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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.1 General context

Last update: 28 November 2023
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  1. Main trends in young people's participation in education and training
  2. Organisation of the education and training system
  3. Main concepts


Main trends in young people's participation in education and training

After a period in which the participation of young people in education leading to higher education gradually declined, from the year 2009 onwards the percentage of the population between 25 and 29 years that reaches higher education has experienced an increase - as a result of the scarce labour demand in activities of low formative qualification requirements, such as the construction and tertiary activities.

This rate increased from 38% of young people in the aforementioned age range in 2009 to 42.1% in 2016. Among them, 12.6% have higher non-University education, while the remaining 29.4% have obtained some type of University degree or equivalent[1].

According to the National Statistical Institute from 2008, the year in which a peak of 31.7% was reached, the school dropout rate of those aged 18 to 24 -has declined significantly to 17.9% in 2018, which is still a high ratio considering that the average of the EU-28 is 10.6%[2]. However, Spain is currently approaching the European average, in 2021 it had 13.3%, the lowest figure in history. The highest rates of school dropouts in 2018 are amongst foreign young people, either from another EU country (34.5%) or non-EU country (35.4%), while it remains 15.3% amongst those with Spanish nationality. By sex males are also more present with 16.7% while females are 9.7% in 2021. The Autonomous Regions (Comunidades Autónomas (CC.AA)) with a lower degree of economic development and those with a greater weight of the tertiary sector and tourism, are those that show SchComunidades Autónomas - Organización del Estado español - Administración Pública y Estadoool Dropout Rates (SDR) above the national average. This is the case of the Balearic Islands, Melilla, Andalucia, Murcia or Castilla-La Mancha. On the other hand, the autonomous communities with the lowest dropout rate are Cantabria, Galicia, Basque Country and Navarre.


Graph 1 Early school dropout


Source: Early school leavers of the population aged 18 to 24 by Autonomous Community and period. Education, competences and skills. National Statistical Institute INE base, 2022.

According to this same source (Instituto Nacional de Estadística, INE), in 2021 up to 26.0% of young people between 18 and 24 do not have an education or only reach primary or secondary education-whether completed or unfinished- as the highest level of education. In the same age range, 54.5% of young people have a baccalaureate or medium-grade VET studies. Meanwhile, 19.5% have completed higher–grade VET or University studies (BA, Master, PhD). The number of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 who do not have education or only complete compulsory education has decreased. In 2018 they were 32.6%. On the other hand, the percentage of people studying baccalaureate, VET, university careers, masters has risen significantly.

Among young people from 25 to 34 years old, the percentage of people with lower education (0-2 ISCED) lowers to 32.3%, those with medium education (ISCED 3-4) lower to 23.4%, while those with higher education (ISCED 5-8) rise to 44.3%.

With regard to the international mobility of young people immersed in training and educational processes, the Survey on International Student Mobility (Encuesta sobre Movilidad Internacional de los Estudiantes) that collects data from 2014, shows how 6.7% of people between 18 and 34 years have moved to a foreign country at some point in their training period to perform part of their studies there. Meanwhile, more than one million of those young people, 11.9% of the total, have done language courses abroad[4].

In the academic year 2020/21 (Las cifras de la educación en España. Curso 2020-2021), in Spain there were a total of 748.054 students with specific needs for educational support, which is 9.3% of the total. By type of study, Basic Vocational Training (Datos y cifras. Curso Escolar 2021-22) is the most widely used and the fastest growing, In 2025-26 there were 765,460 students (44% female) and in 2020-21 there are 974,445 students (44.8% female). Regarding the average grade in 2015-16 there were 349.631 students (43.1% women) and in 2020-21 there are 399.769 students (43 '9% women). As for the upper grade, there were 2015-26 353.920 pupils (47.6% female) and in 2020-21 there were 497,560 (47.8% female). As for Bachelor, there are currently 700,810 people, most in face vs. distance. There has also been a 2.6% increase in students compared to the previous year. It is found that there has been a decline of students in early childhood education (-1.5%), and primary education (-1.6%), this is due to the birth crisis to population non-renewal.

The largest groups of students with specific educational support needs are, on the one hand, those whose special needs are derived from some kind of disability. (hearing disorders, motor, visual, intellectual, developmental ubiquitous, serious behavioral/personality disorders or many impediments), especially those in other categories (students with slow development, language and communication development disorders, learning disorders, serious lack of knowledge of the language of instruction or socio-educational disadvantage) and foreigners who have no knowledge of the language, a lot of immigration has to deal with linguistic and cultural change and this has an impact on their educational development. Alongside these two main categories are the other groups of students, the smallest group (students with high intellectual abilities and students with late integration into the Spanish education system). The care of all these special needs forms the category of inclusive education in the Spanish educational system, regulated by the Ministerial Order [5].


