Formal education in Tenerife began with the religious orders. In 1530, the Dominican Order established a chair of philosophy at the convent of La Concepción de La Laguna. Still, until well into the 18th century Tenerife was largely without institutions of education.
Such institutions finally began to develop thanks to the work of the Real Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País ("Royal Economic Society of Friends of the Country"), which established several schools in San Cristóbal de La Laguna. The first of these was an institute of secondary education established in 1846 to fill the gap left by the closure of the Universidad de San Fernando (see University of La Laguna). An 1850 annex to this building was the Escuela Normal Elemental, the archipelago's first teachers' college or normal school, which became the Escuela Normal Superior de Magisterio from 1866 onward. These were the only institutions of higher education until the dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera created several institutions. A turning point came around the time of the rise of the Second Spanish Republic. From 1929 to 1933 the number of schools nearly doubled.
Shortly after this, though, the start of the Spanish Civil War and the following dictatorship of Francisco Franco constituted a considerable reversal. Education in the hands of religious orders had a certain importance on the island until the 1970 Ley General de Educación ("General Law of Education") shifted the balance from religiously-based education to public education. Public schools continued their advance during and after the post-Franco Spanish transition to democracy. Tenerife today has 301 centers of childhood education (preschools), 297 primary schools, 140 secondary schools and 86 post-secondary schools. There are also five universities or post-graduate schools, the University of La Laguna, the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (National University of Distance Learning), the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo (Menéndez Pelayo International University), the Universidad Alfonso X el Sabio (University of Alfonso X the Wise) and the Universidad de Vic (Escuela Universitaria de Turismo de Santa Cruz de Tenerife, "University School of Tourism of Santa Cruz de Tenerife"). The largest of these is the University of La Laguna.
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