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Education and Healthcare in Spain

Living in Spain holds many attractions, but is not without its challenges. Life on the Iberian Peninsula will indeed be more laidback once you have gotten used to expatriate life there. InterNations supports you with essential information on Spain, from housing to healthcare.
Spain has much to offer to expatriate families with children.

International Schools — Can You Put a Price on Education?

If you will be living in Spain with your family, you are probably considering sending your children to an international school, preferably with the option of an international baccalaureate so they have the opportunity to continue studying abroad. A major drawback of these private schools is the fact that they are usually very expensive. You might pay anything from 500 EUR to 1000 EUR in tuition fees per semester and per child, depending on their age.

Spain’s international schools are highly regarded and usually employ mostly experienced international teachers. The most common international schools, where some locals also send their children, are American, British, German, and French schools. Please contact your nearest embassy or consulate for a list of international schools in your area.

Local Schools: Habla Español?

The Spanish state school system is generally considered good, although academic standards vary between cities, neighborhoods, and individual schools. The public education system in Spain is free for all children residing in Spain. It is mandatory for all kids and teens to attend school between the ages of six and sixteen. Most parents send their children to preschool and kindergarten as well, once their kids are three years old.

Spanish schools are divided by age groups into three, possibly four, types. There’s the primary school (colegio) teaching children from the ages of six to twelve, and the secondary school (instituto), which twelve to sixteen-year-olds attend, is followed by the bachillerato. The latter is no longer compulsory, but it gives adolescents the chance to get a degree equivalent to that of the British A-Levels or the American high school diploma. Some schools also offer an educación infantíl for toddlers and children between the ages of three and six.

Healthcare Coverage in Spain

Spain has no known health risks, and no immunizations are necessary before entering the country. For a list of immunizations required by schools, please contact the school district of your neighborhood or town in Spain.

Every resident of Spain has a right to healthcare. The Spanish healthcare system is a non-contributory system paid for by tax revenues. Each autonomous community has its own budget.

If you are a non-EU national living in Spain, you are entitled to healthcare only if you are a legal resident and currently paying for social security. This means that you must either work in Spain or be self-employed there.

Citizens of EU member states who are living in Spain will automatically have access to health coverage in Spain once they become legal Spanish residents. For shorter stays, EU citizens should get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) from their healthcare provider back home. The EHIC will get you access to state-provided healthcare at the same cost, or sometimes even at a reduced rate, as those insured in Spain.

For those who are not eligible for state healthcare provisions, both in Spain and back home, there’s the Convenio Especial healthcare scheme. This is perfect for foreigners in Spain who have stopped working but whose pensions have yet to kick in.  To be eligible for this scheme, you need to have lived in Spain continuously for at least twelve months, and not be eligible for state healthcare coverage. Keep in mind that a monthly contribution of 60 EUR is demanded of those under the age of 65, and 157 EUR for those above 65 years of age. You will be covered for the services included in the basic national healthcare package, but be aware that this does not include prescriptions.

Private Healthcare — Jumping the Queue

The Spanish healthcare system is very up-to-date, and doctors are caught up on the latest medical innovations. Due to the fact that medical care is state-run, though, hospitals are often overcrowded, resulting in long waiting periods. Spaniards sometimes choose the more expensive option of taking out private health insurance. One of the most popular private insurance providers is Sanitas, whose website also helps you locate the specialists they cover.

Dentists are private doctors in Spain and, arguably as a result of this, dental care is very good. As quality comes at a price, however, they are usually not covered by your health insurance. Unlike in some other countries, you are unable to buy medication anywhere other than at the pharmacy. Farmacías can be found on almost every street corner, clearly marked by signs in the shape of green crosses.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

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