish Education Ministry publications online. (Visited 08-July-05)