First, let me start by saying that we have a limited source of data for this post. It is just our opinion and Comparison of the 1 Primary School we attended in the USA and the 1 Primary School we are attending in Spain. This is by no means meant to generalize for a country or even a city/district.
These are just the things we have personally experienced or observed in our own little Wagoner Bubble, with the Spain education system compared to US! 🙂
If you are living or have lived in Spain with kids in public school, please share your observations as well.
Update October 2022: We moved to Spain in August of 2012 and at the time our kids were in 3rd and 5th grades. They remained in the public school system until they both graduated from high school and went to universy. Though there are many differences between primary school and high school in Spain, we didn’t add it to this post.
Instead, we have provided our knowledge of the Spanish education system, including private and international schooling options, in our ebook about Education in Spain.
Read our post on Schools In Spain – Options For Education, with the addition of our search for universities.
Here is a basic comparison chart of Education in Spain vs USA
- Cafeteria –
US – Located in school and kids can buy lunch.
Spain – Kids bring their own snack, no cafeteria.
- Daily Agenda
US – Weekly newsletter from the teacher with upcoming activities and homework assignments for the week. Teachers are open to email communications with parents.
Spain – An agenda/book for the entire school calendar with all holidays and breaks outlined, as well as each trimester and exam scores. Each day the kids write down their homework assignments in the book. This is also the means for parents/teachers to communicate.
- Daily Class Schedule
US – The same subjects each day with rotating electives/specials (Music, PE, Spanish, Science, Technology, and Art)
Spain – Each day has different subjects, but it is the same on a weekly schedule. There is an exam for each subject every 18 school days.
US – Monday – Thursday ~ 20-30 min
Spain – Monday – Friday 1-2 hrs. Each day and over weekends and holidays too.
US – 8:30 – 3:00 with Lunch
Spain – 9:00 – 2:00 with 30 min snack/recess. (depending on the region, some are 8:30 – 5:00 with siesta)
US – Teachers monitor kids on the playground.
Spain – Teachers are on the playground with kids; they gather together, talk/text on phones and have smoking breaks near the school gate.
US – Not taught in public schools.
Spain – Taught in public school, with an choice of various religions and an option for the child to attend an alternative topic.
- Resources (Parental)
US – There appears to be much more parental involvement in the running of ancillary school functions (teacher/office assistants, PTA, etc.).
Spain – While there is a PTA in Spain (it’s called AMPA in several areas), there appears to be less effort in bringing in new parents, fewer sponsored activities, much less in the way of fund-raising.
- Resources (School)
US – More school-sponsored activities, curricula, and equipment.
Spain – Depending on the type of school there are often fewer activities and classes. School infrastructure is more dated. Class environments are more barren (lack of posters, in-class activity stations, etc.). Lack of heating and air conditioning.
- School Bus
US – Typical yellow school bus in any state. Bus can be the main standard, plus carpool and walking/biking.
Spain – More of a greyhound type bus is used, with a sign in the front window “school bus”. A majority of the kids live in the catchment area and walk or bike to school.
Spanish school classroom
This is an example of a primary school in Spain, in our town of Almuñécar (on the coast of Granada).
Click here to open the video in youtube.
What do you think about the comparison of primary schools in USA and Spain?
There are also several similarities between Spanish vs American schools. For example; there are separate classrooms per grade, with a teacher instructing. The school day usually consists of various subjects, with breaks or recess. When it comes to numbers, well they are still numbers. We will say the long division in Spain is done a little differently from what we were used to in the US, but it is still division.
How do we keep the kids up with English and USA topics for school?
For the first few years, we purchased the brain quest workbooks by grade. These are absolutely amazing and full of entertaining worksheets. We had a tradition to tear out the pages when they were completed and reviewed. This way the book would become smaller as we continued and they could see their progress.
Of course we held off on these initially, as immersing into the Spanish public school was enough. We treated these as summer or travel workbooks. They were perfect to take along on trips.
More Wagoners Abroad posts on our experience with Education in Spain
- Learning Spanish – The Tools We Use
- Read about Heidi Immersed In A Spanish Conversation Course and More!
- Spanish Immersion La Alberca Spain – Watch The Most Vulnerable Moments!
- Spanish Immersion Ronda Spain – Alan- The Kick In The Pants I Needed
- What will you do about education in Spain for your kids?
- First day of school Anya’s thoughts
- In 3rd and 5ht grades, First Day of Public Spanish School?
- This was a bit of a surprise and isn’t always the norm to Pass The Paper – The Odd Differences In Spanish Schools
- Education in our Spanish Public School – Tutoring offered by the school board
- Waka Waka Wagoner – how their public school is helping them learn Spanish
- How are the kids doing in school after their 1st trimester? We were pleased!
- 6 Months Living in Spain – What do the Kids Think?
- Nearly 10 Months Living in Spain – What do the Kids Think?
- It went by so fast! Read all about 1 Year Attending School In Spain – What We Didn’t Tell You
- Hear The Kids Speak In Spanish –18 Months Living In Spain!
- Nearly Two Years Living In Spain – Thoughts From Anya and Lars
- Long Division Examples For Spain
Homeschooling in Spain – This is what we know…
Do you want to know more about the Education System in Spain?
If you are looking for more in-depth information on the education system in Spain vs USA, we have more information available for you. We cover the different types of schooling options in Spain for primary, public schools, private schools and more.
Alan has written a very thorough e-book, Live in Spain, which walks you, step by step, through the entire process of the non-lucrative visa requirements and the Spain retirement visa requirements.
It is full of tips and tools to help you and a matrix with spells out the special things for each Spanish consulate in the USA. It also provides you with a checklist to make sure all of the organization and timing of documents in on target.
We have helped hundreds of families, couples and singles successfully move to Spain!
We also have a book to help you prepare for your move and getting settled once you arrive! Getting Settled In Spain
Some other articles that may be of help to you.
- How to move to Spain
- What is the Cost To Live In Spain For 1 Year?
- How to estimate the cost of living.
- Read more about our tips for Preparing For Your Move Abroad
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