A guide to the Spanish Education System

A guide to the Spanish Education System
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After completing your TEFL course, you are surely eager to get to work and experience first-hand how it is like to be a TEFL teacher in Spain. But, do you know how the Spanish education system works?

Having a broad idea of the education system in Spain will help future teachers to better understand the context they are working in and to better know their new host country. Keep reading our post and discover how the Spanish education system works!

Opportunities for English teachers

The education system in Spain has been subject to several changes in the past few years. The education regulating body in charge is the Spanish Ministry of Education, which promotes and establishes education laws. Currently, the education system in Spain is regulated by the LOE (Organic Law on Education), which includes the changes introduced by the LOMCE (Organic Law for the Improvement of Educational Quality).

We can find public, private and state-subsidized private education in Spain. Public schools are managed and financed by public entities, whereas private schools are managed and financed by private entities. State-subsidized private schools are halfway between public and private education. They are managed by private entities, but most of their funding comes from public entities, along with isolated contributions from the parents. Public schools, following state regulation, are secular schools. Private schools may be secular or not, depending on the entity in charge of the school. In state-subsidized private schools, the private entities managing the schools may vary, though most of them belong to the Catholic church.

It is also important to bear in mind that Spain is made up of 17 autonomous communities, which have competences on education matters. This means that each community may develop and implement their basic education legislation involving certain curricular elements, subjects, co-official languages, school hours (within the limits established under national legislation), etc. However, the educational centers in the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla are directly managed by the Ministry of Education.

The public education system offers Infant Education, Primary Education, Compulsory Secondary Education (ESO), Secondary Education, and Higher Education.

Infant school (Educación infantil)

Infant school covers education from zero to six years. It is not compulsory and is made up of two stages: the first, from 0-3, and the second, from 3-6. It is free of charge in public schools and assisted private schools. Most children start their schooling at the second stage (3-6 years old). Infant school focuses on teaching children environmental, social and personal values as well as activities that develop their mental and physical abilities.

Infant school (Educación infantil)

Primary education (Educación primaria) and Compulsory Secondary Education (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria)

Primary education and Compulsory Secondary Education are basic and obligatory in Spain. Primary education covers from 6-12 years old and Compulsory Secondary Education from 12-16 years old. It is free in public schools and state-assisted private schools. However, textbooks and materials are not free and are to be bought by the parents.

During primary education, students learn the following subjects: Maths (Matemáticas), Conocimiento del medio (general knowledge subject which includes biology, geography, history…), Spanish language (Lengua), Arts and crafts (plástica), Physical Education (Educación Física), and a second language, commonly English.

The core curriculum in compulsory secondary education is generally Maths, geography, history, physical education, Spanish language and literature, and a foreign language. Optional subjects include a second foreign language, technology, music, natural and social sciences, etc. In private schools and state-subsidized private schools, students may also study a subject called Religión (Catholic religion). In private and state-subsidized private schools (colegios concertados) students generally wear a uniform.

Secondary education (Educación Secundaria) is comprised of the Compulsory Secondary Education and Further Secondary Education, which in turn is divided into Baccalaureate (2 years), Intermediate Professional Training in Fine Arts and Design, Intermediate Vocational Training and Intermediate Sports Training.

Primary education (Educación primaria)

Higher education (Educación superior)

Higher education in Spain is comprised of University Education, Higher Level Vocational Training and Higher Arts Education.

One of the ways to access University in Spain is by studying the two years of Baccalaureate (Bachillerato) and taking a general university entrance examination (called “Selectividad”). The final grade is a combination of the results obtained during the exams and the general grades obtained during the Baccalaureate. There aren’t many university grants in Spain, therefore university studies are a great financial investment.

Higher education (Educación superior)

How is the school calendar and timetable?

The school year in Spain starts in mid-September and ends by the third week of June. There is a break of two weeks during Christmas and about a week during Easter. Students also enjoy short breaks during national and regional holidays. There are two different timetables: one in which students have a divided day with a two-hour break for lunch and they finish lessons in the early evening and the uninterrupted school day (adopted by many public schools) in which students do not take any break and leave school at around 3 pm.

Opportunities for English teachers in the Spanish educational system

English is taught as a curriculum subject in all compulsory education centers from the age of 6. In many nursery schools (3-6 years) English is taught as an optional subject. In some regions, such as Madrid, bilingual schools have been established, in which pupils are taught other subjects in English.

Many English teachers in Spanish public schools do not have an official certificate for teaching English. With a British Council accredited and recognized TEFL certificate such as the Trinity CertTESOL, English teachers can be more employable. Although the positions are indeed available through competitive examinations, there are a good number of positions for substitute teachers. Private and state-subsidized centers (colegios concertados) can recruit without competitive examinations, and normally require a high level of qualification from the teachers.

Adding these opportunities to many private English language schools in the country, any Trinity College CertTESOL qualified teacher can get a job, either temporary or long-term.

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