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Private or public schools?

Updated: Sep 23, 2022

In other words, do you want to spend an absolute fortune on your kids education? or do you want to get a freebie from the state? Yes, I know that we pay taxes but you understand my meaning.

We were completely resolute that when our kids got to school age that they would stay in the spanish school system for their entire education. We were doing well, last year they were 13 and 15 years old, and had spent all their time in Spanish education. However this morning found me standing outside an expensive international school, sobbing about lost holidays we now cannot afford, and waving my daughter off.

So let me tell you a bit about spanish education as we found it, it is very academic. Music and art is there but not really, mine went for a full year without art because their teachers that year thought it was a waste of time. Drama, forget it, they had nothing resembling drama. The attitude is, that if you want your kids to do the arts, then there are numerous reasonable after school clubs, and there are.

From the age of 6, they have exams every month, in each of the core subjects. If they fail the year, they repeat. It is normal in Spain to repeat, and there is not the social stigma that you would expect.

There are benefits to the repeating system, my son was behind at 8 so repeated, and it was the best thing that happened to him. He went into a class that was his level not just academically but also socially, I hear that again and again from other parents.

The bad side is that when your child gets to 13/14 they can be in a class of 15/16 or even 17 year olds that are just desperate to leave school. One lad had a full on beard and was in class with my 13 year old. Not because of the beard, but because of the disruption in class, my daughter lost a year of education. The teachers told me this year would be better as all those kids will have left, but again it is a story I hear again and again.

It is due to the lost year of education, that I have done the unspeakable, joined the expats (and quite a few spanish) who are willing to part with a lot of cash to get their kids a decent start. Is it going to be better? I will keep you posted.

One thing I do know is that it is better funded (obviously). Since Covid, the standards in Spanish schools, in my experience, have dropped significantly. Up until Covid I would have said I was very happy with the education, I would never have said it was very well equipped but it was certainly a solid education.

My son is still in spanish education, he is going into his last year of compulsory schooling and I suspect he will leave even if he does not get his final certificate. Spanish learning has never been for him. However, there is a point when you consider that it is not the education system that is the problem, education just doesn't suit some kids.

On the plus side of a spanish education, I am certain that their illiteracy rates are very low in our region. The rigorous exams mean that no one can fall through the net, any problems are picked out early. The very best things for me about the spanish education system in primary, is the teachers, who truly love their students. Every morning the kids were greeted by cuddles, and although there were a few exceptions, my kids loved them.

I am now excited about what differences we will see in a private international education, I have heard good and bad things. Smaller classes, although their spanish school had very small classes, and more motivated teachers. We shall see, I will keep you updated. One thing I do know is that if she starts mentioning the latest Gucci handbag must have, she is out!

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