The Spanish case-The educational system of Catalunia-Spain


Preschool and kindergarten are called together Early Childhood Education.

There are two stages:

  • 1st stage: 0-3 years old. Is not compulsory.
  • 2nd stage: 3-6 years old. Not compulsory for the families to enroll their children but universal (compulsory for the government to offer it to the whole 3-6 years old population).


Elementary education lasts 6 years.
It starts at 6 year old and ends at 12 years old.
The curriculum is unified but there is room for flexibility in how it is applied, regulated, selected, and how the competencies and transversal. educational contents are distributed. Each school has its own “Center Educational Project”.


Secondary school lasts 6 years. It begins at 12 and ends at 18. The first 4 years are compulsory. It’s compulsory until the year the child turns 16.
All the children are admitted in the first stage of high school (from 12 to 16) as it is compulsory.
To be admitted to the 2nd non-compulsory stage (from 16 to 18) they have to have obtained the first stage degree (the degree of the secondary compulsory education). This optional second phase is focused specially to university studies (it’s not vocational training).
There is no special procedure in order to enter secondary education. There are unified exams in primary measuring basic competences, but they are only used for educational policy evaluations (and for educational advice to families).
The year consists of 36 teaching weeks. The week consists of 30 teaching hours.
Apart from public schools, there are also private schools. In fact, we can find three kinds of schools: public, private but supported by public funds (named concerted), and private.
We would like to add that the curriculum for the first stage secondary education (from 12 to 16) relies on competences and contents. It has been traditionally content based but efforts and initiatives are being done to adopt methods focusing on skills acquisition combined with content acquisition.
The non-compulsory stage (from 16-18) is very much oriented to the exams to enter University and is content oriented.


Some High Schools use the principles of STEAM education. There’s a movement coming from teacher associations, policy makers and other stakeholders promoting STEAM Education. It has strong institutional support.
There are training courses on STEAM education offered from official educational departments to train the teachers that want to enroll on them in a voluntary way.
Teachers can enroll in government programs on STEAM.  Some of them as an individual and some others in training offered to the whole High School to develop a project.
There’s information from the Educational Department on STEAM education distributed to High Schools and teachers about their programs.

Training on STEAM education is not specifically included in the documentation of the compulsory contents of the teacher’s training courses at Universities, but there are some.
STEAM encourages critical thinking. The compulsory high school curriculum (12-16) emphasizes very much the importance of educating the critical sense. The expression critical sense and derivatives are mentioned 110 times in the curriculum document which is 412 pages long. One of the objectives in the list of objectives of the compulsory secondary education is “To develop an entrepreneurial spirit and self-confidence, critical thinking, personal initiative and the ability to learn to learn, plan, make decisions, and take responsibility”.
Nevertheless, for some teachers it is hard to find a methodology that allows them to teach the contents and encourage critical thinking at the same time. They are dealing with high ratios of students in class, bureaucratic charges, etc.
STEAM consists of approaching technology among other courses. We offer technological courses.
STEAM included the teaching of arts. In Italy there are mandatory courses in Visual arts (drawing and painting) and music in the first 3 years, and they are optional in the following years.  Drama and dance are optional from the 4th year.  They are approached both theoretically and practically.
As far as  science lessons are concerned, there are theoretical classes and also classes in labs and field trips, but it depends very much on the teacher and the time.
Engineering courses, also included in STEAM education  are normally mixed with technology courses.
As far as the teaching of Maths is concerned, the curriculum document for the compulsory secondary education (12-16) encourages mathematical competence for real life. In particular, it states: “Mathematical competence, understood in a generic way, is the ability to develop and apply mathematical reasoning in order to solve various problems in everyday situations. Beyond knowledge, places the emphasis on processes and activity. Its acquisition involves, to varying degrees, the ability and willingness to use mathematical forms of thought (logical and spatial thinking) and representation (formulas, models, constructions, graphs and diagrams). In a math curriculum based on core competencies beyond traditional content blocks (numbering and calculation; change and relations; space and form; measure; statistics and chance), acquire special importance the processes that take place throughout the mathematical work (resolution of problems; reasoning and proof; connections; communication and representation)”.
Nevertheless, for some teachers it is hard to combine the teaching of the contents with the mentioned objectives.
As far as  the knowledge of people of STEAM and its benefits is concerned, we do not have enough data to answer that, but in our experience with the teachers we are in contact with, they do.
We would like to add that the official educational curriculum in Catalonia, is very much oriented to the STEAM approach or philosophy. Nevertheless, there is not a general application of the methodologies needed to make it real, such as teachers from different areas working in teams.


Catalonia has 12 Universities, 7 public and 5 private. Spain has 82 active universities, 50 public and 32 private. Four years are needed for the bachelor degree The degree of all of them officially is of the same level and quality. Moreover, a student can prolong his studies.
Universities, also, have Master’s degree’s equivalent to the rest of Europe. Phd students in general are not paid. Some of them have fellowships.
Finally, our higher educational institutes have adopted the ECTS system


There is an institution which creates the national educational program
For Primary, secondary and professional training:
Ministerio de Educación y Formación Profesional. Gobierno de España. Secondly the government of every autonomous region can offer a more concrete version of every educational decision.
For Higher Education:

Ministerio de Universidades.
As far as the existence of a procedure for students of different levels who have studied abroad to be considered as equivalent to home students  there is none for elementary and secondary compulsory education. But there is one for Higher Education.
For Higher Education a validation study is carried out to check if there is equivalence. In case of not total equivalence students from abroad need to enroll in some University courses to complete the validation of the degree.

As far as the possibility to adapt the timetable in order to suit the needs of the families (e.g. introduce more extra classes in the afternoon, offer afternoon activities, offer obligatory courses in the afternoon),It works normally through the families associations. They organize after-school activities in the school building.
As far as textbooks are concerned, they are commonly not public (but some traditional schools can use them). Nevertheless, textbooks follow the official curriculum, but are developed freely by every editor.
They are, also, not free.
In some cases, in public schools there are some additional  expenses for materials or school trips.
As far as second chance schools are concerned, there’s an adult educational system.
There are no special foreign language schools for students who may not speak the native language. Newcomers are integrated in the normal school system. They spend some hours per week in with a teacher in the “welcoming classroom” (aula d’a collida) to work toward the adaptation of the language

As far as the obligation to apply the national education program, the basic contents of the curriculum have to be accomplished but there’s freedom in the methodologies used (although the curriculum itself can consider general approaches and some concrete methodological advice in some cases). Every school has to define an Educational Project for the center.


According to our point of view, the aims, objectives and methodologies encouraged in the curriculum are compatible with an active education, child-centered and in tune with the STEAM paradigm. Nevertheless, the application of these methodologies is hindered by the low teacher-student ratio, the scarcity of human and material resources, the large amount of bureaucratic tasks for management teams, and the lack of support for coordinating teams of teachers from different areas to work together.

The Spanish case-The educational system of Catalunia-Spain
Scroll to top