The Status Quo of the Spanish National Qualifications Framework

Spain is currently developing an NQF for lifelong learning (Marco Español de Cualificaciones, MECU), based on learning outcomes. It will link and coordinate different education and training subsystems. The framework will include qualifications obtained in compulsory education, in post-secondary and higher education and will integrate validation of non-formal and informal learning processes.

The draft Royal decree on the introduction of MECU has now been prepared following delay due to restructuring of the government. It defines levels and level descriptors as the basis for referencing the MECU to the EQF levels. It has been supervised and positively reported by the national advisory bodies [2]. It is expected to be adopted in 2013.

The higher four levels of MECU will be linked to the qualifications framework for higher education (Marco Español de Cualificaciones para la Educación Superior, MECES), which has been put in place separately.

Developments take into account experiences with the national catalogue of  professional qualifications, established by the Law on Qualifications and Professional Training in  2002. Of special attention, and lively discussion, are levels 3 and 4 of the NQF, where formal vocational qualifications/titles, regulated by the Ministry of  Education and professional qualifications/certificates under the remit of Ministry of Labour would be assigned. They are different in scope of learning they acquire, but can be linked to the same level of the catalogue.

Another important aim is to support transition and progression possibilities within the various subsystems of education and vocational training, e.g. the progression from short cycle to university programmes and opening up higher education for non-traditional learners, who might have no school leaving certificate. Another challenge is to put procedures in place for recognising non-formal learning and to reduce early school leaving (18-24 age group) (Cedefop ReferNet Spain, 2010, pp. 17-18; European Commission, 2011, pp.138-143) (191).

The MECU should also have an important communication role for diverse stakeholders.

Stakeholder involvement and framework implementation

The Ministry of Education, Directorate General for Vocational Training, is coordinating NQF development and implementation in cooperation with other ministries.

The development work includes a wide range of other stakeholders such as social partners (unions, Spanish Confederation of Employers’ Organisations, Spanish Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises), institutional coordination bodies (e.g. Sectoral Conference of Education, General Conference for University Policy), consultative bodies (State School Council, Vocational Training Council, Arts Education Council, University Council), agencies for evaluation and others (professional corporations and associations). Cooperation with the Bologna process is ensured with members represented in both the Committee for MECU and in the group for MECES to achieve methodological and structural coherence, making possible the alignment of the two frameworks

Level descriptors and learning outcomes

An eight-level framework has been proposed to cover all main types of Spanish qualification. The four highest levels are compatible with the Spanish QF for higher education, which is based on the Dublin descriptors.

Level descriptors are defined in terms of knowledge, skills and competence. They have been inspired by the EQF level descriptors, but adopted to suit the national context.

Links to other instruments and tools

The NQF aims to reinforce the link to validation of non-formal and informal learning. In July 2009, the new Royal decree for the recognition of professional competences (1224/2009) was adopted; this regulates the procedures for validating professional competences acquired through non-formal and informal learning and professional experience. The national catalogue of professional qualifications is used as a standard for validating non-formal learning as well as for official diplomas on vocational training.

Referencing to the EQF

The draft referencing report is expected to be prepared in early 2013. The self-certification report has been prepared. Spain has not yet decided whether there will be one joint report prepared to reference to the EQF and self-certify to the QH-EHEA.