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Education is compulsory in Spain from 6 to 16, and schools in Spain are increasingly considered to be of a better standard than those in many other European countries (including the UK) with fewer discipline problems. Here's a quick guide to the options and how they work.

International schools

Spanish schools

The Spanish education system

- Pre-school Education (0-6 years):

A good way to integrate your children (and yourself) into the Spanish-speaking community. Pre-school education (“Educación Infantil”) is divided into two 3-year stages (0-3 years and 3-6 years). Pre-school education is not compulsory but is free during the second stage (3-6 years) in state-funded schools. There is also a range of nurseries, both state-funded and private, some run by expats.

- Compulsory Education (6-16 years):

This consists of two stages:

  1. Primary education (“Educación Primaria”) from the age of 6 to 12.
  2. Lower Secondary education (“Educación Secundaria Obligatoria” - ESO) from the age of 12 to 16. Unlike UK schools, if children fail their end of year exams at either primary or secondary level, they risk having to repeat the entire academic year - a definite motivator!

- Non-Compulsory Education (16-18 years):

Students can down one of two routes (as long as they have their certificate to show they have completed their ESO):

- Higher Education:

Applicants for Spanish universities are expected to complete the entrance exam in their final year of secondary school. Once accepted at a university, students study for three years and gain either a “licencia” (in academic subjects) or a “diploma” in vocational or technical subjects. University graduates can then go on to do further study for the equivalent of an MA or PhD. Spanish universities have been in a constant state of change over the last few years because the government has been working to bring them into line with EU regulations and everything is due to be in place by 2010. In Spain it's usual for students to attend the nearest university and live at home. There are several good universities in the area, including in Málaga, Cordoba, Granada and Sevilla. When it comes to grants, it's a familiar story - you're very unlikely to get one. So whether your children decide on university in Spain or in the UK, it will be quite an investment.

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