An eight-level framework has been proposed to cover all main types of Spanish qualification. The four highest levels are compatible with the Spanish qualifications framework for higher education, based on the Dublin descriptors.
Level descriptors are defined in terms of knowledge, skills and competence ( Based on draft MECU level descriptors [unpublished].). They have been inspired by EQF level descriptors, but adopted to suit the national context. This is particularly the case for skills, where the ability to communicate in different languages and analytical skills are emphasised. Competence is defined as autonomy and responsibility, including learning skills and attitudes.
It is expected that the development of both MECU and MECES will further support the strengthening of learning outcomes at all education and qualification levels, to make qualifications more readable and easier to compare. The Spanish Ministry of Education and VET drafted a new education organic law in 2018 ( Updating and improving the previous law: Government of Spain (2013). Ley Orgánica 8/2013, de 9 de diciembre, para la mejora de la calidad educativa [Organic Law 8/2013 of 9 December 2013, for the improvement on the quality of education]. Boletín oficial del estado, No 295. http://www.boe.es/boe/dias/2013/12/10/pdfs/BOE-A-2013-12886.pdf), that will be submitted to Parliament in spring 2019. The law aims to improve the quality of teaching and learning, and increase school autonomy and the coherence of the national system in line with international standards.
The learning outcomes approach is seen as an essential part of MECU and MECES development and implementation. However, as reported for the Cedefop study on learning outcomes (Cedefop, 2016), the notion of learning outcomes is a new concept in the Spanish context and not widely shared. Competences and capacities are often referred to in policy documents, with many different interpretations due to various linguistic and pedagogic concepts.
The level of implementation also varies across subsystems; the one most developed and elaborated is in VET. The VET qualification system is defined by the Law on qualifications and vocational training ( Government of Spain (2002). Ley orgánica 5/2002, de 19 de junio, de las Cualificaciones y de la Formación Profesional [Organic Law 5/2002 on qualifications and vocational training]. Boletín oficial del estado, No 147. https://www.boe.es/boe/dias/2002/06/20/pdfs/A22437-22442.pdf) that establishes the national catalogue of professional qualifications ( http://incual.mecd.es/bdc) this lists 680 occupational standards defined in competences and is permanently updated. Professional modules for each qualification gather the learning outcomes and the corresponding assessment criteria that show that the qualification holder knows, understands and is able to do as expected on completion of the programme. Learning outcomes are closely related to work activities and required professional competences. Occupational standards inform development of IVET programmes that lead to vocational diplomas as well as CVET programmes leading to professional certificates (certificados de profesionalidad). Since 2014, dual VET – strengthening links to the labour market – has been implemented in all autonomous communities. Revising VET curricula and strengthening key competences has been initiated though the 2015 Ministerial Decree (EDC/65/2015). The Ministry of Education and VET is drafting a Royal decree to regulate the organisation of VET, including the admission criteria for the three levels of VET (basic, intermediate and higher) and other aspects.
The Ministry of Education and VET has established in legislation national core curricula for the various levels of education: pre-primary, primary, lower secondary, upper secondary and vocational training. These are determined by central government, though regional administrations, and the schools take responsibility for developing part of the curriculum ( Central government is responsible for designing 65% of the curriculum (55% in those autonomous communities which have their own language); the additional curriculum at regional level differs between autonomous communities.). The core curricula determine the general objectives for each stage of education as well as specific objectives for each area or subject. They also establish the content and evaluation criteria for each area and the basic skills for each stage of compulsory education.
New higher education study programmes have to include expected outcomes and achievement of learning objectives set for the student. All study programmes have to be accredited according to national guidelines. MECES refers directly to learning outcomes (resultados de aprendizaje and competencias). Linked to MECES levels, learning outcomes are a specific requirement in, for example, the ex-post external evaluation of study programmes required for the formal Acredita/Renovación de la acreditación of all official degrees. Consideration of the use of learning outcomes is also a specific requirement in the external evaluation of a higher education institution's or unit's internal quality assurance systems during audit procedures.