The 1978 Spanish Constitution established a decentralised and symmetrical state model that distributes the exercise of educational competences among all administrative levels, so that all the autonomous communities basically have the same competences.
Organic Law 2/2006 on Education (LOE) and Organic Law 3/2020 amending it (LOMLOE) establish the educational competences exercised by the Government and the autonomous communities and the distribution of these competences regarding the design of the curriculum for ECEC, primary education, compulsory secondary education (ESO), bachillerato, vocational training (VT) and specialised education.
Following the ministerial reshuffle in January 2020, the functions related to the proposal and implementation of the Government's policy on education have been distributed among the following ministries: the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MEFP), for non-university education, the Ministry of Universities (MUNI), for university education, and the Ministry of Culture and Sport (MCUD), to some extent for sports education.
Consequently, educational competences are distributed between the General State Administration (MEFP, MUNI, and MCUD) and the autonomous communities (departments of education and departments of universities). In the cities of Ceuta and Melilla, in the case of non-university education, these competences are assumed by the MEFP itself.
With this decentralisation model, the curriculum of non-university education is drawn up in a set of levels of curricular development:
- The Central Administration (central level), through the MEFP, establishes, in relation to the objectives, competences, contents and assessment criteria, the basic aspects of the curriculum, which constitute the minimum teaching requirements for the whole state. In the case of vocational training courses, the learning outcomes are considered part of the minimum teaching. Additionally, it establishes 50 percent of the school timetables for the autonomous communities that have a co-official language and 60 percent for those that don’t. Also, within the framework of international cooperation in the field of education, it can establish mixed curricula of teachings from the Spanish education system and from other education systems, leading to the respective degrees.
- The autonomous communities (regional level) establish the official curriculum, which must include the minimum teaching requirements set by the MEFP. They also determine the percentage of the school timetables of the educational institutions within their area of management in order to guarantee the integrated development of all the competences in the educational stage and the incorporation of contents of a cross-curricular nature in all areas, subjects and fields. In addition, they must periodically review the curricula in order to adapt them to the advances in knowledge, as well as to the changes and new demands of their local area, of Spanish society and of the European and international context. Educational institutions (local level) develop and complete the curriculum of the different stages and cycles in the use of their autonomy; a specification set and approved by the teaching staff. The result is reflected in the school development plan.
- Based on the curricular specification of the educational centre, teachers create the classroom annual plan, adapted to the characteristics of their classroom and the needs of their students.
- The fourth level of curricular specification is the adaptation of teachers' classroom annual plans to the students with specific educational support needs (article 71 of the LOE modified by the LOMLOE). This fourth level can be included in the previous one, since classroom programming must take into account the specific cases of educational support needs to develop the teaching-learning process.
Most of the powers in the field of education at central level are undertaken by the MEFP. Among its functions, the following should be noted:
- the proposal and execution of the Government's policy on education and vocational training in the education system and for employment, including all education system programmes except university education;
- the promotion of cooperation actions and international relations in the field of non-university education and vocational training for employment.
The education competences bestowed to the MEFP ensure the homogeneity and basic unity of the education system and guarantee the conditions of basic equality for all Spaniards in the exercise of their basic education rights, as laid down in the Constitution.
Essentially regulatory in nature, these competences have to do with the regulation of the basic elements or aspects of the system (in the whole country), although the Ministry also has executive competences (in Ceuta and Melilla).
Organisation of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training
Royal Decree 498/2020 developing the basic organic structure of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training establishes that the MEFP has the following basic structure, with these higher and executive bodies:
- the Secretary of State for Education, which is responsible for the following management bodies:
- Directorate General for Evaluation and Territorial Cooperation;
- Directorate General for Educational Planning and Management;
- the General Secretariat for Vocational Training;
- the Under-Secretariat for Education and Vocational Training.
Detailed information about the ministerial structure can be found in the Diagram of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training.
