Law on Education 2/2006 (LOE), Article14, modified by Law on Education 3/2020 (LOMLOE), establishes the general organisation and pedagogical principles of both cycles of ECEC. Royal Decree 95/2022, establishes the organisation and minimum teaching requirements for Early Childhood Education. National and regional educational administrations determine the mandatory educational guidelines that apply to the entire stage of ECEC, following the above mentioned regulations. The curriculum (regulation of the elements that determine the teaching and learning processes for each cycle) is established by the Government, in collaboration with the Autonomous Communities in their respective administration areas, on the basis of the general mandate of Article 14.7 of the LOE, modified by the LOMLOE.
- The Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MEFP), by means of Royal Decree 95/2022, specifies the minimum teachings for the second cycle, which serve as orientative guidelines for the first cycle. This minimum teaching standards include objectives, key skills, specific competences, assessment criteria, basic knowledge and learning situations for the whole stage.
- The educational administrations establish the curriculum for the entire Early Childhood Education stage, which will include the minimum teachings established in Royal Decree 95/2022 for the second cycle of the stage.
- The educational centres develop and complete the curriculum established by the educational administrations, adapting it according to their context. To this end, the educational centres have to develop:
- The school development plan includes the specifications of the curriculum as set out by the education authority.
- The yearly general programme covers all aspects concerning the organisation and running of the school for the school year. This includes the projects, the curriculum and all action plans.
- The teaching staff and the rest of the professionals in charge of the pupils adapt the specifications to their educational practice, based on the Universal Design for Learning and taking into account the characteristics of their pupils. For this purpose, they draw up the classroom programme.
No guidelines are issued by the educational administration at the state level for the provision of ECEC at home.
Areas of learning and development
The educational administrations establish the curriculum for the entire Early Childhood Education stage, based on the minimum teachings established in Royal Decree 95/2022. Early Childhood Education is the beginning of the acquisition process of the key competences set out in the Recommendation of the Council of the European Union of 22 May 2018:
- linguistic communication skills;
- multilingual skills;
- mathematical competence and scientific, technological and engineering skills;
- digital skills;
- personal, social and learning to learn skills;
- citizenship skills;
- entrepreneurial skills;
- cultural awareness and expression skills.
The Early Childhood Education curriculum also includes some objectives which are the achievements that children are expected to reach by the end of the stage. The achievement of these objectives is linked to the acquisition of the key skills and they are:
a) Getting to know their own body as well as others' and their possibilities of action, and learning to respect differences.
b) Observing and exploring their family, natural and social environment.
c) Progressively acquiring autonomy in their usual activities.
d) Developing their emotional and affective capacities.
e) Interacting with others on an equitable basis and progressively acquiring basic guidelines for coexistence and social relations, as well as practising the use of empathy and peaceful conflict resolution, avoiding any kind of violence.
f) Developing communication skills in different languages and forms of expression.
g) Being introduced to logical-mathematical skills, to reading and writing, and to movement, gesture and rhythm.
h) Promoting, applying and developing social norms that foster equality between men and women.
According to Royal Decree 95/2022, the educational contents of Early Childhood Education are organised into areas: - Growth in Harmony. This area focuses on the personal and social dimensions of the child. Attention is paid to physical-motor development, the acquisition of self-control and the construction of personal identity. - Discovery and Exploration of the Environment. This area fosters the process of discovery, observation and exploration of the physical and natural elements of the environment. - Communication and Representation of Real Life. This area seeks to develop in children the skills that enable them to communicate through different languages and forms of expression as a means of developing their identity, representing reality and relating to other people. The educational content of the areas is made up of:
- Specific competences: performance levels that pupils must be able to display in learning situations. In order to address these competences, children require the basic knowledge of each area. The specific competences are a connecting element between the key skills, the basic knowledge and the assessment criteria.
- Assessment criteria: reference points that indicate the level of performance expected by students in the different learning situations.
- Basic knowledge: knowledge, skills and attitudes that constitute the contents of an area. Its acquisition is necessary for the development of specific competences.
Regarding the number of hours per year dedicated to teaching each curricular area, there are variations between the different educational administrations of the autonomous communities. In the ECEC stage, children have first contact with:
- a first foreign language, as part of learning in the second cycle of Early Childhood Education, especially in the final year.
