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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Developments and current policy priorities


8.Adult education and training

8.2Developments and current policy priorities

Last update: 22 February 2024

History of adult education

The origins of adult education in Spain date back to the 19th century with the following characteristics:

  • The term began to appear in educational legislation.
  • Adult education projects such as popular universities, cultural, political, working-class and religious associations, or municipal schools for adults were undertaken.

During most part of the 20th century the main actions carried out in the field of adult education were the following:

  • Hasta 1970 se lanzaron campañas de Literacy campaigns and industrial vocational training were launched until 1970.
  • In 1970, the General Law 14/1970 on Education and Financing of Educational Reform  (LGEFRE) formalised the regulation of these teachings (Chapter IV).
  • In 1990, the Organic Law 1/1990 on the General Organisation of the Education System (LOGSE) extended the concept of  lifelong learning, recognising continuing education as a basic principle of the education system (Article 2.1).

Current Policy Priorities

The improvement of the quality of adult education and training is a permanent objective of both the education and employment authorities. The latest political initiatives and reforms reflecting this interest of public authorities are the following:

Royal Decree 659/2023 developing the organisation of the Vocational Training System

Organic Law 3/2022 on the organisation and integration of Vocational Training embodies Spain's commitment to modernising the country, facilitating qualification, employability and, consequently, the generation of wealth.

In order to channel all expectations, this organic law needs to be developed, giving regulatory coverage to the specific flexibilisation and accessibility of the system proposed, so that the administrations responsible for the development of vocational training policies and their management in each autonomous community work together, guaranteeing a sufficient and adequate offer of vocational training programmes, both for students and for workers, in each and every one of the Grades envisaged in the system, allowing the establishment of training itineraries that accompany them, from before finishing their compulsory schooling and throughout their working life, and that concludes in the generalisation of a new learning culture.

This Royal Decree establishes the organisation of the Vocational Training System in such a way as to guarantee a system of vocational training and accompaniment, to contribute to the strengthening and sustainability of the economy, to be able to respond flexibly to the interests, expectations and aspirations of individuals in terms of professional qualifications over the course of their lives and to the skills demanded by the labour market, through the necessary confluence and joint and shared work of the administrations responsible for this area in each of the autonomous communities and cities.

Thus, Royal Decree 659/2023 constitutes the framework for the progressive adaptation of the Vocational Training System to the demands and needs of the country, each territory, each sector and each group, ensuring the consistency between them and creating synergies to achieve the objective of a high-quality vocational training system, with the necessary cooperation of the administrations whose competences include vocational training.

Organic Law 3/2022 on the organisation and integration of Vocational Training

Organic Law 3/2022 on the organisation and integration of Vocational Training (LOOIFP) aims at a global transformation of the vocational training system, combining the previous dual system (vocational training within the education system and vocational training for employment) into a single vocational training system.

This law provides a system in which all training can be accredited, accumulated and capitalised. The training provision is structured in a vertical, graduated dimension, which establishes an ascending continuum according to the extent of each training programme. The provision is organised from "micro-training" up to vocational training qualifications, depending on whether they include a single learning outcome, one or several vocational modules, or a complete package of vocational modules, while maintaining their cumulative nature at all times.

This model enables the generation of training itineraries. Thus, any training should be organised in units that take into account progression and which can provide continuity. All training must allow students to progress along training itineraries that lead to accreditations, certifications and qualifications recognised both nationally and at a European level.

On the other hand, all vocational training must be dual in nature, as it will be carried out jointly by the training institution and the company. With adaptations to each productive sector and to each qualification family, vocational training must include sufficient workplace training, determining two intensities depending on the characteristics of the training period in the workplace.

The designed model integrates, as cornerstones of the new system, together with vocational training programmes, vocational guidance and the accreditation of competences acquired through work experience or other non-formal or informal channels.

The Vocational Training System is materialised in the following aspects:

  • the National Catalogue of Vocational Competence Standards (CNECP);
  • the Modular Catalogue of Vocational Training (CMFP);
  • the National Catalogue of Vocational Training Provision (CNOFP);
  • the basic elements of the curricula.

