Primary Education Curriculum
The Administration, through the Ministry of Education, Vocational Training and Sports (MEFD), after consulting the autonomous communities, establishes the basic elements of the curriculum (minimum teaching compulsory throughout the country in terms of objectives, competences, content and assessment criteria) in order to ensure common education for all pupils. These minimum teachings make up 50 percent of the school timetables in the Autonomous Communities with a co-official language and 60 percent for those without it.
The curriculum is understood as the set of objectives, competences (key and specific), contents (stated in the form of basic knowledge), pedagogical methods (through learning situations) and assessment criteria.
Royal Decree 157/2022, establishes the organisation and minimum teaching requirements for Primary Education.
Key competences are understood as the achievements that are considered essential for students to progress in their educational itinerary, facing global and local issues and challenges.
Their incorporation into the school curriculum entails a number of consequences:
- Their effective acquisition and integration into the curriculum is achieved through the design of integrated learning activities that enable learners to progress towards the learning outcomes in several skills at the same time, as many of them overlap and are interlinked.
- There is no universal relationship between the teaching of certain areas or subjects and the development of certain skills; each teaching area contributes to the development of different skills and, in turn, each of them is achieved as a result of working in various areas or subjects.
The key competences in the Spanish education system are:
- 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.
These competences are the adaptation of the key competences set out in the European Union Council Recommendation of 22 May 2018.
Each key competence includes operational descriptors that provide guidance on the level of performance expected at the end of the Primary Education stage. These descriptors constitute, together with the stage objectives, a reference framework for determining the specific competences in each area, field or subject.
The key competences and their operational descriptors appear in the student output profile at the end of the Basic Education stage. The output profile identifies and defines, in connection with the challenges of the 21st century, the key competences that students will need to acquire at the end of Basic Education, and introduces guidelines on the level of performance expected at the end of Primary Education.
The Primary Education curriculum also includes some stage objectives which are the achievements that students are expected to reach by the end of the stage. The achievement of these objectives is linked to the acquisition of the key competences. The objectives in primary education will contribute to the development of children's capacities as included in article 7 of Royal Decree 157/2022:
a) know and appreciate the values and rules for coexistence, to learn and act accordingly in an empathetic way, to prepare to actively exercise citizenship and to respect human rights and the pluralism of a democratic society.
b) develop individual and team work habits, respect and responsibility with regards to their studies, as well as attitudes of self-confidence, critical sense, personal initiative, interest and creativity in learning, and entrepreneurial spirit.
c) acquire skills for the peaceful resolution of conflict and the prevention of violence, which enables them to autonomously get by within the school and domestic context and within the social groups they interact with.
d) know, understand and respect different cultures and differences among people, equal gender rights and opportunities and non-discrimination of people on the basis of ethnicity, sexual orientation or identity, religion or belief, disability or other any other conditions.
e) know and appropriately use the Spanish language, and if any, the co-official language of the corresponding Autonomous Community and to develop reading habits.
f) acquire, in at least a foreign language, the basic communicative competence which enables them to express and understand simple messages and get by in daily situations. g) develop basic mathematical competences and start solving problems which require basic mathematical operations, geometrical knowledge and estimates, as well as be able to apply them to daily situations.
h) know the fundamentals of Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Geography, History and Culture.
i) develop basic technological competences and initiate in their use for learning, developing a critical spirit towards their functioning and the messages they receive and elaborate.
j) use different artistic representations and expressions and start devising visual and audiovisual proposals.
k) value hygiene and health, accept one's body and others', respect differences and use physical education, sports and nutrition as means for favouring personal and social development.
l) know and value the animals that live in close contact to human beings and adopt behaviours that favour empathy and their care.
m) develop pupils' affective skills in every field of their personality and relations with others, as well as an attitude against violence, any kind of prejudice and sexist stereotypes.
n) develop daily habits of healthy autonomous active mobility, promoting road safety education and respectful attitudes which might contribute to prevent traffic accidents.
The educational content or basic knowledge of primary education is organised in areas:
- Natural, social and cultural environment knowledge, which may be divided into Natural Sciences and Social Sciences;
- Arts Education, which may be divided into Plastic and Visual Education, on the one hand, and Music and Dance, on the other;
- Physical Education;
- Spanish Language and Literature and, if applicable, regional Language and Literature;
- Foreign Language;
Education in Civic and Ethical Values is added in some of the courses of the third cycle. In turn, education authorities may add a second foreign language, a co-official language or a cross-curricular area. As for schools, they can establish groups of areas within knowledge domains.
