Child-friendly schools, education for independence and acceptance

If you’re looking to settle down on the sunny coast of Spain, specifically the Costa del Sol, for a short or long period of time and you have children, you’re in luck. There are many international schools in the Malaga-Marbella area, making it easy to find a child-friendly school. However, Spanish public schools are also a great option as they promote independence, acceptance, and allow children to be children.

Kindergarten – Escuela Infantil

Pre-primary education in Spain is divided into two parts similar to Hungary: nursery school for children up to the age of 3 (known as Guardería) and kindergarten for children aged 3-6 (known as Escuela Infantil). While this education is not mandatory, the Spanish government operates many high-quality institutions. The maximum number of students per class is 25.

English education is introduced in the kindergarten level and can be supplemented with optional extra classes. Private nurseries or kindergartens are mainly different from public ones in that they offer education in two languages, with English and Spanish usually being taught in equal proportions.

State and foundation kindergartens are free, but parents must submit an admission application. While meals and special activities are available, neither is mandatory. Private kindergartens require a tuition fee, plus parents must purchase uniforms, workbooks and pay for meals separately, which are mandatory.

Typically, kindergartens start between 8:50 and 9:00, which may cause traffic congestion. However, the police help manage traffic around the kindergartens and schools, ensuring the flow of traffic resumes smoothly in just a few minutes.

Primary school education

Elementary education is compulsory and free in public schools for children aged 6-12. It is divided into three two-year cycles: 1st cycle: up to 6-8 years old, 2nd cycle: up to 8-10 years old, 3rd cycle: up to 10-12 years old.
The maximum class size is 25 people. It ensures the acquisition of general knowledge for children (culture, communication, writing, reading and arithmetic).
The initial tuition fees of private schools range from 500 to 1,100 euros/month. Schools with a Spanish education system – Spanish-English bilingual up to the 6th grade – may be easier to finance for a Spanish middle-class family. The English Cambridge schools are much more expensive, they teach in English, but they also teach Spanish at a high level, and they have Spanish lessons for the children every day. In private schools, in addition to teaching in English and Spanish, one or two foreign languages ​​are introduced in the 1st grade, some in the 3rd grade. This is usually French and German.
As there are so many people of different nationalities living together in and around Marbella, it is not surprising if 20 or even 67 children of different nationalities study at a school (mostly private schools) at the same time. In these schools, they are very open to cultural differences, which of course is only good for the children, since they are brought up to accept and respect others.

Secondary education

Secondary education in this country spans four years and is divided into two periods of two years each. During the first stage, students are required to complete a common core curriculum along with some optional subjects. In the second cycle, several optional subjects are introduced, but their level of difficulty does not determine the student’s future academic path. This level of education is attended by students aged between 12 and 16 years old.

Bachillerato – Preparation for graduation

The educational program offers a two-year course that is divided into four main fields of study: technical sciences, humanities and social sciences, natural and health sciences, and the arts. Along with optional subjects, students follow a common core curriculum in all four directions. This preparatory training for the baccalaureate is intended for students between the ages of 16 and 18. In the Bachillerato program, students are evaluated based on subject areas, taking into account the requirements and assessment criteria of the course of study. To obtain the Bachillerato certificate, students must pass all subjects.

In private schools, students have the option to pursue both the Spanish baccalaureate and the international baccalaureate, which is taught in English. If a student wishes to do so, they can take subjects for both the Spanish and international baccalaureate programs simultaneously. Doing so provides the opportunity to continue studies at foreign universities.

Higher education

The Spanish university system comprises 49 public universities, 14 private universities, and 4 Catholic universities, each offering different types of training and qualifications. The universities provide three-cycle training, including basic education (Grado), master’s degree (Master), and doctoral (PhD) programs (Doctorado). This three-cycle training was introduced in the 2008-2009 school year. In general, the school year starts in the last week of September and ends in the first week of June, with an average of 20-30 teaching hours per week. To gain admission, a high school graduation certificate and an entrance exam are required.

Students are required to pay tuition fees for higher education in the credit value of the subjects taken. The Ministry of Education determines a budget each year, and the autonomous communities where the university is located determine how much students have to pay for their studies. However, the Ministry of Education provides a number of scholarships and support opportunities to students who meet the prescribed requirements. The amount and possibility of the subsidies largely depend on the family’s financial situation and the student’s academic results. Students need to submit the application form and other necessary documents, such as the upper secondary school certificate and secondary school certificates of EU member states, to the institution where they wish to study.

Personal experiences of mothers

Victoria :

“My daughter attends the Alboran English-Spanish bilingual private school in Marbella. We also tried their kindergarten before enrolling her in the first grade. Our experiences with both have been very positive. The monthly tuition fee is around 7-800 euros, and we also have to pay for books separately. While Spanish is the main language of instruction, certain subjects are taught in English. The school is project-based, with each trimester having its own project. I love that the children are given opportunities to perform from the beginning, which helps them develop acting skills early on. The school also focuses on teaching children to be attentive and aware of issues such as the environment and diversity. They organize various sports activities, with facilities like a swimming pool, horse riding and padel courts available on campus.”

Cilla:

“My daughter just finished third grade in a small village school in Manilva, Spain. Enrollment was easy, based on our residency. As my daughter did not know Spanish when we moved, she had separate Spanish classes for a year and a half. The class size is small, with about twenty students per class, and a new teacher every year. My daughter is learning English and French. Classes are from 9 am to 12 pm, with breaks, so they sit more than she would at home, but the school day is shorter. Afternoon classes and supervision require payment, but only a minimal contribution is required for the school. Textbooks are free in public schools. The education is project-based, and they do not overload the children with homework. The school believes that children should enjoy their childhood until the age of 12 and not be burdened with excessive work. We appreciate this approach, and my daughter loves going to school.”

Réka:

“My two daughters attend the British International School in the center of Marbella. The building is situated on a hill, offering a fantastic view of the sea. However, what makes the children happy to carry their school bags every morning is not just the view. This international private school prioritizes being family-friendly, where the director greets the children at the gate every day with a kind word for everyone. The language of education is English, following the British system, and Spanish classes are also held every day. The school’s goal is to prepare children for life by instilling independence, courage, a broad perspective, and self-confidence in every lesson. Education is project-based, where topics are worked out collaboratively in small or large groups or even individually, and then presented. In this way, the curriculum is better retained, rather than focusing on lexical knowledge. Tests are concentrated for one week at a time, and students are purposefully prepared for them. The subjects are studied in blocks, which is useful as there is no separate biology-physics-chemistry; instead, there is a science subject, allowing students to examine one phenomenon from several perspectives in their classes. The children are easygoing, not stressed, and full of self-confidence and happiness. This school is what we call a real school with capital letters!”