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Schools and health education in Spain during the dictatorship of General Franco (1939-1975)

Aida Terron (Ciencias de la Educación, Universidad de Oviedo, Oviedo, Spain)
Josep M. Comelles (Medical Anthropology Research Center, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Spain)
Enrique Perdiguero-Gil (Salud Pública, Hª de la Ciencia y Ginecología, Universidad Miguel Hernandez de Elche, Sant Joan d’Alacant, Spain)

History of Education Review

ISSN: 0819-8691

Article publication date: 2 October 2017




The purpose of this paper is to analyse the evolution and characteristics of health education in schools in Spain during the dictatorship of General Franco (1939-1975).


The analysis of two kinds of sources has been performed. First, the reports from international organizations on health education in schools published in the 1950s and 1960s. Second, journals, books and official documents published by public health and education organizations in Franco’s Spain.


Health education in schools evolved in three stages under Franco’s dictatorship. In the first stage (1939-1953), Spanish schools maintained an outdated “school health” approach in the teaching programmes. In the second stage (1953-1965), the agreements with the USA in 1953 ended Spanish isolation, and the regime sought to follow the recommendations of international organizations. Efforts were made to “import” the WHO/UNESCO version of health education in schools but it failed to materialize. A programme that sought to enhance citizen participation and to acknowledge their idiosyncrasies was unlikely to prosper in a dictatorship. However, the less threatening food and nutrition education programme, encouraged by the FAO/UNICEF, did succeed. In the last stage (1965-1975), the Spanish education system entered a period of modernization in which the contents and methods of health education in schools were reformed in order to introduce the less conflictive aspects of the international recommendations.


The paper highlights the tensions between the aspirations to follow international programmes and the recommendations on health education in schools and the difficulties of implementing such schemes under a dictatorship.



This research has been funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy of Competitiveness. Project HAR2012-34588.


Terron, A., Comelles, J.M. and Perdiguero-Gil, E. (2017), "Schools and health education in Spain during the dictatorship of General Franco (1939-1975)", History of Education Review, Vol. 46 No. 2, pp. 208-223.



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