Together with my family, I have lived in the lively environment of the Costa del Sol since 2001. The thing is, in our Real Estate agency in Casares we often receive questions from emigrating parents regarding school: If we purchase a villa here, what school should we send our children to? Is the local Spanish school in Casares or Gaucín OK? Or, is it better to sign up for an international school in either Sotogrande or Marbella? I will provide you information and may answer your questions on the subject of schooling.
Nursery and primary school at the Costa del Sol, Andalusia
I have been brought up in Andalusia, attending to both local Spanish schools and the Sotogrande International School. I agree with the thought that, if you come to live in Spain, it is responsible and polite to learn their language. My parents have always maintained the same mentality for my education: first you learn Spanish, and then you learn English. It has both enriched me culturally, as well as giving me the opportunity to interact with the multicultural setting of Andalusia. So, what is the fastest process for children to learn the language? Without questioning, they should attend a local school, making Spanish friends. I was 5, and my sisters were 3 and 1 when we came to live here, and we were completely embedded in the Spanish environment. The Spanish culture is very welcoming; we were immediately accepted by everyone, feeling ‘at home’ in a warm and protective society. With a bit of luck, my parents also learnt Spanish by helping us to do homework, talking to our teachers, and meeting up with the parents of our friends.
However, there were some cases that weren’t as satisfying. The education system is fairly old fashioned: you sit down, listen, and do a lot of homework. There isn’t much space for the development of creative skills under your own initiative. Also, if you’re smarter than the rest of your classmates, then the subjects won’t be as challenging. This is, for sure, a negative point. For this reason, my parents have always faced me up to more creative and innovative intrigues, topics and tasks at home. Consequently, at the end of primary school, I was sent to an international school together with my sisters to revive the creativity within ourselves, and also to learn English.
Secondary School at the Costa del Sol, Andalusia
The Spanish secondary school consists of 4 years of basic education, the ESO, followed by 2 years of Bachillerato (baccalaureate), the preparation to a higher level vocational education or university. There is a proposed law for a 3 year ESO and a 3 year Baccalaureate education. International schools follow more or less the same system. In the ESO, in the first three years all the levels of students are mixed. It is not until the 4th year where students are separated within the branches of ‘Science’, ‘Social Sciences’ and ‘Humanities’, where they specialise in the area which orientates them towards their further studies. I returned for the last 3 years of ESO to a Spanish school, and I noticed how the ambience changed directly. I was surrounded by a mix of students. Even though I was back in the welcoming environment of the Spaniards, I was ‘all by myself’. Again, I had to challenge myself to not get dragged away by the uncomforting situation of an old fashioned schooling system. I saw how throughout the years, many dropped out. It is known that there is a 30% of drop outs in Andalusia; and that is very high! On the other hand, the international school treats you as an individual, where the education encourages students to get the best out of themselves and see which level they can reach. English, Spanish, Mathematics and Science are all divided in different levels.
From my own experience, I can say that I have benefitted more from the International school than from the local Spanish school. Even though my sisters feel happier in the warm local setting, they also agree with the fact that they aren’t challenged as much as in the international school. It is important to take under consideration that we are talking about private institutions, and therefore have certain costs. I can assure to you, however, that it will be a great advantage for your children, as they will develop independent learning skills and will learn to be open minded.
Once reaching Baccalaureate, my parents leave us no other choice than doing the IB Diploma Program, rather than the state baccalaureate. I am in my last year of IB now, and I have developed skills to easily encounter university, besides having grown into a creative and independent learner. My Diploma will also be accepted on a worldwide level; hence, I have the opportunity to attend to any university, where-ever in the world.
- The Spanish school system
- International Schools at the Costa del Sol
- Sotogrande International School