Schools and Kindergarten in Spain
There’s a wide range of private schools (escuelas privadas) in Spain including private schools, international and bi-lingual schools, American and British schools. Together, they educate around one-third of all children in Spain.
Most private schools in Spain are co-educational Catholic day schools, although a number of schools (including some American and British schools) take weekly terms. Like state schools, most private schools operate a Monday to Friday timetable. Private schools in Spain teach a variety of course levels, including the British GCSE and A-level examinations, the American High School Diploma and its college entrance examinations (e.g. ACT, SAT, achievement
tests and AP exams), the International Baccalaureate (IB) and the Spanish bachillerato.
Most Spanish private schools, like schools teaching entirely in Spanish, are state-subsidized and follow the Spanish state-school curriculum. Some international schools are also subsidized, follow a totally bilingual
(English/Spanish) curriculum and are also authorized to accept Spanish pupils. They are required teach the Spanish curriculum, including primary and secondary education, and the bachillerato. These schools provide the opportunity for children to become completely bi-lingual, and to choose between a Spanish or English-language university or career.
To receive state subsidies and accept Spanish pupils, 25 percent of a school’s total number of pupils must be Spanish (at least 20 percent in each class). As a condition of receiving government funding, schools with Spanish pupils are subject to inspection by the Spanish school authorities.
Private school fees in Spain vary considerably depending on the quality, reputation and location of a school, and are low compared to the cost of private education in Northern Europe and North America. Not surprisingly,
schools located in Madrid and Barcelona are among the most expensive.
Fees at subsidized Spanish schools are around EUR 700 a year, whereas fees at independent foreign schools range from around EUR 4,000 a year to well over EUR 8,000 a year at senior schools (particularly for boarders). Fees usually do not include registration, books, materials, laundry, insurance, extra-curricular activities, excursions, meals and transport (most private schools provide school buses). Also, allow around EUR 800 a term for meals and other extras. Most private schools subscribe to insurance schemes covering accidents, both in school and during school-sponsored activities. Some schools award scholarships and offer grants to help parents pay fees, depending
on their financial circumstances.
In addition to American and British schools there are also French, German, Swedish and other foreign-language schools in Spain. Under Spanish law, all foreign schools must be approved by their country’s embassy in Spain.
Your choice of foreign schools will depend on where you live in Spain. There’s a good choice of English-speaking schools (accepting children from ages three to 18) in Madrid, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Tenerife, and on the costas. For example, there are British schools in Alicante, Barcelona, Cádiz, Fuengirola, Ibiza, Lanzarote, Las Palmas, Madrid, Menorca, Palma de Mallorca, Marbella, Tenerife, Torremolinos and Valencia.
Private, foreign and international schools may have smaller classes and a more relaxed, less rigid regime and curriculum than Spanish state schools. They provide a more varied and international approach to sport, culture and art, and a wider choice of academic subjects. Many also provide English-language summer school programs combining academic lessons with sports, arts and crafts, and other extra-curricular activities.
A usual aim is developing a child as an individual and the encouragement of his or her unique talents, rather than teaching on a productionline system. This is made possible by small classes which allow teachers to provide pupils with individually-tailored lessons and tuition. The results are self-evident and many private secondary schools have a near 100 percent university placement rate.
On the other hand, one of the major problems of private foreign-language education in Spain is that children can grow up in cultural ‘ghettos’ and be ‘illiterate’ as far as the Spanish language and culture are concerned.
Although attending a private school may be advantageous from an academic viewpoint, integration into Spanish society can be severely restricted.
Apply to privte schools as far in advance as possible, as some international schools have waiting lists for places. You’re usually requested to send school reports, exam results and other records. Before enrolling your child in a private school, make sure that you understand the withdrawal conditions in the school contract.
It’s advisable to check whether a school is recognized by the Spanish education authorities and whether it belongs to an accredited organization. Most British schools in Spain belong to the National Association of British Schools in Spain (NABSS, www.nabss.org), whose members are visited and approved by British school inspectors. Advice about British English-language schools in Spain can be obtained from the British Council, Paseo Martínez Campos, 31, 28010 Madrid 913-373 500, www.britishcouncil.es). Or consult ECIS on ( UK 01730- 268244 www.ecis.org).
For information about American schools in Spain, write to the Instituto de Cooperación Ibero-americana, Avenida de los Reyes Católicos 4, 28041 Madrid (915-838 526). Information is also obtainable from embassies
While the state school system in Spain has vastly improved, school may still not be up to par with some private institutions. However, that does not mean that they aren’t any good. On the plus side, they are also considerably cheaper than private schools. Parents only have to pay for books (although they might be expensive), or a small yearly fee (Be sure to enquire about this as there are no set prices.)
Another important thing to note is that the schools won’t be bilingual. You child will be completely taught in Spanish with the exception of an English as a second language class a few hours a week. Within the state school system, since schooling is compulsory, a lot more accommodations are made for non Spanish speakers. Your child
will be placed in a special, low enrolment classroom where he or she is then taught Spanish for non-native speakers.
Parents should note that complete immersion may not be for everyone, especially if the child is a lot older. Keeping this in mind, a student will be made to repeat a year of school if they do not pass the standardized
tests that are required at the end of every year.
If you do choose to enroll your child in a public school get ready for a long and arduous trip into Spanish bureaucracy. You’ll need to:
– be interviewed by the school
– provide a copy of your child’s co validation record (The equivalent of an academic transcript). You’ll need to start this process even before you leave your home country. Call your school well in advance to find out exactly what you’ll need because it may differ or change over time.
– take a Spanish proficiency exam, provide a birth certificate, passport, immunization records, proof of residence, and proof of co validation.
– ensure that your child is enrolled in the right district, close enough to where you live.