Numbers of Spanish school children have fallen sharply

by Lorraine Williamson
school children in Spain

MADRID – Over the past twenty years, the number of school-age children and young people in Spain has fallen by almost a quarter. In the short term, this will affect the structure of compulsory public and semi-public education in Spain. 

Falling birth rate will change the current education system 

The number of 3 to 6-year-olds, the youngest group of school-age children in Spain, has decreased by 20%. This is just in the past ten years alone. Therefore, it is inevitable that schools will disappear. However, at the same time this development offers an opportunity to improve the quality of education without additional government investment. The threat of the school surplus increases despite the recent introduction of Minister Celaá’s new education law regarding public and semi-public education (educación concertada).

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Falling birth rate will not be compensated in the coming years 

Albert Esteve, director of the Spanish Centre for Demographic Research (CED), predicts the birth rate will continue to decline. This is because there are fewer and fewer people of childbearing age. Also the group of people who now have children increasingly opt for a small family. However, it is possible that the generation born between 2000 and 2008 will have more children in a few years. In the meantime, the trend will continue to decline even once the corona pandemic is over. According to Esteve, the increased migrant flow and the economic recovery will not be able to compensate for the decrease in the number of births. Foreign women in Spain have an average of 1.59 children, native women have an average of 1.17 children. 

Growth opportunities for public education 

The Spanish Ministry of Education expects that the total number of pupils will not decrease drastically. Outside compulsory education (children and young people aged 3 to 16 years) there are still important opportunities for growth. For example the age group 0 to 2 years are included in the program, and the number of early school leavers can be reduced. That is young people between 18 and 24 who have at most a high school diploma with compulsory post-secondary education. Miguel Soler of the regional ministry of Education in Valencia does not expect the falling number of students to have a dramatic effect on the education system. This is partly compensated for by a large group of teachers who will reach retirement age in the coming years. 

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