Characteristics of the Spanish education system | BSS

Characteristics of the Spanish education system 

How does the LOMLOE educational law change the Spanish education system?

In December 2020, a new educational law (the Organic Law Amending the Organic Law on Education, known by the Spanish acronym LOMLOE) was approved in Spain. It has brought about significant changes affecting the curriculum, organisation, assessment and objectives at all educational stages.



Pre-primary education in Spain

(0-6 years old)

This stage is voluntary and aims to prepare children for compulsory schooling. It encourages intellectual, physical, social and emotional development. It is divided into two 3-year cycles.

With the LOMLOE, the first cycle from 0 to 3 years of age is no longer merely based on care and becomes an educational stage with its own curricular objectives and project.

Primary education in Spain

(6-12 years old)

In Spain, primary education is compulsory. It must also be free in state-funded schools. Over the course of six academic years divided into three 2-year cycles, children make continuous progress as they acquire basic cultural elements and learn skills related to spoken expression, reading and writing and numeracy. They progressively become more autonomous in their environment.

Religion is now a voluntary subject with this new law, although it must still be offered in schools, and it will not be taken into account in scholarships or admission processes. Schools may establish non-denominational teaching on religious culture.

A new subject — ‘Civic and Ethical Education’ — will be taught during the last two years of primary education and puts particular emphasis on respect for human rights and childhood, the values included in the Spanish Constitution and gender equality.

Another new aspect is the diagnostic assessment carried out in the 4th year of primary education, which is of an informative nature for schools, students and families.

Secondary education in Spain

(12-16 years)

At around 12 years of age, students start compulsory secondary education. This stage lasts for 4 years that are no longer divided into cycles with the new law. During this stage, students are prepared for professional life or to continue with their studies.

In general terms, the LOMLOE makes this stage more flexible as academic itineraries for the 4th year of secondary education are voluntary. Therefore, there is a broader range of possibilities on offer as itineraries can be implemented in different ways. In this sense, measures to help students with specific educational support needs have been increased.

During secondary education, special attention is paid to providing students with educational and professional guidance and, with the new law, this will also include the perspective of gender and the inclusion of functionally diverse people.

Just like in primary education, a diagnostic assessment is also carried out in the second year of this stage.

Spanish baccalaureate

(16-18 years old)

During the two years of the Spanish Baccalaureate, students receive the education they need to mature on an intellectual and personal level, as well as knowledge and skills to develop social functions and integrally transition to professional life. What’s more, with the new law, great importance is placed on emotional and sexual education, as well as caring for the environment and critical and reflexive thinking skills. 

Students can gain access to this stage with both a secondary education diploma or an intermediate-level vocational training diploma.

Once students have gained their Spanish Baccalaureate diploma, there is a national university entrance exam known as the EBAU. Schools prepare students to obtain excellent results in this test, and private schools generally achieve good marks.

With the LOMLOE, this stage becomes more flexible as students will be able to move on to the next academic year with a maximum of two fails, and in exceptional circumstances, they will be able to obtain their diploma even if they fail a subject. It will also be possible to complete this stage over three years instead of two years, depending on students’ personal circumstances and situation.

The most significant change is the new General Baccalaureate, which is added to the three existing types (the arts, science and humanities and social science). This new qualification is aimed at students who do not know what they want to study. This new option provides a basic and comprehensive education that involves different areas of study and encourages critical thinking to help students develop personally and intellectually, so they can make decisions and fulfil their responsibilities or challenges.

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