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Spain: Millions of students at home – meeting the challenge of virtual learning during the pandemic

The world has changed in a few short weeks; to counter the Covid-19 pandemic all classes and most jobs have been suspended. Education and labour authorities are developing measures to address the absence of classroom-based education and reduce its impact on learners’ performance and development.

The Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MEFP in Spanish) has launched a new website, I learn at home (Aprendo en casa) offering ready-to-use online resources (materials, training courses, platforms, tools, etc.). Information is accessible by different target groups (teachers and families) and by region (initiatives, publishers, portals). For teachers, a selection of digital resources is available; they are organised by level of education and cover both general and vocational education programmes:

On Monday 23 March, We learn at home (Aprendemos en casa) aired, a special five-hour television programme of educational content promoted by the education ministry with the support of Spanish public television (RTVE) and the collaboration of different publishers and education portals that have offered their content for free. This initiative is specifically aimed at students from socially vulnerable families who lack the resources to follow online activities provided by most education centres. It is also aimed at those who live in areas with greater difficulties in connecting to the school network (through internet or phone lines) and students who, due to the confinement conditions, have problems sharing bandwidth.

Distance learning is well-known by the Centre for Innovation and Development of Distance Education (CIDEAD), which provides lower and upper secondary adult education for Spanish citizens abroad and to those living in Spain who are unable to attend physical schools.

Similarly, Aula Mentor, is an online training programme for adults who cannot follow regular face-to-face programmes and whose pace of learning and/or dedication requires a flexible approach, not subject to schedules or deadlines. Although it continues its activity, all face-to-face activities, including evaluations, have been suspended.

The closure of companies, workplaces and schools, has had an impact on the work-based learning component of VET programmes and apprenticeships (dual VET). Education and labour authorities are taking the necessary measures to make work placements more flexible. If this situation continues, exceptional measures will have to be taken to ensure students complete the programme and obtain their qualification.

Even before the outbreak, formal and non-formal programmes regulated by employment authorities could be delivered through e-learning: 75 professional certificate programmes (CdP) are available through e-learning, while over 840 training providers have been accredited by the State Public Employment Service (SEPE) for this type of delivery.

Since December 2019, the State foundation for training in employment (Fundae) and SEPE have been offering training resources in digital skills at no cost, of special interest to unemployed or SME workers, thanks to agreements signed with 12 large technology companies; more are underway.

There are more than 160 training resources currently available, from the most basic to the most advanced levels, which can be accessed from any device with an internet connection and, in certain cases, will lead to certification.

Both the MEFP and SEPE are in contact with other departments and regional authorities to adopt common criteria so that no student, learner or worker suffers as a result of the pandemic in terms of skills development.

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