Comparison of Primary School in USA and Spain

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.

Spain education system compared to US. School in Spain - education options for expats. Differences and similarities between schools in Spain and the United States. Read more on

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 2019:  We moved to Spain in August of 2012 and at the time our kids were in 3rd and 5th grades.  They have remained in the public school system and are both in high school.   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.

Spain education system compared to US. School in Spain - education options for expats. Differences and similarities between schools in Spain and the United States. Read more on

Here is a basic comparison chart of Education in Spain vs USA

SchoolUSA - NC
(ONE Public International Baccalaureate Magnet School)
Spain - Andalucía Region
(ONE Public State School)
CafeteriaLocated in school and kids can buy lunch.Kids bring their own snack, no cafeteria.
Daily AgendaWeekly newsletter from the teacher with upcoming activities and homework assignments for the week. Teachers are open to email communications with parents.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 ScheduleThe same subjects each day with rotating electives/specials (Music, PE, Spanish, Science, Technology, and Art)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.
HomeworkMonday - Thursday  ~ 20-30 minMonday - Friday 1-2 hrs. Each day and over weekends and holidays too.
Hours8:30 - 3:00 with Lunch9:00 - 2:00 with 30 min snack/recess.
RecessTeachers monitor kids on the playground.Teachers are on the playground with kids; they gather together, talk/text on phones and have smoking breaks near the school gate.
ReligionNot taught in public schools.Taught in public school, with an option for the parent to choose if the student attends that topic.
Resources (Parental)There appears to be much more parental involvement in the running of ancillary school functions (teacher/office assistants, PTA, etc.).While there is a PTA here (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)More school-sponsored activities, curricula, and equipment.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 BusTypical yellow school bus in any state.More of a greyhound type bus, with a sign in the front window "school bus".
School SecurityMust sign in the office to enter school during school hours. The playground is open to the parking lot etc. Drop off and Pick up outside of the front office. A parent can walk the child to class if desired.School is behind tall walls and locked gates during school hours. Must buzz in to visit the office during hours. No parents beyond the gate at morning drop off but may enter 5 min prior to school end for pick up.
School SizeK-5, approx. 6 classes of 22+ for each grade. (over 800 students)K-6, approx. 1-2 classes of 22 for each grade. (under 200 students)
School SuppliesThere is a good list of supplies that children must bring with them to school. (Paper, pens, pencils, folders, etc.)The list for Spain is very similar for pens, papers etc.  
Second LanguageSpanish taught from K-6English and French are taught from K-6
Student Addressing TeacherMs./Mr./Mrs.  Last Name.First name
Students BehaviorKids are kids, but well-mannered for the most part. The occasional bully, but not tolerated.Kids are kids, but it does seem there is a bit more bullying tolerated than we are used to. Not overly common, but there are a few.
Teachers EmotionsProfessionalism maintained and kids are none the wiser of any frustrations, likes or dislikes of the Teacher.Hearts are on the sleeves. No problem expressing frustration, rolling of eyes, even yelling at the kids. Teachers yell at students.
Teachers PassionVery passionate and care for the children and their education.Very passionate and care for the children and their education. Of the teachers we currently have, they are very dedicated and good teachers.
TutorAssistance is available for English as Second Language Students.All non-Spanish speaking students are provided with a language tutor if school requests.

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

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. 

Check out our Education in Spain ebook, where we explain all of the education options from preschool through high school. 
Read more about the book here


More info on getting your Spain Non-Lucrative Visa Here

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! 

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If you are moving to Spain from the US or just about any other country, this will help you with your residency paperwork, setting up banks, utilities & services. Save you money on ATM's, transfers and cars. Read more on

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.

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From relocation planning and visa application to residency and getting settled, we offer our expertise and knowledgeable advice.  We can help you with your move to Spain with children or without.  We also offer bespoke services for your move to Costa Tropical.  Click here tor read more about our Moving to Spain services.


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