Located in southwestern Europe, Spain has a rich history that contributed much to the modern-day country. A member of the European Union, Spain is also the EU country closest to Africa, as it is separated from Morocco by the 8-mile Strait of Gibraltar.
Spain was originally inhabited by Celts, Iberians, and Basques, and became a part of the Roman Empire in 206 B.C., when it was conquered by Scipio Africanus. In 711, the Muslims under Jabal Tariq entered Spain from Africa, and, within a few years had completely conquered the country. In 732, the Franks, led by Charles Martel, defeated the Muslims near Poitiers, thus preventing the further expansion of Islam in southern -Europe. In 1478, the Inquisition rooted-out those who had not converted to Christianity. By 1502, most Jews and Muslims had been expelled.
Through a long era of exploration, discovery, and colonization, Spain amassed tremendous wealth and a vast colonial empire throughout North, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean and what is now Morocco. In World War I, Spain maintained a position of neutrality. In 1923, Gen. Miguel Primo de Rivera became dictator. In 1930, King Alfonso XIII revoked the dictatorship, but a strong anti-monarchist and republican movement led to his leaving Spain in 1931. On July 18, 1936, Francisco Franco Bahamonde led a mutiny against the government. The civil war that followed lasted three years and cost the lives of nearly a million people. The war ended when Franco took Madrid on March 28, 1939. Franco became head of the state, national chief of the Falange Party (the governing party), and prime minister and caudillo (leader). In a referendum in 1947, the Spanish people approved a Franco-drafted succession law declaring Spain a monarchy again. Franco, however, continued as chief of state. In 1969, Franco and the Cortes ("states") designated Prince Juan Carlos Alfonso Victor María de Borbón to become king of Spain when the provisional government headed by Franco came to an end. Franco died on Nov. 20, 1975, and Juan Carlos was proclaimed king.
Under pressure from Catalonian and Basque nationalists, Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez granted home rule to these regions in 1979. Spain joined the European Economic Community, now the European Union, in 1986.
Spain's first comprehensive public education plan was contained in the Ley Moyano (Moyano Law of 1857). It remained basically unchanged until 1970, when the General Law on Education was passed. Since then many other education reforms have taken place. Currently, the Ministerio de Educación y Formación Profesional determines educational decisions and practices.
Historically, the state and the Roman Catholic Church have clashed over education. Spain still has a large private education sector, almost all of which is Catholic, but since the 1960s, the predominance of the State has been clearly established, especially in secondary education. In the 1980s the Catholic schools, most of which received substantial subsidies from the State, were subjected to closer government control, and religious education was removed as an obligatory subject. With regional autonomy, control over education in some parts of the country was transferred from the central to regional governments. As a result, the study of the Catalan, Galician, and Euskera languages became obligatory in their respective regions.
After 1960, there was a dramatic increase in the availability of schooling at all levels. The change was greatest with regards to universities. Until 1960, there were only 12 universities in the country, and higher education was the privilege of a very small elite. By the end of the 20th century, there were more than 60 public and private universities, some of which were operated by the Catholic Church. Access to a university education became more democratic as well: in the 1980s almost half of Spain's university students had parents who had received no more than an elementary school education. By the late 1990s about half of Spain's college-age population was attending a university. One of the world's oldest universities, the Universidad de Salamanca, was founded in 1218.
The official language of Spain is Spanish and all education is taught in the Spanish language. However, in the Autonomous Communities, the co-official language of the area (Catalan, Galician, Valencian, and Euskera [Basque]) is mandatory at the primary and secondary levels.
Primary and Secondary Education
Under the Education Reform Act of 1990, primary education was set for six years and Educación Secundaria Obligatoria (ESO) (compulsory secondary education) for four years from ages 12 to 16. ESO is divided into two, two-year cycles, one from ages 12 to 14, and one from ages 14 to 16. It leads to the Graduado en Educación Secundaria certificate. This certificate is required for both Bachillerato (higher secondary) studies and Ciclo Formativo de Grado Medio (intermediate vocational training), both of which are of two year programs of study. Bachillerato students who have completed all subjects successfully are awarded the Título de Bachillerato. There are 5 types of bachilleratos: Bachillerato de Humanidades, Bachillerato de Ciencias de la Naturaleza y la Salud, Bachillerato Tecnológico, Bachillerato de Ciencias Sociales, and Bachillerato de Arte. Students who wish to continue in university must sit for the entrance examination, Prueba de Acceso a la Universidad.Prior to the 1990 reform, students had to complete an additional year of study in a Curso de Orientación Universitaria (university orientation course) following Bachillerato studies.
In intermediate vocational training, students who successfully complete their two years of training are awarded a Certificado de Técnico in the relevant field. This certificate enables them to work in areas related to their training, to pursue further training, or study for a Bachillerato.
In 2006, the Ley Orgánica de Educación (LOE) (Organic Law of Education) was passed and it repealed all previous legislation affecting primary and secondary education. It provides educational quality at all levels, makes both families and schools responsible for school success, and will allow Spain to meet the educational objectives of the European Union. Its gradual implementation began in the 2006-07 academic year and will be completed in the 2009-10 academic year when a new university admission examination is introduced.
The most recent reform law affecting university education, the Ley Organica de Universidades (LOU) (Universities Organic Law) was enacted in 2001, and reorganized Spain's system of higher education along the lines of the Bologna Declaration. By 2010, all universities degrees conformed with the Bologna Declaration.
Higher education is divided into three stages. Stage 1 comprises short-cycle degree programs offered at escuelas universitarias (university schools) that last 3 years and are generally professional in nature. Following completion of a Stage 1 program, students are awarded the diplomado.
Stage 2 programs, or long-cycle as they are known, represent from 5 to 6 years of university study (2 to 3 years beyond the diplomado), and lead to the licenciado, or second university degree. The first 2 to 3 years consist of general education plus studies in a major field; the second cycle requires 2 to 3 years of further specialization and leads to the licenciado.
Stage 3, or the third level university degree, is known as the doctorado, and requires an additional 2 or more years of course work plus the defense of a dissertation.