Percentage of teaching hours per subject in Primary Education (2023)
Source: Drawn up by Eurydice Spain-Spanish Network for Information on Education (INEE, MEFD) on the basis of Education at a glance 2023.
The curriculum of each area is made up of:
- Specific competences: performance levels that students must be able to display in learning activities or situations which require the basic knowledge of each area or field in order to be approached. They constitute an element of connection between, on one hand, the output profile and, on the other hand, the basic knowledge;
- Assessment criteria: reference points indicating the levels of performance expected of students in learning activities or situations referred to in the specific competences for each area;
- Basic knowledge: knowledge, skills and attitudes that constitute the contents of an area or domain. All of it is necessary for the acquisition of specific competences.
Royal Decree 157/2022 establishes the specific competences and the assessment criteria for each area, which are common to all the cycles of the stage. The basic knowledge is established for each cycle in each of the areas.
The Education Administrations are responsible for establishing the corresponding curriculum for their territorial area.
They also establish the linguistic models organising the teaching of the official languages in their regions. They may establish that part of the subjects of the curriculum might be taught in a foreign language, without altering the basic aspects of the curriculum. By the end of the stage, students must master the terminology of the subjects in both languages. However, schools that offer part of the subjects of the curriculum in a foreign language cannot include language requirements as admission criteria for students.
The annual average of teaching hours in Primary Education in 2023 was 792 hours (Education at a Glance. OECD Indicators 2023. Spanish report. Image 3.1 [from chart D1.1], p. 107.
The education authorities contribute to the development of the curriculum by encouraging the development of open models for teaching programmes and teaching materials which meet the different needs of students and teachers, in accordance with the principles of Universal Design for Learning. They should also urge schools to establish measures to make the organisation of areas, teaching, spaces and times more flexible and to promote methodological alternatives in order to personalise and improve the learning capacity and results of all pupils.
They are also responsible for:
- determining the percentage of the school timetables that educational institutions will count on in order to guarantee the integrated development of all the competences in the educational stage and the incorporation of contents of a cross-curricular nature in all areas;
- making recommendations on teaching methodology to the educational institutions under their jurisdiction on the basis of the aims and general and pedagogical principles of the stage as a whole, regulated for the whole country;
- periodically reviewing the curricula in order to adapt them to the advances in knowledge, as well as to the changes and new demands of their local area, of Spanish society and of the European and international contexts.
The curriculum of primary education is organised into successive levels of concretion, which progressively adapt to the specificities of the school environment and the pupils being attended.
Accordingly, schools also play an active role, developing, completing and adapting the curriculum to the pupils' needs and to their environment. All this is contained in a series of documents that articulate their pedagogic and curricular organisation:
- the school development plan, which includes the application of the established curricula by the Education Administration;
- the yearly general programme;
- the classroom programmes;
- the written report at the end of the school year, which reflects and evaluates the school activities and the running of the school.
The educational community takes part in the elaboration of these documents through the respective government and coordination teaching bodies of the school. The curricula established by the Education Administration are set and approved by the school staff, as well as the educational aspects of the yearly general
Teaching methods and materials
The teaching methodology is the set of strategies, procedures and actions consciously and thoughtfully organised and planned by teachers with the aim of guaranteeing student learning and the attainment of the stated objectives.
Article 6 of Royal Decree 157/2022 establishes the methodological principles that must guide the teaching practice in primary education. They feature the following characteristics:
- a special emphasis on guaranteeing educational inclusion; personalised attention to students and their learning, participation and coexistence needs; the prevention of learning difficulties and the implementation of reinforcement and flexibilisation mechanisms, methodological alternatives or other appropriate measures as soon as any of these situations are identified;
- work on reading comprehension, oral and written expression, audiovisual communication, digital competence, the promotion of creativity and the scientific and entrepreneurial spirit, gender equality, education for peace, education for responsible consumption and sustainable development and education for health, including affective and sexual health, in all areas;
- special attention to emotional and values education and the strengthening of meaningful learning for the development of cross-curricular competences that foster autonomy and reflective thinking;
- devotion of daily time to reading in class, as a means of promoting the habit and mastery of reading amongst pupils;
- the use of teaching time for meaningful projects and collaborative problem solving, reinforcing self-esteem, autonomy, reflective thinking and responsibility, in order to promote the integration of skills;
- use of the Spanish or the relevant Co-Official Language only as support in the foreign language learning;
- in the teaching and assessment of a foreign language for pupils with specific educational support needs, especially for those with difficulties in comprehension and expression, flexibility measures and methodological alternatives are to be established.