Organisation of the education and training system

The Spanish educational system is structured in different levels of teaching: Children´s Education (ISCED 0) (Educación Infantil), Primary Education (ISCED 1) (Educación Primaria), Compulsory Secondary Education (CSE) (ISCED 2), Baccalaureate (ISCED 3), Vocational Training (ISCED 4 and 5), University Studies (Enseñanzas Universitarias) (ISCED 6, 7 and 8), as well as Adult education (Formación de adultos)[6], and Specialised Education Systems Enseñanzas de Régimen Especial[7].

Compulsory formal education in Spain starts with 6 years and ends at 16, after completing the Compulsory Secondary Education (CSE) studies. As far as the educational cycles for the young population are concerned, the baccalaureate is between the ages of 16 and 18 while university education begins at 18[8]. Specialised Education is accessed from the age of 18 in the case of sports education, there being no age limit on the rest (artistic education, language studies, and adult training or lifelong learning).

Vocational Training comprises a set of educational cycles that constitute basic vocational training, medium-grade vocational training and higher grade vocational training. Basic vocational training can be started between the ages of 15 and 17, being necessary to have exceeded the first cycle of CSE[9], while to access the medium grade voactional training it is necessary to be in possession of graduate degree in CSE (Compulsory Secondary Education)[10]. To enter the highest grade of vocational training, a Baccalaureate is required. Basic vocational training leads to the basic Professional title, which allows access to medium-grade vocational training [11]. For its part, the completion of the medium grade vocational training leads to the degree of Technician and the higher degree to the higher technician, indicating in both cases the specialty.

About the University, after the adaptation to the European Space of Higher Education (Espacio Europeo de Educación Superior), university education is divided into three cycles: Degree, Master, and Doctorate. Meanwhile, specialised education has their own organisation [12].


Main concepts

Educational cycle (Ciclo educativo): Set of lessons, of modular nature and variable duration, in which the Vocational Training in the Educational System and some of the Specialised Education (artistic education and sports education) is organised.

Technician Degree (Grado técnico): Professional qualification obtained after successfully completing Vocational Training and some Specialised Education. Although its main objective is qualification for the working world, both qualifications enable the continuation of other studies. The Technician degree allows access to the Baccalaureate or higher Vocational Training after having passed a specific training course, and the Senior Technician enables study at degree courses related to the studies of Vocational Training courses.

Professional module (Módulo profesional): It is the minimum unit of contents that are creditable in Vocational Training, whose satisfactory evaluation leads to obtaining the Vocational Training qualifications in the Educational System and to the Professional Certificates.

Professional Qualification (Cualificación profesional): Set of professional competencies with relevance in the employment that can be acquired through modular training or other types of training, as well as through work experience, as set in the Organic Law 5/2002 on Qualifications and Vocational training (Ley Orgánica 5/2002, de 19 de junio, de las Cualificaciones y de la Formación Profesional.

Curriculum (Currículo): Based on the definition made in the Education Law (Ley Orgánica 2/2006, de 3 de mayo, de Educación), it is a set of objectives, basic competencies, contents, pedagogical methods and evaluation criteria.

[1] Labour Force Survey(Encuesta de Población Activa), National Statistics Institute (Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE)).

[2] Quality of Life Indicators (Indicadores de Calidad de Vida), National Statistics Institute (Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE)).

[3] The Survey on the participation of the adult population in learning activities (EADE), is the implantation in Spain of the European project AdultEducationSurvey, coordinated by Eurostat. The objective of the survey is to learn about the training and learning activities carried out by the adult population in learning throughout life. The survey provides national and regional results, with tables on participation in learning activities, their difficulties, the search for information on learning possibilities, language and computer skills, and cultural participation.

[4] The survey on international student mobility, carried out for the first time in 2014, is part of a pilot research project of the European Union which aims to evaluate the international mobility of young people, for reasons of studying or training, in the different stages of formal education, from the first stage of secondary education to doctoral studies.

[5] Ministerial Order EDU/849/2010, of 18 March, for the regulation of the education for students needing educational support.

[6] LEARN website, Lifelong learning

[7] This denomination includes Language education, Sports education, and Artistic education, including Music, Dance, Dramatic Art, plastic arts and design, and restoration of cultural property.

[8] Those students born in a month after the start of the academic year start University at the age of 17.

[9] Exceptionally it can be accessed after having taken Second course of CSE.

[10] From the academic year 2016/2017 you can access these with the new Basic Professional Title (Título Profesional Básico).

[11] Completing the basic vocational training gives a level of qualification 1 (Nivel de Cualificación 1).

[12] About the organization and structure of the Spanish educational system, seeing the provisions of Eurydice.