The astonishing array of options for teenagers in the Spanish further education arena often has parents scratching their heads and wondering which path their youngster should take. Once teenagers in Spain complete their obligatory education studies (ESO) they are encouraged into further education with a wide range of choices on offer. It is my job to keep them informed of the choices that will build upon their language skills and highlight their bicultural identities.
The mix of options include vocational training courses (FP), which have recently been expanded to include new vocational training qualifications in subjects such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and automatic learning. Other choices on offer for high school students are A levels, the Dual Diploma, the Spanish baccalaureate (bachillerato) and the international baccalaureate (IB). Many of the teenagers I work with have had their first international educational experience in their final year of ESO, as I arranged for them enjoy a #TransitionYear at an Irish high school. Whenever students from Spain go to school abroad, their grades are easily convalidated to achieve their Secondary Education Certificate (Graduado en Educación Secundaria).
These students often do not want to return to their original, traditional Spanish high school and often seek opportunities to continue studying in English and thus, over the past few years, I have become an expert in providing ongoing advice for these pupils to ensure that they build upon the incredible skills they developed during their overseas experience. The students returning from TY in particular have benefitted from a steep personal development curve as the programme gave them the opportunity to do voluntary work, learn a practical skill and carry out work experience in a controlled, age-appropriate environment. It combines the strong academic achievements that they probably had, with the soft skills that they learned in English over the year.
Therefore, it is my firm belief that the international baccalaureate is the best option for such students. The IB programme has recently matured and developed in Spanish high schools, giving me the opportunity to discover just how versatile this qualification is. In fact, I deeply appreciate its value for all bilingual teenagers, whether they have had the opportunity to study abroad or not. The local education board of Madrid believes the same and has enthusiastically rolled out the international baccalaureate programme to 8 schools across the district.
The international baccalaureate is taught in Spanish at the public, state funded high schools. However, the overwhelming majority of IB schools in Spain teach a hybrid version of the international baccalaureate with some subjects in Spanish and others in English. In Madrid, a few private schools offer the IB wholly in English including one innovative sixth form college in the city centre that takes both day pupils and boarders. Places at the Global College are limited but if you are interested in finding out more about the spearheading sixth form college that my Irish-Spanish teenage daughter will hopefully be attending from September 2022, I would be happy to chat to you. As you will see in this recent interview I did with the school’s head teacher and head of admissions, they are especially interested in students with an international mindset and focus just as much on the soft skills and arts, as they do on the sciences and maths.
The benefits of the IB are clear. It describes itself as a “future-ready programme” that enables students to grow in confidence by directing their own learning pathway. Over the space of two years the students develop into self-motivated young people with the right skills, sense of purpose and knowledge to contribute to improving the world around them. The young adults are provided with a solid, consistent framework that fits seamlessly into their culture and context. Places at Spanish state universities are open to IB students without sitting the EvAU entrance exams. And all IB schools in Spain would give the option of preparing for the EvAU if desired anyway. Furthermore, students who have followed the IB programme are welcomed onto undergraduate courses at all top Universities across the globe, without requirements to prepare essays, study foundation courses or undergo further examinations.
Please reach out to me with your enquiries about overseas educational opportunities and sixth form options for your teenage children. This journey fascinates me, as you will know if you are a member of the Madrid Education Facebook group which I co-founded two years ago. “See” you there!