When it comes to the school system in Spain, you will generally have two options: a private international school or a public state school. Language will often be one of the determining factors in which you choose, and if your child is approaching their teenage years and does not speak Spanish then it will be harder for them to pick up the language and their schooling could suffer as a result. It is therefore a very important decision, and the following information should help you when it comes to making it.
General School Rules In Spain
Schooling is compulsory for all children aged six to 16. Although it is not required by law, many children go to pre-school from the ages of three to five, but this is not provided by the state and will require a fee.
The academic year lasts from the middle of September to the middle of June, which is the same as in the UK, and the holidays are also the same (Christmas, Easter and Summer). However, the length of the holidays is generally longer than in many other countries, so make sure you prepare for how you will keep your children entertained, especially during the summer.
The school day generally lasts from 9am to 2pm in primary schools and slightly longer in secondary students. However, there are bound to be variations on these times, and private schools will have their own rules.
Getting A Place
Finding a place in a state school is straightforward if you are an EU citizen, and the system is based on the catchment area of the school in question, meaning it depends upon where you live. To increase the chances of getting into the school you want, therefore, you should consider moving within the catchment area when you purchase your property.
Location will also be important if you are sending your child to an international school as these may not be available in some areas of the country. International schools can also have long waiting lists, so make sure to get in early.
International schools are bilingual schools which are aimed at English, German and French speakers as well as other nationalities. They are often considered the best choice for foreigners as the students do not suffer from having a low level of Spanish, especially at secondary age.
For the English schools at least, they generally follow the English national curriculum, which is an attraction for many parents. This means that English exams are taken including GCSEs and A-levels, and these can also come alongside the International Baccalaureate programme and even Spanish qualifications, known as the Bachillerato.
It is common to have a better learning environment than state schools because classes are often smaller, and there is often a more relaxed approach to teaching. There is also the opportunity to take part in a number of extra curricular activities which you may not find in a state school.
The drawback is obviously the cost. Primary schools cost up to Ä4,000 a year and secondary schools cost up to Ä10,000 a year, and although this is cheaper than in many countries, it is still a lot of money and you will also have to pay extra for books and other materials.
On top of that, there is also the concern that studying in an international school provides the pupils with less cultural integration than they would get in a Spanish school, so they end up speaking in English all the time and not getting enough understanding of the country they are living in. However, most international schools will have a few Spanish pupils so this is not totally lost.
There are a lot more state schools across the country, meaning there is a greater variation and you are more likely to find one in the area you are living.
State schools are of course a lot cheaper. Education after the age of five is completely free, minus the costs of books and other expenses, which will be attractive if you cannot pay for private education.
There will also be a greater cultural integration because your child will be spending the whole day speaking Spanish and mixing with locals, so they will pick up a greater amount of information about the country and will also learn the language more quickly.
Problems can arise due to the fact that many older children find it incredibly hard starting a school in a new language, and if they do not have a good command of Spanish then their education could really suffer as a result. To counter this, some schools offer a bilingual curriculum and Spanish lessons to help ease the process, so this might be an option. In the case that you need a Spanish tutor for your child then this will be an extra cost to consider.
As well as this, schooling in Spain is sometimes criticised as being too old fashioned. Although the situation is improving, you may not want your child to study in this manner.
In general, schools in Spain are of a high quality and you should not have a problem finding a suitable school for your child. Location, fees and your childís level of Spanish are going to be the main concerns, and as long as you prepare carefully then the process should not be too difficult.
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Article Added on Monday, July 20, 2009
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