In addition, the following records are used for the system’s management:

  • the State Registry of Vocational Training (REFP);
  • the State Registry of Accreditations for Professional Competences Acquired through Work Experience or Non-Formal and Informal Means;
  • the General Registry of Vocational Training Institutions (RGCFP).

Updating of the National Catalogue of Vocational Qualifications

The updating of the National Catalogue of Vocational Qualifications (CNCP) responds to the methodological principles approved by the General Council for Vocational Training (CGFP) in May 2003, in which the   General Administration, the autonomous communities and business and trade union organisations participate and collaborate. This catalogue contributes to adapting the certificates of professional experience and vocational training qualifications to the needs of the labour market and the productive sectors more easily. It also has other purposes and functions.

Organic Law 3/2022 on the organisation and integration of Vocational Training establishes the replacement of the CNCP by the National Catalogue of Vocational Competence Standards (CNECP). However, until its normative developments are carried out, the CNCP will remain in force.

Lifelong Learning Plan

This Plan is based on the concept of lifelong learning  as a continuous and unfinished learning process, not limited to a specific training model, context or period of life, which involves the acquisition and improvement of relevant learning for personal, social and labour development and which allows the person to adapt to dynamic and changing contexts. It is made up of formal, non-formal and informal learning and its objective is the integral development of the person, contributing to the acquisition and improvement of competences (knowledge, skills and attitudes) and qualifications that enable personal fulfilment, the exercise of active citizenship, social integration, adaptability and employability, in order to respond to a changing reality. The strategic lines of the plan, in the period 2014-2020, have been the following : 

  • provide widespread access to information, guidance and counselling, so that all citizens can participate in lifelong learning;
  • improve the quality of lifelong learning;
  • promote innovation in lifelong learning;
  • adapt the training provision to citizens’ personal, social and labour needs;
  • allow greater flexibility and link up training systems and pathways;
  • increase the percentage of citizens who participate in lifelong learning activities, as well as their qualification levels;
  • stimulate the permanence of citizens in the different types of training provision. 

National Youth Guarantee System

This action is aimed at improving employability among young people aged over 16 and under 30, who are not employed or integrated into the education or training systems. It is designed to make it easier for them to receive offers for employment, education, apprenticeships or traineeships after completing formal education or after becoming unemployed. To this end, the National Youth Guarantee System is created as a file in which young people, registered on a voluntary basis, become a single list of demand available to the entities responsible for proposing specific offers.

Quantitative objectives

The Council of the European Union, in its Resolution on a strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training for the European Education Area and beyond (2021-2030), sets as a European benchmark for 2025 that the percentage of the population aged 25-64 participating in learning activities in the last 12 months should be at least 47%. In turn, by the same year 2025, it is expected that the percentage of recent graduates from vocational education and training accessing work-based learning during their vocational education and training should be at least 60%.

However, these targets need to take into account the different contexts of the Member States and their initial circumstances. Thus, in 2021, Spain started with a 14.4 % participation of people aged 25-64 in learning activities, which is above the European 27 average (10.8 %). In Spain and in the EU, the degree of participation is higher among women than men.

  2022 situation EU-wide target for 2025
Spain European Union
Total 15.3 % 11.9 % 47 %
Women 17.0 % 12.9 % -
Men 13.5 % 10.8 % -

Source: Drawn up by Eurydice España-rediE (INEEMEFD) based on data from MEFD Statistics (Exploitation of educational variables from the Labour Force Survey / Indicators of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training [2021-2030]).

The achievement of these objectives of participation in lifelong learning, special attention to disadvantaged groups is required, and particularly to the following:

  • adult population who lacks the basic skills of compulsory education;
  • active population whose professional qualifications have not been accredited;
  • young people who have not obtained the Lower Compulsory Secondary Education Certificate on completion of the 4th year of compulsory secondary education (ESO);
  • early school leavers.