The majority of primary schools in Spain maintain the tradition of teaching vertical cursive writing, sometimes with cursive uppercase letters but more frequently with simplified print ones.
In Spain, education falls under the purview of the Ministerio de Educación y Formación Profesional, or the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, that is responsible for policymaking and implementation for all levels of education except university. Its governance is decentralised, and regional authorities oversee primary education in their local area.
After the Franco regime (1939–1975), education was identified as one of the crucial goals for social and political change in Spain, and the system underwent successive reforms to ensure common learning, and to expand access to quality education. This process was completed in 1990 with the approval of the Ley de Ordenación General del Sistema Educativo, or the General Education System Ordering Law, which was most recently revised in 2006, 2013, and 2020.
Colegio, or primary education (6–12 years old), and Educación Secundaria Obligatoria (ESO), or secondary education (12–16 years old), together form the basic phase, which lasts ten years and is compulsory. Before this, children attend Escuela infantil, or kindergarten (3–6 years old), which may be offered for free by the State in some schools. There are three types of schools in the country: public, private, and those subsidised in part by the government.
Among the changes put into practice in Spain at the end of the 20th century was the adoption of constructivism. Constructivism espouses active learning and student participation, and posits that learning happens by “constructing” knowledge through experience, and building upon prior learning. Subsequently, issues pertaining to writing production and handwriting models, which would not be fundamental in a constructivist approach to teaching handwriting, are not included in the goals of the curricular guidelines. Schools do, however, need to meet government-mandated curriculum goals and by the end of third grade children must have fluent and well-formed handwriting. Provinces and schools have pedagogic autonomy and may create and provide digital and print resources for teaching handwriting*.*
Despite the absence of guidelines about handwriting models, most schools maintain the tradition of teaching capital letters first, using simplified print letters, followed by vertical cursive writing, or escritura cursiva vertical, which was established in the last century. Some private schools with a traditional pedagogical approach introduce cursive writing from first grade onwards.
The Spanish tradition of escritura cursiva vertical
Primary school handwriting in Spain features letters that are cursive from a structural standpoint but have no slant. These upright cursive letters are either taught in the form of a hybrid style, which uses joined cursive lowercase letters with unjoined simplified print uppercase, or as a fully cursive style, which features ornate, and more traditional cursive uppercase letters. The hybrid style is used in textbooks by major educational publishers, such as Cuadernos Rubio, Santillana Educación, Editorial Barcanova, and Tekman Education.
The evolution of this approach can be attributed to a series of developments. At the beginning of the 20th century in Spain, escritura cursiva vertical, or vertical cursive writing was being championed to replace the traditional slanted writing in Spain called the letra española, or the Spanish letter. In his 1902 publication Arte de la escritura y de la caligrafia, educationalist Rufino Blanco y Sánchez (1861–1936) advocated for vertical cursive writing in place of slanted cursive writing by describing the former as “the fastest”, “easier to execute” and “the most suitable in primary schools”. By mid-century, there was also a push for using print script forms as the first letters used for teaching children. After successive reforms and the adoption of constructivism, the importance of specifying handwriting models diminished, and no details about them were provided in curriculum documents by the government.
Some resources offered by provincial institutions such as the Centro de educación infantil e primaria de Frións-Ribeira(CEIP de Frións) linked to the Xunta de Galícia, provide a glimpse into the handwriting styles commonly used for instruction. On their website, digital fonts to support the teaching of handwriting are made available for free. These include Escolar and MeMimas, designed by Spanish type designers Antonio Herrera Infantes (Anyetipo. Madrid, 1992) and José Manuel Urós (Type-Ø-Tones. Barcelona, 1991) respectively. They are good representatives of the hybrid style described above, but also provide a set of cursive capitals.
Sample pages of LudiLetras from Tekman Educación, Barcelona.