Bilingual education in Murcia

Last year, we wrote about some of the differences between the bilingual education programmes in the various parts of Spain. Over the coming months, we’ll look at some of the regional programmes in more detail, starting with Murcia.

Bilingual education in Murcia is part of the Sistema de Enseñanzas en Lenguas Extranjeras (SELE – “System for foreign language teaching”). The aim of SELE is to improve communication skills in foreign languages by providing a framework that allows all students to be part of a bilingual or plurilingual programme. As a result, from 2018-2019 onwards, all schools in Murcia have been authorised to introduce a bilingual programme.

“Hang on – did you say all students are part of a bilingual programme?”

Yes, we did. In most regions of Spain, only some schools are bilingual, and only some form groups within each school are bilingual. There are various reasons for this, including the fact that many teachers don’t have sufficient English skills to teach in English, or don’t want to teach in English, as they feel that it would have a negative impact on their teaching. Other reasons include some parents not wanting their children to attend a bilingual school and some students having insufficient English skills to really benefit from this kind of education.

So why is Murcia different? Are its teachers and students much better at English than their counterparts elsewhere in Spain? Actually, what Murcia has done is to create three levels of bilingual programme – basic, intermediate and advanced, and the basic level only requires only a very small number of lessons to be taught in English. Nevertheless, making all schools bilingual is very ambitious, and Murcia is the only region of Spain to have done this.

What is taught in English?

The number of lessons taught in English depends on the level of bilingual programme at the school and the educational stage.

Let’s start with preschool, where there are just two levels – basic and advanced:

  • Basic: 60-90 minutes of non-language subjects (ANLs) are taught in English per week.
  • Advanced: English is used as the vehicular language for 60-90 minutes per day.

At primary school there are three levels:

  • Basic: 1-2 hours of ANLs in English per week.
  • Intermediate: 2.5-4.5 hours of ANLs in English per week.
  • Advanced: at least 5 hours of ANLs in English per week.

In compulsory secondary education (ESO) and sixth-form (bachillerato) the requirements are as follows:

  • Basic: 1-2 lessons of ANLs in English per week.
  • Intermediate: 3-6 lessons of ANLs in English per week.
  • Advanced: at least 6 lessons of ANLs in English per week.

To teach an ANL in English, teachers must demonstrate at least a B2 level of English, and the regional government is also encouraging them to take a C1 qualification.


Sistema de Enseñanzas en Lenguas Extranjeras (SELE)
BORM regarding the SELE (July 2017)

If you believe that any of the information we have provided is incorrect, please let us know.

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