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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education


6.Secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education

Last update: 21 February 2024

The provision of secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education is regulated by Organic Law 2/2006 on Education (LOE), as amended by Organic Law 3/2020 (LOMLOE).

In general terms, it comprises the following types of provision:

  • compulsory secondary education (ESO);
  • basic vocational training (also known as basic training cycles), which, together with primary education and ESO, make up the compulsory and free basic education of the education system;
  • bachillerato;
  • intermediate vocational training.

First stage of secondary education (ISCED 2) corresponds to the first three years of compulsory secondary education, from years 12 to 15. Access takes place after having completed primary education.

Second stage of secondary education (ISCED 3) corresponds to the 4th year of compulsory secondary education and bachillerato, and vocational upper secondary education (ISCED 3) comprises the training cycles of basic vocational training and intermediate vocational training.

Compulsory secondary education (ESO) is carried out on a regular basis until the age of sixteen. However, exceptionally, whenever the teaching team considers that this measure favours the acquisition of the competences established at this stage, students will have the right to remain in the ordinary system until they reach the age of 18 (during the year in which the school year ends).

Basic vocational training cycles correspond to a professional profile, so their curricula must comply with the requirements of the National System of Qualifications and Vocational Training.

They feature the following characteristics:

  • ESO students who simultaneously fulfil certain age and academic requirements (Article 41.1 of the LOE, as amended by the LOMLOE), may be proposed by the teaching team for incorporation into basic vocational training cycles.
  • Completion of all the areas included in a basic level training cycle leads to the award of two diplomas: Graduate in Compulsory Secondary Education and Basic Technician in the corresponding speciality, the latter to favour the validation in the workplace of the professional competences acquired.
  • Just like compulsory secondary education, it is provided free of cost (Article 3.10 of the LOE, as amended by the LOMLOE)

Students who successfully complete compulsory education can access bachillerato studies, intermediate vocational training cycles and, by passing the corresponding exam, intermediate vocational training cycles in plastic arts and design and intermediate sports education.

Bachillerato and intermediate vocational training both constitute post-compulsory secondary education and enable students who hold the Lower Compulsory Secondary Education Certificate and wish to continue studying to choose between an academic and a vocational branch.

Bachillerato lasts two school years, generally between the ages of 16 to 18. Students may remain in these programmes under the ordinary system up to a maximum of 4 years.

Intermediate vocational training is organised into different training cycles, which are made up of vocational modules. Such cycles vary in length and include theoretical and practical contents corresponding to the different professional fields.

All the training cycles refer to the National Catalogue of Vocational Qualifications (CNCP) and their curricula adapt to the requirements of the National System of Qualifications and Vocational Training (SNCyFP).

On the other hand, there are specialised education programmes. These are language programmes, artistic vocational training programmes and intermediate sports vocational training programmes.

Aim and general objectives

 Compulsory secondary education

Compulsory education is aimed at guaranteeing the development of the key skills, to the acquisition of which primary education, basic training cycles and compulsory secondary education must contribute. The Spanish education system focuses on the abilities to implement the contents of each type of provision and educational stage in an integrated manner, in order to achieve the correct execution of activities and effective complex problem solving.

The purpose of compulsory secondary education is getting students to:

  • acquire basic cultural elements, especially in its humanistic, artistic, scientific-technological and motivational aspects;
  • develop and consolidate study and work habits, as well as healthy lifestyle habits;
  • prepare them for further studies or access to the labour market;
  • train to exercise their rights and duties in life as citizens.

As general objectives, this educational stage must contribute to the pupils' development of the abilities that will enable them to:

