From age 12 (or nearly 12) children move on to Secondary school (El Instituto). Until about ten years ago, secondary school started at 14 and in some areas the first two years of secondary are still accommodated in the Primary building if the local Instituto is not physically big enough to hold them. The new secondary system is modelled loosely on the British comprehensive system, moving away from a two level system (similar to Grammar and Secondary Modern) to complete mixed ability schooling. The first four years are called “la E.S.O.” (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria). Children can leave school at the end of this section or at the age of 16 if they reach this sooner. The E.S.O. is divided into two cycles with the same system of repeated years at the end of each cycle as occurs in Primary education.
A wide range of secondary subjects are taught, including a language choice between French and English. Until recent years secondary education in
One of the main criticisms of the new Secondary system centres on the discipline problems involved in teenage children who are repeating courses being placed in the same classes as younger more academically inclined children. There is still much debate about the success of reforms in secondary education, and improvements are being introduced.
At the end of the four year E.S.O. students may leave school, go on to the two-year “Bachillerato” academic course, or enrol on practical training courses called “modulos“. There are four types of Bachillerato – Arts, Humanities, Natural and Health Sciences and Technology. Modulos include office and administrative skills, mechanics, catering, and hairdressing. After two years in Bachillerato students have intensive examinations during the month of May and their final mark is based on a combination of examination results and continuous assessment. A month later, in June, students who wish to go to University take a general University entrance examination (P.A.U.) and the University course they are able to follow depends on the result of this examination along with their Bachillerato results.
A far higher percentage of students attend University in
School calendar and timetable
The school year starts in mid-September and ends in the third week of June. There is usually a break of two weeks or so at Christmas and about a week and a half for Easter. There are no half-term holidays as such, but there are short breaks throughout the year which are organised around national, regional and local saints’ days and festivals. There are two kinds of timetables, a divided day which allows at least two hours for lunch, or the innovation of the “jornada continua”, a blocked day which finishes in the early afternoon. Most secondary schools have now adopted this blocked day timetable, so your teenager will be free from about 2 p.m. every day.