Within their pedagogic autonomy, schools are in charge of defining the teaching methods in the classroom, according to the said methodological principles. They also decide on curricular materials and didactic resources.
Each teacher can make their own methodological decisions, which must respect both the agreements made at school level and what the relevant educational authorities establish.
Curricular materials and teaching resources
Textbooks and teaching materials do not require the prior authorisation of the educational authorities for their adoption and publication. In any case, they must:
- be adapted to the scientific rigour adequate for the pupils’ age group and to the approved curriculum set by each Education Authority;
- reflect and promote respect for the principles, values, freedom, rights and constitutional duties, as well as the principles and values set out in current educational laws and in Organic Law 1/2004 on Comprehensive Protection Measures against Gender Violence, with which all educational activity must comply.
In the exercise of pedagogical autonomy, it is up to the educational coordination bodies of each public educational institution to decide on the textbooks and other materials to be used in the development of the different areas.
The supervision of textbooks and other curricular materials is the responsibility of the Education Administrations and constitutes part of the ordinary process of inspection carried out by each Education Authority on all the elements composing the teaching and learning process. In any case, it is necessary to ensure respect for the principles and values contained in the Constitution and the provisions of all regulations in force.
Families pay for textbooks and school materials. However, the MEFD promotes, within the Sectoral Committee for Education, programmes that facilitate the availability of textbooks at no cost and other curricular materials through a system of loans or grants. This Sectoral Committee, through the General Education Commission (support body), agrees on the objective criteria for distribution, as well as the amounts to be transferred in favour of each autonomous community in each budget year.
At the same time, there are a number of state, regional and local aids for the purchase of textbooks and school materials for students attending publicly-funded schools.
Finally, although various initiatives have been carried out to regulate the homework that students must do outside school hours, in Spain there is no specific legislation at a national level regulating this aspect. Consequently, in this respect the organisation is subject to the judgment of each teacher or the agreements reached at each school.
Information and Communication Technologies
Educational authorities and management teams at public schools should promote the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the classroom as an appropriate and valuable educational medium for carrying out teaching and learning tasks. The educational authorities must establish the conditions that make it possible to eliminate risk situations arising from the inappropriate use of ICT in the school environment, with special attention to situations of on-line violence. In accordance with the law, confidence and safety in the use of technologies must be fostered, paying special attention to the elimination of gender stereotypes that hinder the acquisition of digital skills under equal conditions.
The Procomún network of open educational resources is intended for educational and learning uses, primarily by the teaching community and students, but also by the general public.
Currently, Procomún is a network of open educational resources (OER), where you can search, display and download learning objects in standard formats and with open licenses for use in pre-university education. It integrates a social network as a meeting point for the educational community, which facilitates interaction with other users, creating communities, sharing, valuing and disseminating all kinds of educational resources. At the same time, it incorporates semantic technology linking it to other similar digital networks (Europeana, Redined, National Library, Prado Museum, Hispana y Dbpedia).
These OER are under open license (Creative Commons España), which allows free access, as well as their use, modification and redistribution by others without any restriction or with limited restrictions.
Meanwhile, the EDIA Project (Educational, Digital, Innovative and Open) of the National Centre for Curriculum Development in Non-Proprietary Systems (CEDEC) promotes and supports the creation of digital and methodological transformation dynamics in schools to improve student learning and promote new models for educational institutions.
EDIA offers a collection of educational content for primary education, among other educational levels. These open educational resources (OER) are curriculum-referenced and offer proposals for active methodologies and the promotion of digital competence in the classroom. The resources include all the templates, guides, rubrics and documents necessary to implement the didactic proposal in the classroom.
The OER are created with the eXeLearning, authoring tool, so that any teacher can access them to use them directly, but also download them and modify them according to their classroom context. The OER of the EDIA project have generated networks of teachers who discuss the use of resources and technology in the classroom. This virtual faculty constitutes a framework for experimentation to propose new educational content models that develop aspects such as accessibility and topics such as gender equality or digital citizenship.
In 2022, the MEFD creates the School Code 4.0 Plan to help develop the digital skills of early childhood, primary and secondary school pupils. It is particularly focused on computational thinking, programming and robotics and an investment of 356 million euros is expected over the next two years.