Back to school
The new academic year may seem a long way off, but parents of soon-to-be 12 year olds are already starting to think about their children’s secondary education.
School education here is compulsory from six to 16; after six years of primary education, children then go on to do four years of educació secundària obligatòria (ESO or compulsory secondary education). The ESO can be done in a state-funded public school, such as an Institut d’Educació Secundària (IES) or a Secció d’Educació Secundària (SES), a state-subsidised private school (escola privada concertada) or a fee-paying, completely private school (escola privada).
In all state-funded and subsidised schools, pupils are taught in Catalan—although over the next few years, English will be phased in as the teaching language for some subjects. Private schools may teach in other languages and/or follow the national curriculum of another country.
The ESO syllabus was revised in 2007 and a new system was introduced. During the first three years, pupils now have to complete a certain amount of class hours in main subjects (matèries), some of which are compulsory each year, including Catalan and Castilian language and literature, a foreign language and maths. In addition, pupils do a specified amount of hours of matèries optatives (optional subjects)—which vary between schools—and do a group project combining a number of different subjects. In the fourth year, they continue with their compulsory subjects, while having more optional ones to choose from; they also complete a group research project.
Pupils who successfully pass this four-year course receive the Graduat en Educació Secundària Obligatòria Diploma. Those who want to continue with their academic studies and go on to university opt for the batxillerat, the non-compulsory higher secondary education qualification. The batxillerat is a two-year course, usually done between the ages of 16 and 18 with four specialist subject areas: humanities and social sciences, arts, technology, and natural and health sciences.
All students have to do a number of compulsory matèries comunes, subjects common to all batxillerat courses, as well as matèries de modalitat, subjects relating to their particular specialised area and matèries optatives. Each subject has a credit rating and students need to earn a total of 62. Compulsory subjects (e.g. Catalan and Castilian language and literature), account for 30 credits, plus two for tutorials. The remaining 30 are divided between matèries de modalitat, matèries optatives and a research project.
Students who gain their ESO at an IES or similar can normally stay on at the same school to do their batxillerat, but they will need to re-apply (see ‘Enrolling your child’ below). Alternatively they can apply to a semi-private or private school that caters for higher secondary students.
The batxillerat is not the only study option after ESO; many 16-year-olds decide to do vocational training called formació professional (FP). Those who have passed the ESO can proceed directly to the FP grau mitjà (medium grade) stage, while students who didn’t enter at a lower level. There are dozens of FP courses to choose from, among them hairdressing, IT and catering, and they can be done at an IES or specialist escoles de FP.
ENROLLING YOUR CHILD
The Generalitat will shortly announce dates for open days allowing parents of prospective pupils to visit state-funded and state-subsidised schools. Once seen, parents complete a pre-enrolment application (sol·licitud de preinscripció) listing all the institutions they want to apply to, in order of preference. Pre-enrolment is necessary when: entering a state-funded/subsidised school for the first time; changing schools part-way through a course; moving from primary to secondary in different schools and beginning Batxillerat or FP courses.
Pre-enrolment applications can only be submitted on official dates set by the Generalitat. This year’s dates are not yet available, but they are normally as follows: primary and secondary education, around Setmana Santa (mid-March to mid-April) and slightly later for Batxillerat and FP Grau Mitjà (around mid-May).
Application forms can be downloaded and printed from the Generalitat website or obtained from any state-funded or state-subsidised school or from your ajuntament. Each application must be accompanied by a number of official documents (originals and copies) and can either be submitted to the first choice school/college, an Oficina Municipal d’Escolarització (Municipal Schooling Office) or regional education offices.
Certain applicants are given priority, for example those moving from a CEIP (state-funded primary school) to an associated IES or those moving from ESO to Batxillerat at the same IES. When there are more applications than places available, a rating points system comes into effect, which is based on a number of criteria, such as where the child lives and any siblings already at the school.
Parents of foreign children entering into any stage of education here may also need to supply specific documentation about the child’s academic record, for example, validated copies of their school reports. Full details of the pre-enrolment procedure, documentation needed, etc. can be found at the Generalitat’s website: www.gencat.cat/preinscripcio