The Secretary of State for Education is mainly entrusted with the following functions in educational matters:
- the organisation, evaluation and innovation of the studies integrating the education system, with the exception of university education and vocational training, without prejudice to the competences of the Higher Council for Sport in matters of sports education;
- the planning and management of education within the jurisdiction of the ministry itself;
- the development and dissemination of educational guidelines in the field of specialised education, as well as the basic academic organisation of these studies;
- the drawing up, planning and direction of the grants and scholarships policy, in coordination with the Ministry of Universities, as well as their management;
- the promotion and coordination of the relationships with the autonomous communities and the local corporations in non-university education matters, except for vocational training;
- the promotion of equality, coeducation, non-discrimination and universal accessibility policies;
- the functions corresponding to the State Education Inspectorate;
- the management of international relations in the field of non-university education, in coordination with the General Secretariat for Vocational Training;
- the monitoring of actions derived from the European Union in the field of non-university education;
- the planning of the education administration abroad and of Spanish state-owned educational institutions in other countries;
- the definition of international cooperation programmes within the scope of the MEFP’s competences;
- the functions assigned to the MEFP in the management of Operational Programmes co-financed by the European Social Fund in the field of non-university education and vocational training, in coordination with the General Secretariat for Vocational Training;
- the guidelines regarding the organisation of teaching staff in non-university education, in coordination with the other higher and management bodies.
The Secretary of State for Education is attached to the following collegiate bodies:
- the Supreme Council for Artistic Education, a State consultative and participatory body regarding artistic education;
- the Sectoral Committee for Education, a meeting and deliberation body with the primary purpose of achieving maximum coherence and integration in the application of the decisions that, in the field of education policy, are issued by the State Administration and the autonomous communities;
- the State Observatory for School Coexistence, a collegiate body of the General State Administration with the mission, among others, of gathering information for the improvement of the school climate in educational centres, as well as analysing situations, making diagnoses and proposing measures to foster school coexistence.
The General Secretariat for Vocational Training, in turn, basically performs the following functions in educational matters:
- the organisation, development, evaluation, management and innovation of vocational training in the education system and for employment. With regard to the latter, vocational training for employment, in particular, it is responsible for vocational training for unemployed and employed individuals;
- the establishment and updating of vocational training diplomas, specialisation courses and certificates of professional experience;
- the guidelines for the issuing of official Spanish vocational training diplomas and other certificates and accreditations referring to vocational training, as well as the general register of all vocational training diplomas, certificates and partial accreditations;
- the approval of equivalences of qualification scales for foreign vocational training diplomas and studies, and the standardization and validation of foreign studies in the field of vocational training;
- participation and collaboration in international vocational training and lifelong learning programmes, within the scope of its competences;
- the development of materials and management of the distance vocational training directly provided by the Centre for the Innovation and Development of Distance Education (CIDEAD);
- the design of strategies for the promotion of vocational guidance, the development of an integrated system of vocational guidance, in collaboration with other Ministries, as well as the maintenance of portals, platforms and social networks to facilitate the exchange of information, experiences and resources in the field of vocational guidance and training;
- the promotion of programmes aimed at facilitating career development and access to professional qualification and requalification;
- the organisation of the procedures for the assessment and accreditation of basic and professional skills acquired through work experience and non-formal and informal training, the preparation of the instruments to support them, and the registration of accredited professionals;
- the supervision of the evolution of Professional Qualifications in their practical integration into the National System of Qualifications and Vocational Training;
- the coordination and cooperation relations with the autonomous communities, local corporations, in coordination with the Secretary of State for Education, and with other bodies and entities, in the field of vocational training;
- the elaboration and coordination of the actions and regulations for the adoption and development of the Spanish Qualifications Framework, in coordination with the Directorate General for Evaluation and Territorial Cooperation;
- the design and development of measures to promote technical and professional lifelong learning, through both formal and non-formal education activities.
The General Secretariat for Vocational Training is attached to the following body: the General Council for Vocational Training. This is a consulting and institutional participation body for the public administrations and an advisory body, in vocational training matters, for the Government.
In turn, the Under-Secretariat for Education and Vocational Training is responsible, above all, for these educational functions:
- the development of the policy regarding teaching staff and the drawing up of the legal regime bases for civil service teaching, in the field of education other than university education and in coordination with the other higher and management bodies;
- the management of the Department's teaching staff and of the mobility procedures for teaching staff in education other than university education at a national level, in coordination with the other education administrations and with the other higher and executive bodies.
