Expat parents considering moving to Andorra understandably want to know “what are the Andorran schools like?”
Well, to begin, Andorra boasts a 100% literacy rate, school is free, and pupils end up multi-lingual.
Schooling in this tiny principality isn’t quite as simple as the tax system in Andorra. It’s not that the process is difficult, more that you’re spoiled for choice given the small size and population of this country.
In this article we’ll review a brief history of Andorra’s school system, explain the different “sub-systems” here, and discuss some important things to consider before enrolling your child in any of the schools.
Table of Contents
A Brief History of Andorra’s Education System
Andorra was officially established as a “co-principality” in 1278, seeing the Bishop of Urgell (Spain) and the King of France with equal power over the country.
Around 1880, some parishes within Andorra began to pay teachers to educate their community in Catholic schools.
With clear Spanish and French influence in the control of Andorra came the installation of Spanish and French schools within Andorra. As these schooling systems were running side by side, each was directed by their respective countries.
These two education systems continue to operate in Andorra today, but no longer alone. The Andorran-wide, Andorran-governed schooling system was established in 1982, creating a third schooling system within the country’s borders.
In 1988, the first universities were opened, prioritising nursing and information science.
Andorra’s parliament enacted the llei qualificada d’educació in 1993, most importantly stating:
“Everyone has the right to receive basic education that allows him to develop his own personality, to train as a citizen and to participate in the development of the country.”
In 2003, distribution between the schooling system was as follows:
- Spanish system: 36%
- French system: 35%
- Andorran system: 29%
In 2016, the total number of students in Andorra was 11,018, with the distribution changing to:
- Andorran system: 39%
- French system: 33%
- Spanish system: 28%
Things to Know About the Andorran Schooling System
School in Andorra is free: citizen or resident children have free access at any of the public schools within the country for both primary and secondary education.
You can choose between 3 different public education systems: Andorran, French and Spanish.
Primary and Secondary School in Andorra is compulsory: from age 6-16 all resident children must go to school.
Home-schooling is not allowed: a deal-breaker for some passive residents who want to travel regularly with their children, home or “world-schooling” is not currently possible for children who are residents in Andorra.
There are two private schools in Andorra: If the free options are no good for you, we’ll discuss them below.
Expect your child to end up multi-lingual: Even if your child goes to the British college and only learns English and Catalan at school, chances are they will pick Spanish or French up very easily given its prevalence in the country.
With these out of the way, let’s drill down into the individual schooling systems.
Public School System in Andorra
Expatriates who don’t have family or a connection with either France of Spain, and do not send their child to a private school, tend to choose the Andorran public education system.
Age: 3-6 years (not compulsory)
Languages: Catalan only (3-4 years), Catalan and French (4-6 years)
Andorran Primary School
Age: 6-11 years
Curriculum: Mathematics, languages, social sciences, science, technology, physical education and music
Languages: Catalan and French (6-8 years), Catalan, English and French (8-10 years), Catalan, English, French and Spanish (10-12 years)
Age: 12-16 years
Curriculum: Mathematics, physical education, social science, humanities, technology, art, music, nature and physical science, physical education, language and literature
Languages: Catalan, English, French, Spanish
Upper Secondary Education: International Baccalaureate
Age: 16-18 years (not compulsory)
Curriculum is specialised into: Art and communication, languages and humanities, science and technology, social science and economics
Languages: Catalan, English, French, Spanish
Historically those wanting their children to complete university abroad opted for the French system due to an easier transition, however this is set to change. Beginning in 2019, Andorran upper secondary students will be given the opportunity to choose between a diploma or career-related program with International Baccalaureate.
This is a huge positive for Andorra’s schools, preparing children for an increasingly connected, globalised world; especially one that many expat children are exposed to. It also provides better integration for families moving to Andorra, or with a view of leaving in future years.
French Public Schools in Andorra
While no longer the dominant schooling system in Andorra, the French system remains very popular. Many French expats wish for their children to continue with a curriculum they are familiar with, while some English speaking expats appreciate the core focus on a language they feel valuable.
Spanish Public Education System in Andorra
Core languages: Spanish and Catalan
Additional languages: English, French
School locations: There are multiple schools in Andorra la Vella and Escaldes-Engordany.
Enrolments in the Spanish system have seen significant decline in favour of the Andorran system over past years, with around 28% of the country’s students attending these schools.
Some schools within the Spanish system are Catholic and are funded by the Andorran government. In this case, the core language is Catalan. Otherwise, there is a mix of Spanish and Catalan used.
Andorra Private Schools
For those not wanting to send their child to one of the public schools, there are currently two private schools available.
Andorra’s English School
Core language: English
Additional language: Catalan
School location: Andorra la Vella
Tuition fees: Starting at €9,850 per year
Students from age 3-18 are able to attend the British College of Andorra. The college teaches the British National Curriculum and is being operated by part of the team running the British College of Gavà.
It appears the intention is to become a wholly International Baccalaureate school
Located at the site of an ex-hostel on La Comella in Andorra la Vella, its location is quiet idyllic for children, though not particularly central and potentially “interesting” to drive to during Winter. Remember to factor in the bus service!
Agora International School Andorra
Core language: Spanish
Additional languages: Catalan, English, French
School location: L’Aldosa, La Massana
Tuition fees: Starting at €7,450 per year
Formerly known as “Col·legi del Pirineu”, Agora International is a private school located in La Massana, with boarding school facilities for children between 9 and 18 years.
Though the core language at Ágora International School is Spanish, they claim a “quadrilingual education”, with students from many different nationalities.
While many students from Andorra choose to leave the country for further studies, there is a local option – Universitat d’Andorra, or “UdA”.
Established in 1997, the UdA offers courses mainly in medicine, education, computer science and business.
Sports and Ski School
With skiing having such a strong influence on the tourism industry in Andorra, it’s no surprise that skiing is a component of the curriculum of all schools in Andorra. Though the mandatory ski school component in Andorra is short, some parents choose to opt their children into a more advanced ski-school.
Though skiing is prevalent, other more traditional sports such as soccer (football), basketball and tennis are also part of the curriculum.
With the outdoors being a key part of life in Andorra, other less traditional sports such as mountain biking, hiking and horse riding are offered as extra-curricular activities. For a small country, you’re spoiled for choice!
Free schooling, multiple languages, multiple education systems, a 100% literacy rate and value placed on the outdoors. There’s a lot to love about Andorra’s schools.
If you’re thinking of living in Andorra, schooling isn’t something you should be concerned about. Your biggest challenge will be choosing which of the many great options is best for your child!