- Reading and writing, early initiation experiences in basic numeracy skills, information and communication technologies, visual and musical expression and other skills determined by the educational administrations.
Religious education is included in the second cycle of the stage on a voluntary basis.
Teaching methods and materials
According to the LOE Article14.6 modified by the LOMLOE, the teaching methodology used is based on play, in the context of an atmosphere of trust and affection that promotes children’s self-esteem and social integration. Teaching-learning practices are based on meaningful and emotionally positive learning experiences, experimentation and play. These practices are carried out in an atmosphere of affection and trust. The education authorities establish a series of methodological principles covering:
- global perspective of learning;
- children’s physical and mental activity, and the importance of play;
- priority of emotional and relation aspects;
- peer-to-peer interaction;
- coordination with families;
- preventive and compensatory actions;
- attention to diversity, adapting educational activities to children’s specific characteristics, interests, cognitive styles, and maturing processes.
Each school teacher is free to choose the methodology to be used in the classroom, which must, however, comply with what has been agreed at the institutional level and established by the relevant education authority. Learning situations For the acquisition of key skills, the methodology to be used should be focused on the learner.. To this end, teachers must design learning situations that are stimulating, meaningful and inclusive, well contextualised and respectful with the students' development. Learning situations present children with a challenge or problem of a certain complexity depending on their age and development. The creative resolution of these situations implies the integrated mobilisation of what has been learnt in the three areas in which the Early Childhood Education stage is organised. They must be based on a clear approach to the objectives and involve the integration of a set of basic knowledge. Moreover, they should encourage different types of grouping and include cooperative learning experiences in order to solve the proposed challenge.
Curricular materials and didactic resources
In accordance with the methodological principles and in the exercise of their teaching autonomy, schools decide on the curricular materials and didactic resources to be used, including:
- activity books;
- printed material;
- self-produced materials;
- reference books from the school library or classroom library;
- news media sources;
- story books;
- IT resources and audiovisual media.
Schools also have didactic guides, which provide a didactic foundation to the curricular material used, and guidelines for content sequencing and adaptation. The use of resources related to creative, including musical, expression is particularly important in pre-primary education. The publication and adoption of curricular materials and didactic resources:
- do not require prior authorisation from education authorities;
- must be scientifically accurate, adapted to the age of pupils and the curriculum approved by each autonomous community;
- must reflect and encourage respect for the constitutional principles, values, liberties, rights and duties, as well as for the principles and values included in both the LOE and the Law against Gender Violence 1/2004.
The textbook selection process follows a series of guidelines in all the educational institutions: • the pedagogical coordination commission of the school prepares a report on the textbooks that are considered most appropriate, under the supervision of the school council and the teachers’ assembly; • teachers are responsible for the final decision on the textbook choice; • in case of disagreement with the final decision, the School Council may make suggestions to the teaching staff for their consideration. The educational inspection authority of the autonomous community supervises textbooks and other curricular materials, as integral elements of the teaching and learning process. There are sources of municipal and/or regional funding for the acquisition of school supplies and books in the second cycle of ECEC.
Evaluation in pre-primary education is regulated by the Royal Decree 95/2022 and completed by the education authorities of the autonomous communities. The latter determine the process for evaluating pupils for their respective regions, although some autonomous communities specify the process for both cycles whereas others regulate evaluation only in the second cycle. Royal Decree 95/2022 provides that:
- Evaluation is comprehensive, continuous and training-oriented.
- Direct and systematic observation is the main technique used in the evaluation process.
- Evaluation is aimed at identifying the initial individual conditions and the pace and developmental characteristics of the pupils.
- The evaluation criteria established for each cycle in each of the areas are the reference points for evaluation.
- The evaluation process must contribute to improving both the teaching and learning processes.
- The parents and legal guardians of the pupils participate in and support the evaluation.
Transition to primary school
There are no state- or regional-level guidelines on measures to facilitate transition to primary education. In order to guarantee the continuity of the training process and a positive transition and evolution from Pre-primary to Primary Education, educational administrations and schools will establish mechanisms to favour coordination between the different stages (Article 21 of Royal Decree 157/2022).