  • assume their duties in a responsible way and know and exercise their rights respecting others, practise tolerance, cooperation and solidarity among people and groups, practise dialogue strengthening human rights as the values of a plural society, and prepare for the exercise of democratic citizenship;
  • develop and consolidate discipline, study and individual and team work habits as a necessary condition for successfully  performing their learning tasks and as means of personal development;
  • appreciate and respect gender difference and equality of rights and;
  • reject stereotypes that can lead to discrimination between men and women;
  • reinforce their emotional abilities in all areas of personality and in their relationships with others, reject violence, prejudices of any kind and sexist behaviour, and solve conflicts peacefully;
  • develop basic skills regarding the use of information sources in order to acquire new knowledge critically;
  • develop basic technological skills and move towards an ethical reflection on their functioning and use;
  • conceive of scientific knowledge as comprehensive and structured into various disciplines, as well as to know and apply methods to identify problems in the different areas of knowledge and experience;
  • develop an entrepreneurial spirit and self-confidence, participation, critical sense, personal initiative and an ability to develop learning techniques, plan, take decisions and take on responsibilities;
  • understand and correctly produce complex texts and messages, both orally and written, in the Spanish language, and, if applicable, in the co-official language of their autonomous community, and take first steps towards an awareness, reading and study of literature;
  • understand and express themselves in one or more foreign languages correctly;
  • know, appreciate and respect the basic aspects of their own and others’ culture and history, as well as artistic and cultural heritage;
  • know and accept how their own and others’ body work, respect differences, consolidate hygiene and health habits and include physical education and sport in order to enhance both their personal and social;
  • know and value the human dimension of sexuality in all its diversity;
  • critically assess social habits related to health, consumption, care, empathy and respect for living beings (especially animals) and the environment, contributing to their conservation and improvement;
  • value artistic creation and understand the language of the different artistic forms, employing different means of expression and representation.

It is up to the autonomous communities to complete the definition of the general objectives of this educational stage.


The purpose of bachillerato studies is to:

  • provide students with intellectual and humane education, as well as the knowledge, skills and attitudes through which they may develop social functions and actively participate in life with responsibility and aptitude;
  • to enable the acquisition and achievement of the essential skills for a future training and professional life;
  • enable access to higher education.

As general objectives, this educational stage must contribute to the pupils' development of the abilities that will enable them to:

  • exercise democratic citizenship from a global perspective, and acquire responsible civic awareness, inspired by the values of the Spanish Constitution and human rights, which promotes joint responsibility as to the creation of a fairer society;
  • consolidate personal, affective-sexual and social maturity so that they may act in a respectful, responsible and autonomous manner and develop their critical spirit;
  • foresee, identify and peacefully settle personal, family and social conflicts, as well as possible situations of violence;
  • promote effective equality of rights and opportunities between men and women, analyse and critically assess existing inequalities, as well as the acknowledgement and teaching of the role of women in history and promote real equality and non-discrimination on the grounds of birth, sex, racial or ethnic origin, disability, age, illness, religion or beliefs, sexual orientation or gender identity or any other personal or social condition or circumstance;
  • reinforce reading, study and discipline habits, as necessary conditions to succeed in learning and as a means of personal development;
  • master the Spanish language, both orally and written, and, if applicable, the co-official language of their autonomous community;
  • express themselves fluently and correctly in one or more foreign languages;
  • use information and communication technologies reliably and responsibly;
  • know and critically appraise the realities of the contemporary world, its historical background and the main factors influencing its evolution;
  • participate in the development and improvement of the social environment in a caring way;
  • have access to basic scientific and technological knowledge and master the basic abilities of the chosen type of studies;
  • understand the basic elements and procedures of research and scientific;
  • know and appreciate, on a critical basis, how science and technology have contributed to change life conditions, and consolidate sensitiveness and respect towards the environment;
  • consolidate the entrepreneurial spirit with attitudes based on creativity, flexibility, initiative, teamwork, self-confidence and critical sense;
  • develop artistic and literary sensitivity as well as aesthetic criteria as sources for training and cultural enrichment;
  • use physical education and sport in order to increase personal and social development;
  • consolidate habits of physical and sporting activities to promote physical and mental well-being, as well as for personal and social development;
  • consolidate attitudes based on respect and prevention in the field of safe and healthy mobility;
  • encourage a responsible and dedicated attitude in the fight against climate change and in the protection of sustainable development.

It is up to the autonomous communities to complete the definition of the general objectives of this educational stage.

Vocational training

The purpose of vocational training, with respect to students, is to:

  • prepare them for their activity in a professional field;
  • enable them to adapt to the changes that may occur in their working lives;
  • contribute to their personal development and to their exercise of a democratic and peaceful citizenship;
  • allow for their progression in the education system, within the framework of lifelong learning.

