Spain’s state-funded school system is supported by a comprehensive network of private schools, including many foreign and international schools. There are a number of multilingual international schools that teach pupils in both English and Spanish. Around one third of Spain’s schoolchildren attend private schools, most of which are co-educational day schools. State education is free but parents usually pay for school books, supplies, and extra-curricular activities such as sports and arts and crafts.
Basic general education begins in primary school at the age of 6 and lasts eight years. At the end of what is equivalent to eighth grade in the US, students receive a school-learning certificate that determines the next stage of their education. Students with high marks move on to attend a higher, secondary school to study for their baccalaureate which is necessary for entrance to university. Other students move on to vocational training in which they divide their time between school studies and on-the-job training.
The academic year runs from the first week in September to the end of June and is made up of three terms, each averaging about 11 weeks. School hours vary depending on the school but students usually attend from 9am until 4pm with an hour break for lunch; however, an increasing number of schools do not have a lunch break and finish the day at 2pm.
Over 90% of children in Spain between the ages of four and five attend at least one year of pre-school before starting compulsory schooling. There are both state-run and private pre-schools and some accept children as young as one year of age.