Ministry of Universities (central level)
The MUNI is responsible for proposing and implementing government policy on university matters, including representation and participation in the European Union and international bodies in this area.
Organisation of the Ministry of Universities
Royal Decree 431/2020 developing the basic organic structure of the Ministry of Universities establishes that this ministry has the following basic structure, with these executive bodies:
- General Secretariat for Universities;
- Under-Secretariat for Universities.
Detailed information about the ministerial structure can be found in the Diagram of the MUNI.
The General Secretariat for Universities mainly fulfils these functions in the field of education:
- the development of university policies, in coordination with the Council of Universities;
- the planning, coordination and evaluation of the lines of action for university programmes;
- the organisation, programming and management of the actions that fall under the responsibility of the General State Administration in matters of university higher education;
- the design, planning and management of the policy of scholarships and study aids, within the scope of its responsibilities, in coordination with those of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training;
- the coordination of relations with the autonomous communities in university matters, through the General Assembly for University Policy;
- the management of international relations in university matters.
The General Secretariat for Universities has the following collegiate bodies:
- the General Conference on University Policy, a body for consultation, coordination and cooperation on general university policies, with the participation of the ministry and the autonomous communities;
- the Council of Universities, a body for academic coordination, as well as for cooperation, consultation and proposals on university matters, with the participation of the ministry, and the university chancellors;
- the State University Council for Students, a body for deliberation, consultation and participation of university students before the Ministry of Universities.
In addition, this general secretariat is attached to the following autonomous bodies:
- Menéndez Pelayo International University (UIMP);
- National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation (ANECA);
- the Spanish Service for the Internationalisation of Education (SEPIE).
In turn, the Under-Secretariat for Universities is mainly responsible for these functions in educational matters:
- the management of administrative services, their rationalisation and digitalisation, statistics, information and administrative documentation;
- its own functions as National Authority linked to the Erasmus+ Programme.
Ministry of Culture and Sport (central level)
Detailed information about the ministerial structure can be found in the Diagram of the MCUD.
Among the functions it has been assigned, the following stand out in educational matters:
- to propose, within the framework of the educational competences of the General State Administration, the regulation and organisation of specialised sports education;
- to propose the ruling of the procedures for the issuing of technical-sports qualifications, as well as for the standardisation, validation, professional equivalence and learning equivalence of studies of a sports nature;
- to propose the accreditation procedures for competences that are not included in the National Catalogue of Professional Qualifications, acquired through professional and sporting experience, or through non-formal learning channels;
- to manage the state-owned centres that provide higher level distance sports education throughout the national territory and to collaborate with other entities to promote the creation and development of institutions that provide this type of education.
The departments of education are the public authorities in charge of the legislative development and management of non-university education in the jurisdiction of each autonomous community. In this respect, they feature the following characteristics:
- assuming the regulation competences for developing the State regulations;
- regulating non-basic aspects of the education system;
- having executive and administrative competences for managing education in their own territory, except for those reserved to the State.
Meanwhile, the departments of universities are the public administrations in charge of coordinating university education in the territory of each autonomous community.
Competences of the autonomous communities in terms of non-university education
The autonomous communities are responsible for the following educational competences in the field of non-university education in their territory:
- the technical inspectorate service on education;
- the administrative ownership of the schools, the functions derived from it and the competences to create and/or authorise and operate public and private educational institutions;
- the elaboration, approval and execution of reform projects, facilities and new construction;
- the staff administration;
- the design, approval and development of experimental and pedagogical research plans;
- the development of the State provisions regarding the organisation of education and the regulation of the levels, branches, degrees and specialisations;
- the processing and granting of subsidies to private educational institutions;
- the administration of scholarships and study grants;
- the definition of the curriculum on the basis of the minimum teaching standards established for the whole country;
- the regulation of the composition and functions of the Regional School Council with educational functions and services.
Competences of the autonomous communities in terms of university education
The autonomous communities hold the following educational competences in matters of university education in their territory, without prejudice to the university autonomy guaranteed by Article 27 of the Spanish 1978 Constitution:
- the programming and coordination of the university system within the framework of general coordination;
- the creation of public universities and the authorisation of private universities, following a prescriptive report by the General Assembly for University Policy;
- the coordination duties for the universities under each community’s jurisdiction;
- the approval of the statutes of public universities and of the rules of organisation and operation of private universities;
- the coordination of university access processes;
- the legal framework for the own specific degrees awarded by some universities;
- the financing of universities;
- the regulation and management of university grants and scholarships;
- the remuneration system for contracted teaching and research staff at public universities and the establishment of additional remuneration for civil servant teaching staff;
- the quality assessment of universities within their area of responsibility.