As general objectives, this educational stage must contribute to the pupils' development of the abilities that will enable them to:

  • develop the skills specific to each vocational training qualification;
  • understand the organisation and characteristics of the corresponding productive sector, as well as the mechanisms of incorporation into the labour market;
  • be familiar with labour legislation and the rights and duties resulting from labour relations;
  • learn by themselves and work in teams, as well as being trained in conflict prevention and peaceful conflict resolution in all areas of personal, family and social life, with special attention to the prevention of gender-based violence;
  • promote effective equal opportunities for men and women, as well as for people with disabilities, in order to have access to training that allows for all types of professional options and the exercise of these options;
  • work in safe and healthy conditions, as well as preventing possible risks derived from work;
  • develop a motivating professional identity for future learning, and be able to adapt to the evolution of production processes and to social changes;
  • develop innovation and entrepreneurship skills that favour their employability and professional development;
  • progress in the education system;
  • be aware of and prevent environmental risks;
  • be prepared for digitalisation in their productive sector.

In addition to contributing to the aims and objectives set out in general terms for vocational training programmes, basic vocational training aims at enabling students to acquire the lifelong learning skills defined for compulsory secondary education.

In turn, intermediate vocational training meets the objectives of vocational training and aims at extending the skills of basic education, adapting them to a field or professional sector that allows students to achieve lifelong learning, progress in the education system and join the active life with responsibility and autonomy.

Dual vocational training

The Spanish Education System's Dual Vocational Training is the set of training actions and initiatives that, in joint responsibility with companies, are aimed at the professional qualification of people, harmonising the teaching and learning processes between educational institutions and workplaces.

The Government, after consulting the autonomous communities, is responsible for regulating the basic conditions and requirements that allow the development of dual vocational training within the scope of the education system by the education authorities. This regulation is contained in Title III of Royal Decree 1529/2012. This establishes the framework for the development of dual vocational training projects in the education system, with the co-participation of educational institutions and companies, when there is no contract for training and apprenticeship.

The objectives of dual vocational training are the following:

  • increase the number of people who can obtain a post-compulsory secondary education qualification through vocational training;
  • achieve greater motivation among students by reducing early school leaving;
  • facilitate labour insertion as a result of increased contact with companies;
  • increase the relationship and co-responsibility of the business community with the vocational training system;
  • strengthen the relationship between vocational training teachers and companies in the sector and encourage knowledge transfer;
  • obtain qualitative and quantitative data to enable decisions to be made about improving the quality of vocational training programmes.

One of the characteristics of this dual vocational, set out in Article 30.2 of Royal Decree 1529/2012, is that student training must include a minimum of 33% of the hours established in the corresponding degree with the participation of the company. This percentage may be increased depending on the characteristics of each vocational module and the participating company.

Schools providing secondary education

Secondary schools providing compulsory secondary education also teach bachillerato studies and, in most of the cases, vocational training (VT).

VT studies can also be pursued in vocational training institutions, integrated institutions or national reference institutions, which are specialised in the different productive sectors.

Educational policy

The primary objectives of the Spanish educational policy regarding secondary education focus on several aspects:

  • the incorporation of the following approaches that are key to adapting the education system to present needs:
    • children's rights among the guiding principles of the system;
    • gender equality through co-education and the promotion of effective equality between women and men, the prevention of gender violence and respect for affective-sexual diversity;
    • a cross-cutting approach aimed at ensuring that all students have guarantees of success in education through a dynamic of continuous improvement of educational institutions and a greater individualisation of learning;
    • focus on sustainable development in line with the 2030 Agenda;
    • the digital transformation taking place in all societies and which inevitably affects educational;
  • several strategic objectives:
    • promoting lifelong learning and teacher mobility;
    • improving the quality of the educational offer in secondary education and vocational training;
    • guaranteeing educational inclusion and quality education for all students;
    • guaranteeing equal opportunities in the fulfilment of the right to education;
    • encouraging participation in education;
    • promoting professional development;
    • promoting the learning of foreign languages.