For many young families moving to the Costa del Sol education is the most important issue. Settling on a new home is the easy part, at least for those consulting Obsido Estates. For new arrivals without an already established income source, finding work or setting up a business could prove to be slightly more complicated – but there are excellent opportunities on the Costa del Sol, even in today’s economic climate.
Choosing the right school for the young ones, on the other hand, requires a considerable amount of serious deliberation and investigation, as it would anywhere for our children. If boarding school and home schooling are ruled out, the decision is narrowed down to the two traditional options: public or private.
Apart from cost, the main consideration for many families will be language. Even though the Andalucian state education system is moving (slowly) towards bilingual alternatives at selected schools (i.e. essentially Spanish but with some classes taken in English), most courses, at the vast majority of schools, are in Spanish. For teenagers in the midst of or nearing the end of their school education (and with no, or limited, previous knowledge of Spanish) this could prove to be an insurmountable barrier to a state school education. For the younger ones, however, it provides an excellent opportunity to learn Spanish fluently.
The Costa del Sol’s state schools are full of the children of non-Spaniards who have adapted to their new circumstances with relative ease, while a generation of young adults who have passed through the system are now perfectly fluent in Spanish and, perhaps almost as important, comfortably integrated into Spanish society and culture.
As noted above, however, this option is not necessarily realistic for all children newly settled on the Coast, especially high school students. To that end – and as to be expected in an immensely cosmopolitan area with a significant foreign community (several hundreds of thousands) – the Costa del Sol is well catered for with “international” schools.
From just a handful of bilingual nursery and international schools 20 years ago, the number has grown rapidly in recent years, throughout the Coast. The majority offer a British national or International Baccalaureate curriculum, but several schools have also opened for other nationalities, including Norwegian (Benalmádena), Swedish (Fuengirola), Finnish (Fuengirola) and German (Marbella), and even French in Málaga (particularly popular with Spanish children, now that English has become the main second language in high schools).
The Spanish system also includes numerous private schools, including Catholic Church-run establishments, that have the advantage of smaller classes and broader curricula – including advanced English courses. Subsidies are available but there are usually long waiting lists.
For students continuing on to higher education, Málaga University offers degrees for a wide range of academic careers and – as with Spain’s other universities – has now been brought under the auspices of a European-wide system as part of the Bolognia Plan.
Other options for English-speaking foreign students who have completed their secondary education and want to stay on the Coast include the Les Roches International School of Hotel Management in Marbella; the Marbella Business College, which also has an office in Marbella and offers University of London degrees; and the Marbella Design Academy (actually in the village of Monda), with degree courses in interior architecture, graphic design and fashion design, in partnership with Middlesex University-London.