The concept of lifelong learning has evolved in Spain as follows:
- In the 70s it focused on offering training alternatives to the adult population.
- In the 90s, the concept of lifelong learning started to have an approach that went beyond adult education, featuring the following characteristics:
- it strengthened the importance of preparing students to learn by themselves and adapt to the changing demands of the knowledge society;
- it promoted distance education through the establishment, in 1992, of the Centre for the Innovation and Development of Distance Education (CIDEAD), in order to facilitate access to education for adults and school-aged students who, due to personal, social, geographical or other circumstances cannot study mainstream education requiring attendance.
- The National Catalogue of Professional Qualifications was established in 2002. It organises the professional qualifications that can be acquired, both through training processes (formal and non-formal) and through work experience.
- The vocational training for employment subsystem was created in 2007. It involved the integration of different initiatives for the training of the working population, both employed and unemployed people, with the aim of promoting training that responds to the needs of a knowledge-based economy.
- The 1st Strategic Plan for vocational training (VT) in the education system (2019-2022) was presented at the end of 2019.
- At the beginning of 2020, the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MEFP) assumed the responsibilities related to VT for employment through the General Secretariat for Vocational Training. This was intended to promote vocational training and to create a system that would bring together both VT in the education system and VT for employment.
- By the end of 2020, the organic laws on education explicitly include non-formal education in the framework of a culture of lifelong learning (Article 5 bis of Organic Law 2/2006 on Education [LOE], as added by the Organic Law 3/2020, which amends it [LOMLOE]).
Strategic and training actions of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training
Following the European guidelines set by the Lisbon Strategy (2000), the concept of lifelong learning acquires a more global and inclusive approach with the LOE, an approach that is still maintained with the LOMLOE.
"Everyone must have the possibility of training throughout life, within and outside the educational system, in order to acquire, update, complete or expand their abilities, knowledge, skills, aptitudes and competencies for their personal development and professional" (Article 5.1 of the LOE modified by LOMLOE).
The basic principle of the educational system is to promote permanent education (article 1 of LOE modified by LOMLOE, letter d). With the aim of promoting lifelong learning, the MEFP offers preparation and a series of courses aimed at improving the training of Spanish society:
- non-university education:
- classroom-based initial education;
- secondary education for adults (classroom-based);
- secondary education for adults (distance);
- examinations to directly obtain the Compulsory Secondary Education Certificate;
- bachillerato (classroom-based);
- bachillerato (distance);
- examination to obtain the Bachillerato certificate;
- access to Bachelor’s programmes;
- university entrance examination for students over 25;
- university entrance examination for students over 40;
- university entrance examination for students over 45.
- Vocational training:
- basic vocational training;
- intermediate vocational training entrance examination;
- intermediate vocational training (classroom-based);
- intermediate vocational training (distance);
- free examination to obtain the Technician certificate;
- entrance examinations to advanced vocational training cycles;
- advanced vocational training (classroom-based);
- advanced vocational training (distance);
- free examination to obtain the Advanced Technician certificate;
- certificate of professional experience.
- university education:
- official Bachelor’s programmes (classroom-based);
- official Bachelor’s programmes (distance);
- official Master’s programmes (classroom-based);
- official Master’s programmes (distance);
- postgraduate studies and degrees offered by universities;
- distance postgraduate studies;
- university programmes for the elderly.
- Specialised education:
- plastic arts and design professional studies (intermediate training cycles);
- plastic arts and design professional studies (advanced training cycles);
- intermediate sports education;
- advanced vocational education in sports;
- music and dance professional studies;
- advanced artistic studies: music, dance, dramatic arts, preservation and restoration of cultural property, plastic arts and design;
- language education.
- Open learning:
- Aula Mentor;
- open learning programmes in adult education institutions (classroom-based);
- open learning programmes in adult education institutions (distance);
- popular universities;
- massive open online courses (MOOCs).
- Military education:
- military education for troops and sailors;
- military education for non-commissioned officers;
- military education for officers.
In order to develop lifelong learning policies, the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training promoted in 2014 the Strategic Lifelong Learning Plan. The design of this Plan resulted from cooperation between the education authorities of the autonomous communities and the MEFP. The main objective of this plan has been to strengthen lifelong education and training for Spanish citizens, as well as to contribute to the achievement of the objectives established in the Strategic Framework for European Cooperation in the field of Education and Training (ET 2020). Among them, the need for an average of at least 15% of adults participating in lifelong learning by 2020 was particularly worth mentioning. In order to achieve these goals, the following was considered necessary:
- to modernise the education and training systems;
- to use a methodology that responds to adults’ capabilities, needs and interests;
- to allow greater flexibility and adapt formal and non-formal and classroom-based and distance provision, and establish links between both;
- the accreditation of learning and the recognition of the skills acquired.
The Strategic lifelong learning plan provides the common framework on which the education authorities have been based to develop their specific territorial plans, which can be annual or biennial and are developed each October.
This plan was the national realisation of the 2007 Action Plan of the European Commission on Adult Learning It is always a good time to learn. Its basic objective was to improve training opportunities and quality, without any time limit and without being age-specific. It is aimed at encouraging lifelong learning in line with a modern, democratic and changing society, by strengthening quality training and promoting the attainment of the highest levels of education and training amongst citizens.
The strategic lines of this plan for the 2014-2020 period have been the following:
- to provide widespread access to information, guidance and counselling, so that all citizens can participate in lifelong learning;
- to improve the quality of lifelong learning;
- to promote innovation in lifelong learning;
- to adapt the training provision to citizens’ personal, social and labour needs;
- to allow greater flexibility and to link up training systems and pathways;
- to increase the percentage of citizens who participate in lifelong learning activities, as well as their qualification levels;
- to stimulate the permanence of citizens in the different types of training provision.
