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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: 23 June 2022

History of adult education

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

  • 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:

  • Literacy campaigns and vocational training for adults up to the 1970s, although there were also other initiatives.
  • The General Education Act of 1970, which formally regulated this type of provision.
  • The Act on the General Organisation of the Education System (LOGSE) of 1990, which developed the concept of lifelong learning, recognising continuing education as a principle of the education system. 

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:

  • Updating of the National Catalogue of Vocational Qualifications;
  • Lifelong learning Plan;
  • National Youth Guarantee System.

Updating of the National Catalogue of Vocational Qualifications

The updating of the National Catalogue of Vocational Qualifications is carried out by means of meetings organized by the National Institute for Qualifications (INCUAL) which reports to the Directorate General of Vocational Training, following the proposals included on the Strategic Plan for Vocational Training. 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 expects to detect  in a quicker way the needs of qualification of workers and turn them into training provision.

Currently, the draft Organic Law for the Organisation and Integration of Vocational Training, after its approval by the Council of Ministers, is in parliamentary procedure. When said law comes into force, the current National Catalogue of Vocational Qualifications will be replaced by the National Catalogue of Vocational Competence Standards.

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 have been: 

  • 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, so they will receive an employment offer, education, an apprenticeship or traineeship on completion of 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 the renewed European agenda for adult learning, establishes as a European benchmark for 2020 that the percentage of the working-age population participating in lifelong learning should be above 15 %.

In 2020, Spain reached a 11% of adult participation in training activities, above the EU27 average (9.2%). In Spain and in the EU, the degree of participation is higher among women than men.

 2020 situationObjective ET 2020
SpainEuropean Union

Source: Drawn up by Eurydice Spain-Spanish Network for Information on Education (INEE, Ministry of Education and Vocational Training) on the basis of  Eurostat.

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

  • 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;
  • early school leavers.