Spain Explained

Choosing a bilingual school in Spain

If you’re considering moving to Spain with your family, you might be exploring sending your children to a bilingual school.

Where your children will go to school is a key concern if you’re relocating. Subsequently, many parents will want to take full advantage of the opportunity their child has to learn a second language. There are many paths towards bilingual education, each with its pros and cons. However, the route you take will depend on your specific circumstances. In this article, we discuss the Spanish education system and outline what to consider when selecting a bilingual school for your child.

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The education system in Spain

In Spain, it is compulsory for all children to attend school between the ages of 6 and 16. After 16 years old, they can choose to continue their education so they can apply to university or enter vocational training. The Spanish education system is divided into three groups: state schools, state-subsidised private schools, and independent schools, which include most international schools.

Fortunately, the state education system in Spain is of a very high standard. Therefore, if you’re staying in Spain long-term or have young children, sending them to a local school is a great way to help them integrate. However, if you aren’t a competent Spanish speaker, you may find this challenging. For instance, it’s likely you’ll find helping with homework or communicating with teachers difficult.

Under these circumstances, or if you have older children or if you’re living in Spain short-term, an international school might be a better option. Your children will be able to continue with a familiar curriculum taught in their native language with small classes and high-quality facilities. However, the downside is these schools often come with high fees and less contact with Spanish language and culture. 

Is a bilingual school the solution?

Whichever route you choose, many parents want their children to learn both languages. As a result, bilingual education is gaining popularity in both the state and private sectors. Since 1996, the British Council has made a significant investment in bilingual education, alongside the Spanish Ministry of Education and Vocational Training. Today, there is an integrated bilingual curriculum for 89 primary and 56 secondary schools across Spain.

However, a recent article in El Pais has criticised the project. Some experts argue that it has been rolled out too quickly where demand is high, thus compromising the quality of education. That said, the benefits of bilingual education are undeniable. Not only is it shown to increase cognitive capacity, but it also creates a vast amount of future opportunities – especially when it comes to a language as widely spoken as Spanish.

Choosing the right school for your child

As in our introduction, the school you choose for your child will depend on your unique circumstances. For instance, if your budget allows, you may choose to send them to a private international school. Equally, if you want to ensure they’re fully integrated into Spanish society, you may prefer to enroll them in the state sector. Both educational systems offer excellent opportunities for learning, so you can choose the school that’s right for you with confidence. 

However, if you’re exploring sending your child to a bilingual school, you should make sure to visit and evaluate the teachers’ approach. For instance, are both languages given equal attention? Are the needs of one native group privileged over the other? Which subjects are taught in which language and how are they assessed? Equally, it’s also prudent to do some research about the school’s funding streams. You’ll want to make sure there’s likely to be consistent provision for bilingual education to ensure standards are maintained.

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Learning another language is an incredible opportunity and one that you’ll doubtless want to share with your children. Researching where to send your children to school is very important – and bilingual education can make this research more complex. However, with the right care and attention, you can select an educational environment that will help your child excel, in both English and Spanish.

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