Schools in Spain vs Schools in USA: key differences

Question about schools in Spain

Can someone explain the difference between schools in the USA compared to schools in Spain? This terrifies me. It is the only thing that is holding me from moving there.


These are the answers of Spainguru Facebook group members:

”High school is way better than the US. college I would say really depends on the major although obviously Spain is way cheaper. If it’s a stem major after the second year it should be done in the US”

”Non-lucrative visa holders and we moved last year with 4 kids (now in Pre-K, Year 1, Year 2, and the youngest is home with us). Our consulate (Chicago) required proof of enrollment in a private school upon applying for the NLV- public school was not an option. They go from 9:00-4:30 and we chose a small school that focuses on social-emotional regulation. From what I know of the public schools, they do not handle any kind of neurodivergence or divergence from the learning method of rote memorization. (None of our children are neurodivergent, but if yours are, it wouldn’t be handled well.)

They may be more advanced in what they’ve memorized but there’s more to school/learning than that and it’s important to me that curriculums can be tailored to each child’s learning method. Math, world history, and other subjects that are better suited to rote memorization are strong subjects here that do seem to be more advanced than the U.S., but as most expats know, their school systems produce the systems/workers we experience as frustrating- very inefficient, sometimes utterly absurd, unable to problem solve, unable to deviate from memorized protocols.

Interactions in government offices, local stores, and everywhere in between reinforce that the workforce and people who design these systems/work in these jobs are a product of the public schools. So we’ll be watching our kids’ educations very carefully to make sure that they are learning logic and problem-solving skills and making interdisciplinary connections so that we can supplement at home. As far as the private school goes, its curriculum is based on research about how kids best learn and become well-adjusted adults.

It’s definitely more advanced than public schools since the Infantil (Head Start through Kindergarten) incorporates a lot of play, dance, and drama, but last year my Head Starter learned all the phonics, how to write letters, and simple math and my kindergartner can read entire children’s books after just 1 year”

”I think it’s probably similar to Italy (where I have more experience) in that there’s a lot of rote memorization and testing (at least for older grades). And a lot of homework, but when the school day is only 5 hours that makes sense I guess”

”Schools in Spain vary widely from one region to the other, one school to another and public vs private. Even from one teacher to another in the very same grade and school could be different. Your question is much too broad to answer”

”Prívate schools tend to be 9-4 or 5 and state schools 8-2 or 3 , depending on age”

”Bad: too much memorization, too much homework, horrible English level, bullying
Good: No guns”

”I went through school in Spain, with the exception of the 6th grade, which I did in Puerto Rico. When I came back to Spain for the 7th, I was behind compared to my classmates. I can also tell you that high school for me was harder than getting a BS at a California State University. In Spain, teachers don’t mess around. As a teenager, there was many a weekend where I had to stay home because of homework or exam”

”Seconding Anya at My Barcelona School..we’re currently working with her and she’s been so thorough and helpful. I 100% recommend her if you want some extra assistance looking for schools”

”Kids in Spain get an education second to none. Politicians in Spain don’t use the educational system to advance their own political whims. No school shootings, whatsoever. Having your children educated in Spain is something, you will be very comfortable of”

”I have a 1st grader, 6th grader, 10th grader and 12th grader. The school system is very old school. Primary is getting better but high school is not. High school teachers, in general, are not at all passionate about their jobs. In our region 32% of kids fail and repeat a grade before they even reach 11th grade. 11th and 12,the grade require many hours of study per day in order to pass.

All memorization and exams. They do not prepare the kids for life as an adult at all. And schools are purely academic. Sports are almost always done in clubs outside of school. My oldest son did 10th grade in the US and was so behind when he came back for 11th in Spain. He barely passed and had to go to a private tutor many hrs per week. Not sure he will get through 12th.

No guns or shootings so only with that I would say it is better here in Spain. I do wish the educational system would modernize. I am a teacher and have worked in both countries. Teacher salaries are very low here and the profession in general is not respected in my opinion”

”Can’t comment on schools in Spain but the children of my cousins in Croatia and Germany are light years ahead of ours in USA. I mean LIGHT YEARS. They all speak fluent English (as well as learn other languages) and have a huge advantage in math and history as far as I can tell. I’m sure it’s the same in other subjects”

”My colleagues here in Spain took their kids out of American schools and put them into local schools and they are very happy. ( Seville) (6 families)”

”I live here in Spain and my kids go to school at 9AM and come back for lunch at 1 PM. Go back at 3 until 5. It is a great system. The schools are much safer and there is more interaction with the kids than in USA”

”The schools are 9:00am to 5:00pm but lunchtime is 1:00pm to 3:00pm you chose to take your kids and eat together at home or the stay to eat in el comedor that you have to pay for their food that is cook at the school, they will give you the menú monthly, is Healthy Mediterranean food but I have a very picky kids that don’t like it, and they come and eat with us.

Also at the brake time they have desayuno usually outside of the school, they take the to the closest park and they eat their snacks there. I feel my kids are safe at school I’m not afraid that is going to be a shooting or something like that”

”Much safer in Spain. You don’t have to worry if some nut job is going to open fire on your children. No brainer”

”The schools in the USA are holding pens. Don’t be afraid. Americans send their kids to UNSAFE schools daily. Here, they won’t be using books as bullet stoppers”

”We had a very bad experience with the public system. I’d say privately is the way to go”

”It doesn’t matter what the topic is. If you ask a question comparing almost anything between Spain and the USA, you can guarantee that this group will choose Spain. There are a lot of people in here who absolutely hate America. For example, if you asked about air quality you would be told that in Barcelona it’s better than in Big Sky, Montana. Take most of these answers with a grain of salt. Best of luck to you and your son”

”There is more security mainly, there is no fear because someone will come with a weapon and make a massacre. Comparison teaching is better because it encompasses a lot. It is better and I know it because I have relatives in the United States and secondary education there is very basic and of poor quality”

”My son was a teacher at a public school in Madrid as well as in New York and he prefers Spain education over the US. The hours in Madrid were from 8-2”

”If anything about “abroad” “terrifies” you, you need to re-focus. Especially when speaking of Europe”

”In general, in Europe the is a higher level of education compared to the US. Yes, we are being told otherwise. I would think school safety would be my biggest pro-Spanish school”

”I teach public high school in NY. I’m also a mom of 6 with 20 years between oldest and youngest. For reference, I teach collegiate-level math (calculus and statistics). My oldest and my youngest got VERY different educations as things have changed for the WORSE! My youngest is in college now.

IF I had children of school age now I would move to Spain (or another country) and put them in school or home school or private school (if I had to stay in the States). There is no authentic learning in he US now. The narrative is ridiculous and school is no longer about learning to read, write, do math, or think critically. Your kids will be better off ANYWHERE but the US. Breaks my heart to say that”

”I never had kids in the system in Spain, but I can tell you this…. when I met my husband ( a Spaniard) many, many moons ago, we were both in high school, and I was actually amazed as to how little I knew ACROSS THE BOARD in comparison to him and all of our other Spanish friends. I think that’s very telling. PS, he was in PUBLIC school, and I was in an expensive PRIVATE school”


In conclusion, according to Spainguru Facebook group members highlight the potential advantages of the Spanish education system, such as a focus on memorization, a safer environment without concerns about security, and a more holistic approach to education.

Others express concerns about the heavy workload, limited flexibility, and lack of preparation for life as an adult in the Spanish schooling system. The decision ultimately depends on individual preferences, priorities, and the specific region and specific school in Spain, as the education system can vary widely.