Secondary Education

Spanish education for young teens and youths...

Secondary education (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria - ESO)Compulsory secondary education (ESO or "instituto") (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria - ESO) begins at the age of 12 and lasts for four years. It is divided into two cycles, the first for students from age 12 to 14 and the second for students from 14 to 16.

Types of schools providing this education include: Institutos de Educación Secundaria, Colegios Privados and Colegios Concertados. Pupils receive specialised training at ESO and begin their preparation for the baccalaureate or vocational training.

Compulsory subjects include natural and social sciences, history and geography, physical education, plastic and visual arts, Spanish and an autonomous community language (if applicable), a foreign language, literature, mathematics, music and technology.

In the second year of the second cycle, pupils choose two of the following four options: natural and social sciences, music, technology, and plastic and visual arts. The Catholic religion is an optional subject for all four years; non-Catholics may choose study periods instead. A second foreign language can be chosen during the second cycle.

As with primary education, a pupil can be required to repeat a year if they do not meet the required standards at the end of the school year. Children may only repeat the year once.

Once pupils have satisfactorily finished four years of ESO they receive a Secondary Education Certificate. (Graduado en Educación Secundaria). This certificate is necessary for those who want to continue to higher secondary education (Bachillerato) studies or intermediate vocational training.

Higher secondary education (bachillerato or formación profesional)

At the end of compulsory education (usually at age 16) pupils can go on to bachillerato studies or vocational training (formación profesional). Their education can usually continue at the same school they have been attending.

Bachillerato: This certificate is required to gain university entrance. Some of the courses studied are taken by all students, such as Spanish, a foreign language, Spanish history and physical education. However, students can choose to specialise in one of five different branches: arts, natural and health sciences, sciences and engineering, social sciences or humanities. At the end of their studies they receive the Título de Bachillerato if they have succeeded in all subjects.

  • For further information from the Spanish Ministry of Education about the bachillerato (in Spanish)

Vocational training: Students divide their time between school studies and on-the-job training. Students who successfully complete their vocational training are awarded the Certificado de Técnico in the relevant field. This certificate allows them to work in areas related to their training, to pursue further training or to study for a bachillerato.

Higher education and university

To go on to further education, students must sit an entry exam (Prueba de Acceso a la Universidad, more commonly known as Selectividad). Higher education is not compulsory and fees are charged. Costs vary depending on the course taken.

Higher education is provided by public and private institutions known as either facultades universitarias, escuelas tecnicas superiores, escuelas universitarias, institutos universitarios, and other centres, notably the colegios universitarios. In addition to Spanish higher education facilities, there are a number of US and British universities with campuses in Spain.