Educational options for teenagers in Madrid


Written bystepsint


Are you planning an overseas experience in Madrid with your teenage kids? Are you relocating to the Spanish capital for professional reasons and seek the best educational options for your teenagers? Perhaps you are already settled in Madrid and are interested in the educational options for teenagers. As an international education expert based in Madrid, Sinéad Galvin has her finger on the pulse. Read on to find out more about the wonderful world of secondary education in the capital city Madrid.

Education in Spain is compulsory from the ages of six to sixteen years old and covers both primary (6 -12 years old) and secondary (12-16 years old). Teenagers in Madrid can choose between E.S.O (Certificate of Compulsory Secondary Education), FP (Formación Profesional) Básica, FP Grado Medio, Spanish Baccalaureate (el Bachillerato), International Baccalaureate (IB) and the Dual Diploma.


Secondary general education culminates in the ESO and is taught over four years. ESO covers all core humanities, science, arts and technology subjects in a comprehensive manner. Students are continually assessed, and a lot of emphasis is placed on passing exams which are set using evaluation criteria such as complete the gaps, explain everything you know and multiple choice.

The majority of Spanish children aged 14-16 years old will study the final two years of high school to complete the ESO. However, some teenagers opt for incredible vocational training courses in subjects such as business administration, textiles, mechanics, glass and ceramics, carpentry, assembly line engineering, IT, beauty, food tech, hospitality and tourism.

FP Básica

Perhaps unfairly considered a poor relative to ESO, FP Básica (known as Basic VET for the purposes of European Educational Research and Standardization) offers comprehensive education for teenagers whose temperament, ability or situation may not suit the breadth of ESO programmes. FP Básica vocational courses include core literacy and numeracy skills to a nationally accepted standard, ensuring educational homogeneity for young people in Spain up to the age of 16. However, they also offer practical skills that prepare young people for a variety of professions and trades including, for example, working within the fashion industry, becoming a care worker or classroom assistant, becoming a mechanic or working in IT.

Dual Diploma

Students who are planning on obtaining an American High School certificate can begin studying for this qualification from the age of 14 as a structured afterschool activity taught at more than 60 secondary schools across the region. Those who choose to prepare the Dual Diploma learn very quickly how to manage their time so as to take advantage of the flexibility of the programe without compromising their Spanish curricular obligations. Click here for an interview with a British Mum whose son recently completed the Dual Diploma in a private school in Madrid. Both she and her son have nothing but praise for the qualification, saying the programme gave her son soft skills as well as a much broader education.

Continuing education for 16–18-year-olds in Spain

There are several choices for teenagers to continue their studies after completing compulsory education. The most popular vocational option is FP Grado Medio, with academic options including the Spanish Baccalaureate, International Baccalaureate, Dual Diploma (Spanish Baccalaureate with the American High School certificate) or A Levels.

FP Grado Medio

This vocational training is the cornerstone of an ambitious 5-year national plan to adapt occupational standards to the current requirements of the workplace. This in-depth report explains shows how training needs have been detected and specific skills are being taught to 16-18 year old students in FP medio courses that are already a benchmark at European level. There has never been a better time to undertake vocational training in Spain. Check out the range of subjects on offer in Madrid here [content in Spanish] and watch this interview with the principal at a Spanish public school to learn all about what’s on offer.

Spanish Baccalaureate (el Bachillerato)

Students study 16 subjects over two years, with continuous evaluation and three sets of exams per year, as explained in this video. The assessment criteria for the Spanish Baccalaureate has been designed by the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training with different processes applying to each subject. In order to gain access to university, pupils are then required to sit an entrance exam called “Evaluación de Acceso a la Universidad”, (E.v.A.U).

International Baccalaureate (IB)

Many sixth form colleges and high schools offer the International Baccalaureate in English to highly disciplined, open-minded students who are bilingual or have achieved a High Pass B2 English qualification. It is equally popular in private Spanish schools who offer the IB in Spanish and there are a handful of public schools (aprox. 8 in Madrid) who offer the IB in Spanish. This qualification consists of a common core and six groups of subjects taught over two years and has a comprehensive assessment system to award a final grade which is clearly explained here.

Another interesting option is the combined French Baccalauréat degree and the Spanish Bachillerato degreeBachibac click here for further details. 

Dual Diploma (Bachillerato Dual)

As mentioned above, many students begin to prepare the Dual Diploma from the age of 14, however it is still possible to begin the programme at the same time as doing the International Baccalaureate or Spanish Bachillerato. Students study in two schools at the same time: in person at their school in Madrid and in the United States via online classes. Despite the virtual element of the American education, most Spanish high schools that have embraced the Dual Diploma provide structure so that a set of subjects are covered, and specific knowledge acquisition is supported by teachers during school hours.

A Levels

A Levels (British qualifications) are taught at private British schools in Madrid and are easily validated with the Spanish Baccalaureate for students for access to the EvAU university entrance examinations. With their British A Level qualifications, students obtain their Calificación de Acceso a la Universidad (CAU) automatically. They can enter the “Fase voluntaria” exams in order to improve their grade point average by up to 4 points, especially if they intend to access those courses that require a high grade point average such as engineering or medicine.

Students usually study three or four A Level subjects in English over two years and have exam and non-exam assessment objectives throughout. It is important to note that students must have a high B2 or C1 pass in order to succeed at A Levels. For more details, including the benefits of “only” doing 3 or 4 subjects and the applied learning of problem-solving via A Levels, watch this interview with the head teacher of a highly respected Madrid-based British school. The good news is that Brexit has not affected these qualifications in the slightest and they remain a very popular choice for new arrivals who are settling into life in Madrid with teenage children and prefer a British style of eduction.

Any questions? Please do not hesitate to contact Sinéad at

Sinéad Galvin is an international educational consultant and founded Steps into Spain (a boutique educational and relocation consultancy located in Madrid) to help families find the right school for their child in Madrid. She uses her professional and personal experience of Spanish schools, the Spanish education system and the Spanish way of life to ensure that parents are knowledgeable and informed about what to expect and can secure the best school for their child.

When relocating to Madrid, Steps into Spain can take stock of your children’s educational needs as well as overall family requirements (housing, paperwork and general settling in). Likewise our trusted and expert service works for families who already live here and need  additional guidance and support to find schools that meet their specific requirements.

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