Other strategic actions of the MEFP to promote lifelong learning are:
- FP a distancia (Distance VT): a web portal where you can find all the distance vocational training (VT) provision offered by the MEFP and the different autonomous communities;
- an integrated system of vocational information and guidance, whose main actions are the following:
- ACREDITA, information and guidance platform for the accreditation of professional competences acquired through work experience or through non formal training. It incorporates general information on the procedure and open calls throughout Spain, a self-evaluation tool for anyone to identify the competences they can accredit and the options associated with them, and a tool for advisors, evaluators and candidates to manage the procedure;
- Todo FP, a portal on vocational information and guidance aiming at improving the access to information and vocational training for all the citizens;
- the Specialist Guidance Group, aimed at improving coordination between the State and regional authorities regarding education. It is made up of a representative designed by each autonomous community and representatives of the central authority;
- Euroguidance España, a career guidance web portal, which compiles all relevant and up-to-date information on resources and programmes beneficial to guidance work, both for professionals in education and employment. The portal includes details on vocational guidance in the different autonomous communities, resources, publications, organisations and networks, as well as a calendar listing relevant events for professionals in the sector;
- lifelong learning aimed at guidance professionals through the National Institute of Educational Technologies and Teacher Training (INTEF).
In accordance with the Recommendation of the European Council on the establishment of a European Qualifications Framework, the MEFP has prepared the Spanish Qualifications Framework. (MECU).
At the same time, and with the same objective of informing society, promoting international mobility and recognising training throughout all the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), the Spanish Qualifications Framework for Higher Education (MECES) is established.
To conclude, it should be noted that the MEFP has three bodies responsible for the management of lifelong learning: the Sub-directorate General for Educational Institutions, Inspection and Programmes, the Sub-directorate General for Guidance and Lifelong Learning, and the Sub-directorate General for Academic Organisation.
The Sub-directorate General for Educational Institutions, Inspection and Programmes, integrated in the Directorate General for Educational Planning and Management, is in charge of:
- the planning and management of the educational provision for adults, excluding university education, in collaboration with the General Secretariat for Vocational Training in the teaching of this educational stage;
- the planning of the distance studies provision, excluding university and vocational training courses, and the coordination with the Centre for Innovation and Development in Distance Education (CIDEAD) for its development;
- the promotion of programmes aimed at non-university students in order to broaden their training and facilitate their interaction with students from other autonomous communities.
In turn, in the area of Vocational Training, there is the Sub-directorate General for Guidance and Lifelong Learning, which reports to the General Secretariat for Vocational Training. Among its functions, the following should be noted:
- the organisation, development, evaluation, management and innovation of vocational training for the unemployed and vocational training for employed individuals, including national and regional calls for applications, when these respond to training linked to certificates of professional experience, including dual vocational training in the educational sphere;
- the establishment and updating of vocational training diplomas, specialisation courses and certificates of professional experience;
- the participation and collaboration in international vocational training and lifelong learning programmes, in collaboration, where appropriate, with the Ministry of Universities through the Spanish Service for the Internationalisation of Education (SEPIE), within the scope of its responsibilities;
- 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, as well as their development for the areas specified in the applicable regulations;
- the elaboration and coordination of the actions and regulations for the adoption and development of the Spanish Qualifications Framework (MECU), in coordination with the Directorate General for Evaluation and Territorial Cooperation.
In turn, the Sub-directorate General for Academic Organisation, which is part of the Directorate General for Evaluation and Territorial Cooperation, is in charge of the academic organisation of adult education not included in the categories of university education and vocational training.
Training actions of the education authorities and other public authorities
Lifelong learning is nurtured by the initiatives carried out by state and regional education authorities, municipal education departments, labour administrations and non-profit civil society organisations.
In order to guarantee universal and permanent access to learning, the different public authorities identify new skills and provide the training required in order to acquire them. They are also responsible for:
- promoting flexible learning opportunities for young people and adults who left the education system without any qualification to acquire basic skills and, where possible, achieve the relevant qualifications;
- facilitating and promoting the attainment of post-compulsory secondary education or equivalent for all people;
- facilitating access to information and guidance on lifelong learning opportunities and their accessibility.
Thus, the different education authorities offer mainly the following types of provision:
- basic education: initial education and secondary education for adults, aimed at obtaining the Compulsory Secondary Education Certificate
- Post-compulsory education: bachillerato and VT;
- preparation for entrance examinations for intermediate and advanced vocational training;
- preparation for entrance examinations to obtain the Compulsory Secondary Education Certificate;
- preparation for university entrance examinations;
- basic vocational training;
- training in the use of ICT;
- foreign language learning;
- That’s English!, a distance education course recognised by the Spanish Official Language Schools in basic, intermediate and advanced levels;
- Spanish as a foreign language, courses for personal development, social and participatory, such as health education and healthy habits, disease prevention and occupational hazards, road safety education courses, or other courses offered within the autonomy of schools;
- operating workshops for job placement, co-financed by the European Social Fund (ESF).
Classroom-based provision is offered by adult education institutions and some secondary schools, while distance provision or e-learning is offered by the autonomous communities, the MEFP (cities of Ceuta and Melilla), the CIDEAD and Aulas Mentor, providing an alternative in the field of training for adults who do not have the opportunity to attend classroom-based sessions. The training provision comprises a set of courses organised into training areas, which have been specially designed and/or adapted for learners and which are constantly updated.