The draft comprehensive framework is based on learning outcomes and has eight levels, with descriptors defined in terms of knowledge, skills and competence ( Based on draft MECU level descriptors [unpublished].).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. The four highest levels are compatible with the Spanish qualifications framework for higher education, based on the level descriptors of cycles for QF-EHEA.
Once the legal basis is in place, the framework is expected to include qualifications awarded at all levels in the formal education system and will also integrate qualifications obtained through validation of non-formal and informal learning. The Spanish Council of Ministers approved a new education organic law in 2020, which became effective in 2021 ( New 2021 Organic Law on Education LOMLOE amending the Organic Law 2/2006. It became effective on January 19, 2021. Its coming into force has repealed Organic Law 8/2013 of December 9, for the improvement of education quality (LOMCE). An implementation process has begun that will conclude in the 2023/2024 academic year. The law can be accessed here.), repealing the 2013 Organic Law for the improvement of quality of education (LOMCE) ( 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 ). The law (as can be seen below) aims to improve the quality of teaching and learning, promote equity and excellence and increase school autonomy and the coherence of the national system in line with international standards.
The level of implementation of learning outcomes varies across subsystems. The Ministry of Education and VET (previously Education, Culture and Sports) 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 ( The central government is responsible for designing 65% of the curriculum (55% in those autonomous communities which have their own language); the remaining part of the 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. The National Institute for Educational Evaluation is the body of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training responsible for evaluation of the Spanish education system, in collaboration with the education authorities.
The most developed and elaborated implementation of learning outcomes 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 (Catálogo Nacional de Cualificaciones Profesionales, CNCP) ( http://incual.mecd.es/bdc and http://incual.mecd.es/documents/35348/80300/CNCP_listadoQ.pdf/ (last updated in January 2021).). It lists 680 occupational standards ( Occupational standards inform development of IVET programmes that lead to vocational diplomas as well as CVET programmes leading to professional certificates (certificados de profesionalidad). Each professional certificate includes a compulsory on-the-job training module (módulo de formación práctica en centros de trabajo) whose learning outcomes must be assessed in the workplace (Cedefop and Fundae, 2019).) defined in competences and is continually updated ( All the vocational programmes refer to the National catalogue of vocational qualifications. More information is available here.). 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.). At the end of 2019 the Council of Ministers approved the First strategic plan for vocational training of the educational system 2019-22 ( I Plan Estratégico de Formación Profesional del Sistema Educativo 2019-2022 [Strategic plan for vocational training of the education system 2019-2022].) aiming at having an updated national qualification catalogue (with companies taking a major role in the design of occupational standards) and a widespread training offer ( This plan will facilitate individualised training itineraries with the implementation of a modular offer of personalised vocational training that will allow students to enrol in one or more modules, depending on their educational and employment needs, without having to take all the modules that make up a degree or a specialisation course (Cedefop and ReferNet, 2021).). The National Institute of Qualifications (INCUAL), which is responsible for defining, updating and adapting the national catalogue, focused in 2019 on designing the new occupational standards ( In 2020, 136 occupational standards were updated: 20 of these are new occupational standards, 45 have been updated, and 71 partially modified. In January 2021, 38 updates of occupational standards were published (Cedefop and ReferNet, 2021).) and redefining learning outcomes. The 2020 organic law on education is another important boost to vocational training as it aims to improve social recognition, make vocational training more flexible, and move towards an integrated system of initial and continuous VET, accessible and with a lifelong learning perspective ( Access and admission conditions become more flexible, establishing links with the rest of the education system. More information can be found here. ). The law sets the framework for reform of the curriculum towards a more competence-based approach. In addition, according to the law, students who pass a basic VET programme ( The structure of VET is the following: basic VET programmes (ISCED 353), intermediate VET programmes, leading to professional training technician qualification and higher VET programmes (ISCED 554) leading to an advanced technician qualification (Cedefop, forthcoming).) will receive the ESO (compulsory secondary education) graduate degree, which will allow them access to upper secondary education. Therefore, basic VET programmes integrate general and vocational subjects. For those over the age of 17 – who left the education system without a qualification – vocational programmes are organised to allow them to obtain a general education certificate or technician qualification. Integrated vocational training and dual vocational training centres are also promoted with the new law ( Compulsory secondary education (students aged 12-16) is organised into two cycles: the first is composed of the first, second and third years. The second cycle, consisting of a single year, the fourth, is of a preparatory nature for either general or vocational education.).
The new educational law of 2021 has also introduced changes in the 2001 Organic Law on universities ( More information (in English) here.), on university admission exams ( The admission procedure to universities is re-established under conditions of equality, regardless of where the previous studies were carried out or the specific need for educational support or disability. https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/content/national-reforms-higher-education-70_en ) and access to higher VET programmes ( The degree of Professional training technician will allow access to both the higher VET programmes and the higher arts and design programmes. The equivalence between advanced degrees is reinforced and those students who pass the corresponding studies will be able to obtain the title of Bachelor degree in advanced artistic education. https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/content/national-reforms-higher-education-70_en ). Higher education study programmes must 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 or unit's internal quality assurance systems during audit procedures.
External quality assurance in higher education is undertaken by the national agency (ANECA) and a number of agencies within some of the autonomous regions. The competences of the quality assurance agencies vary depending on the procedures being undertaken and whether or not the agency is a member of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR) ( In addition to ANECA, six of the regional agencies (AQU in Catalonia, ACPUA in Aragon, ACSUG in Galicia, ACSUCYL in Castilla y León, AAC-DEVA in Andalusia, and UNIBASQ for the Basque Country) are members of EQAR: https://www.eqar.eu/register/agencies/ ).