Organisation of the education authorities in the autonomous communities
Every autonomous community has its own model of education authority, the Department of Education (for non-university education) or of Universities (for university education), with the purpose of performing the duties and services established in their respective statutes.
There are also different participatory collegiate bodies with different fields of action, depending on the situation. Their composition and duties are established by the regulations of every autonomous community:
- The Regional School Councils are the highest bodies for consultation, advice and social participation in non-university education. The types of School Councils and their fields of action are different in every autonomous community. They mainly advise on the draft legislation and draft general provisions, the education programme, the educational renewal and innovation, the quality in education and the school funding.
- The Regional Councils for Vocational Training carry out duties related to the planning, coordination and evaluation of the education system in terms of vocational training. Their competences are aimed, in general, at informing on different aspects of vocational training and at proposing actions to improve the quality of these studies. Most of the autonomous communities are in charge of preparing, proposing or, if appropriate, informing on the Regional Plan of Vocational Training.
- The Regional Councils and Schools for Advanced Artistic Education are the consultative and advisory bodies for these studies. Among their duties, it should be highlighted the preparation of reports, proposals, recommendations or studies related to advanced artistic education.
- The Councils for Universities are the consultative and cooperation bodies in university terms.
In the field of non-university education, there is coordination between the central and regional levels. The Sectoral Committee for Education is the body for cooperation in educational policy between the MEFP and the education administrations of the autonomous communities, with the aim of achieving maximum coherence and integration of the education system.
The Minister of Education (head of the MEFP) and the people responsible for education in the autonomous communities hold meetings in order to exchange points of view, discuss draft regulations and adopt the criteria for the territorial distribution of subsidies to finance different educational programmes with the autonomous communities. In short, either through the Committee or through the different committees set up according to the subject to be dealt with, the problems that may arise and the actions planned to tackle and resolve them are examined jointly.
Functions of the Sectoral Committee for Education
The main functions of the Sectoral Committee for Education are the following:
- to serve as a channel of information and participation in processes to develop educational regulations;
- to inform about the rules the State, in the exercise of its powers, is to adopt and that must be submitted to the autonomous communities for their consideration;
- to examine and propose measures ensuring the basic equality of citizens in the exercise of their right to education;
- to exchange information between public administrations, allowing knowledge of the education system as a whole, as well as study programmes and projects;
- to define the mechanisms allowing an aggregated system of education statistics;
- to propose and agree on criteria assuring students' mobility within the territory;
- to examine the basic principles of staff policy and set criteria assuring the mobility of the teaching staff within the Spanish territory;
- to agree on the criteria for the distribution of the budgetary credits for the autonomous communities, as well as to examine and deliberate on the programmes being developed and charged to the mentioned credits;
- to prepare joint action plans and programmes;
- to articulate the information of the autonomous communities regarding the international agreements Spain is part of, and serve as a general channel of information and internal participation of the autonomous communities in international bodies specialised in educational issues.
The General Assembly for University Policy
In the field of university education, there is coordination between the central and regional levels. The General Assembly for University Policy is the body for consultation, coordination and cooperation on general university policy. It brings together the Minister in charge of the Ministry of Universities and the people responsible for university education in the Governing Councils of the autonomous communities, among others.
Functions of the General Assembly for University Policy
The General Assembly for University Policy undertakes the following functions:
- establishing and assessing the general guidelines of university policy, its organisation in the European Higher Education Area and its interrelationship with scientific and technological research policies;
- drawing up, informing, consulting and providing advise on the general organisation and long-term programme of university education, which covers the necessary human, material and financial resources for the public university services;
- approving the coordination criteria for evaluation, certification and accreditation activities at a national level;
- suggesting and assessing measures in order to promote collaboration between universities and companies;
- coordinating the drawing up and monitoring of reports on the application of the principle of gender equality at university.