From an outsider’s perspective, looking for schools in Andorra can seem confusing.
As if you don’t have enough on your hands looking for somewhere to rent, familiarising yourself with the cost of living and making sure your stuff gets here in one piece. Now you need to figure out the education system, too!
Having called Andorra home for some time now, I’ve become fairly familiar the way things work here. Since our son was born, we’ve added ‘education’ to that expanding knowledge base.
My hope is that this guide will help you navigate Andorra’s complex school system.
What to Expect from the Education System
Let’s start with a broad overview of what you can expect from Andorra’s school system, and then we’ll go into more detail.
For starters, you can rest easy knowing your child will have access to a world class level of education. Andorra’s literacy rate is an impressive 100% and language proficiency in anything from two to four languages is a given for high school graduates.
Public schools are free, and from my experience, well resourced. In addition to public school offerings, Andorra also has two privately run international schools and a university. More on those later.
Home schooling is not possible in Andorra. All resident children must attend school from 6-16 years old. If you are a resident and don’t want to send your child to a school in the country schools, they must attend one abroad.
Schools in Andorra
Public education in Andorra is accessible via three separate and individual systems:
All Andorran and Spanish campuses are classified as ‘green schools’, or ‘escola verda‘. The goal is to pass on values, attitudes and behaviors, fostering an appreciation for the environment and sustainability. Some French campuses also adopt these values.
The Andorran Public School System
As a relatively new education system, established only in 1982, the Andorran public school system comprises of:
- Maternal Education
- Primary School
- Secondary Schooling
- Upper Secondary Education (Including International Baccalaureate)
Maternal education (3-6 years) is the only part of the Andorran public school system that’s not compulsory. Up until the age of four children are taught in Catalan only.
From Maternal B onwards, the local public system is bilingual Catalan/French, with English and Spanish being introduced in primary school.
Prior to 2019, children who wanted to attend university elsewhere would opt for the French system as it allowed for an easier transition.
Now Andorran upper secondary students are able to choose between a diploma or career-related program with International Baccalaureate.
The result of this forward-thinking move is that children graduating from Andorra’s school system are far better equipped to cope with the globalised world they’re heading into.
Andorra’s French Schools
As is to be expected, the core language in the French school system is French, although Catalan and English do feature in the curriculum as well.
The French system is obviously popular with French expats who want to place their kids in a curriculum they’re familiar with. Although many English speaking families are drawn to the system as well.
This is due to the easy entry into the French university system. It is my understanding that, students graduating from the French system within Andorra are able to attend further studies at a French university free of charge.
You’ll find French nursery and primary schools in Andorra la Vella, Canillo, Encamp, Escaldes, Pas de la Casa, La Massana, Ordino, and Sant Julià de Lòria.
Located in Andorra la Vella, Lycée Comte de Foix is the country’s only French high school.
Spanish Schools in Andorra
The Spanish system focuses mainly on Spanish and Catalan, however they do incorporate some English and French into the curriculum as well.
In recent years there’s been a decline in enrollments in the Spanish system, with many students opting for the Andorran system instead. That said, the level of education is still first class.
Located in Andorra la Vella and Escaldes-Engordany, the Catholic Spanish schools Mare Janer, Sant Ermengol and Sacred Family are funded locally. The secular Maria Moliner is subsidised by the Spanish government.
On observation, Sant Ermengol isn’t hugely popular with new residents, but some of my Andorran friends believe it to be a superior option.
One of the country’s two international schools also follows the Spanish system.
International Schools in Andorra
In addition to Andorra’s numerous public school offerings, there are also two international (private) schools to consider.
Although not free, many parents feel that both the long term prospects and heavy use of English in tuition, make it worth the outlay.
Agora International School
Agora International School is the most established of Andorra’s two international schools. Situated in l’Aldosa, La Massana, the school is part of a global network of premium bilingual and international schools.
For students who wish to attend an American university, there’s the option of graduating with an American high school diploma. Alternatively, they can opt for the Spanish Baccalaureate (Spain’s secondary-school diploma).
If you don’t live nearby, the school can host about 50 boys and girls (9-18) in their boarding facilities opposite the main building.
Like with Andorra’s public schools, there’s a keen focus on athletics at Agora. Proximity to Ordino makes it ideal for students with a love of skiing, as we’ll see below.
British College of Andorra
For families who don’t plan on settling in Andorra permanently, this approach makes it easier for students to move to schools elsewhere that follow the same curriculum. The transition to tertiary education abroad is also less challenging.
Although classes are all in English, the government required that students do learn some Catalan so they at least have a basic grasp of the local language.
BCA is located in Andorra la Vella, where children can enroll from Nursery right the way to the end of high school.
It’s not the most convenient location, especially during Winter, so be sure to consider the daily drive during peak traffic hours, or the bus service if you’re considering it as an option. This said, it’s located in an exceptionally quiet spot—ideal for developing minds.
University in Andorra
Andorra’s local university, Universitat d’Andorra or “UdA” is the last stop for students who want to further their education without moving abroad. Founded in 1998, the university offers courses in business, education, medicine and computer science.
Students have the option of obtaining a bachelor’s, specialised bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree. Depending on their chosen course, learning can take place in person as well as online.
Ski Schools in the Principality
Physical education forms an integral part of curriculum at schools in Andorra, with students attending ski school from the outset. Skiing lessons are mandatory to begin but later become non-compulsory.
While much importance is placed on kids learning the sport, skiing lessons only take up four days in the school year for the first year.
Children often enroll in separate, weekend ski schools and clubs, and the best students also take part in a national school championship.
This is where children located near Ordino are at an advantage. The ski club, ECOA is ideal for fostering talent, and some schools have special tuition programs for children that spend a large portion of their day skiing.
Skiing is about more than fun though. The government views it as a way to offer students a well-rounded education that leaves them with an appreciation of nature, a keen sense of body awareness and the basic skills necessary to master the sport if they so choose.
Choosing the Right School for Your Child
Deciding on a school for your children comes down to several key factors, such as the location of the school (and its distance from where you live), the core language of instruction, fees (if you opt for a private school), subject choices and finally, potential future opportunities.
Perhaps more importantly, you’ll want to factor in your future plans. Continuity of English is hugely beneficial if you’re only going to be here for a few years, whereas the diversity of language from one of the other schools is probably more beneficial if you plan to be in Andorra for the long-haul.
The great thing about the schooling in Andorran is that you’re spoilt for choice. Whether you end up sending your child to a public or private school, you can rest assured they’ll receive a quality education.
Concluding Our Tour of the Andorran School System
We’ve covered a lot, but hopefully I’ve left you with a better understanding of how the education system works here in Andorra.
Now it’s up to you to weigh up your options and do your own research. I highly recommend visiting the schools you like to get a proper feel for them.
Leave any questions you have in the comments below. I’ll do my best to help.