British Council

All the courses [British Council, Cambridge Assessment, University English] have been useful for me because on one hand I have improved my English level and on the other hand I have learnt new methods of teaching.

Participating teacher


Life cycle

1996 - present




Spanish Ministry of Education (MEFP)


To establish the first national programme for bilingual education in Spain as a flagship model for other countries, providing equal opportunities for students to learn English while studying other subjects. 


Educational ties between Spain and the UK are strong. More than 33,000 students study English in our centres around the country. In 2017–18 we delivered more than 64,000 UK exams and over 11,000 Spanish students study at UK universities. Multilingual programmes already existed in the Basque Country and Catalonia. The British Council School in Madrid, founded in 1940, prepares almost 2,000 pupils for a unique bilingual, bicultural baccalaureate. The school and its approach were a major reason why the Ministry of Education approached us in 1996 to help develop and roll out an integrated bilingual curriculum in Spanish state schools. 


Together with the Spanish Ministry of Education, we signed an agreement in 1996 to introduce an integrated bilingual curriculum into Spanish state schools, based on the methodology of the British Council School. The first wave involved 43 schools with 1,200 pupils aged three and four, of which many schools were from disadvantaged areas. The bilingual curriculum was later extended through primary and secondary schools. We are now embarking on a new stage of the BEP in Spain, developing a framework for quality assurance with Spanish and UK experts and enhancing relationships with local authorities. Essential to the programme will be digital tools, inclusivity, data-driven evidence and opportunities for knowledge sharing.


In Spain, by 2018–19, 88 primary and 56 secondary schools were using the curriculum: equating to approximately 44,000 pupils per year. Over 1,000 teachers were involved in ten autonomous regions. Bilingual programmes have been replicated across the country and 86 per cent of students are currently studying English as a foreign language. Over 1.3 million primary, secondary and vocational students participated in content language and integrated learning programmes in Spain (not including Catalonia) in 2016–17, 96 per cent of which were in English. The BEP and bilingual and multilingual education in Spain have become a model for programmes in other EU countries.

The BEP has also led to developing a very strong relationship with the Ministry and local partners. Focus groups in 2019 confirmed that our organisation is highly valued by stakeholders and they are eager to hear more from us. We will continue to invest in this and integrate it into communications. This will ensure we remain the authority on bilingual education as it grows across Europe.

Mutual benefit

The exercise strengthened our relationships with Spanish authorities and opened discussions on how to expand bilingual education. Evidence from the BEP review and our study in Madrid shows the benefits of bilingual education for students, teachers and schools that goes beyond improving English language ability. Among the areas highlighted were increased awareness of other cultures and improved critical thinking skills. The upsurge in Spanish interest in English teaching has also created significant business for UK publishers and examination bodies. Having English as a core part of many school curricula – and our work in setting up this system – creates positive impressions of the UK. Our role in the development of Spanish education is well established and students learn with a regard for UK culture.