LEAVING NO ONE BEHIND

Spain 2020 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

The ministry is working toward an education system that will meet the new demands of the labor market and ensure the full integration of those who have special educational or financial needs.

BIOGRAPHY

Born in Bilbao, María Isabel Celaá Diéguez became Spain's Minister of Education and Vocational Training in 2018. A lawyer by profession, she also holds a degree in philosophy with a specialization in English philology. Prior to her current post, she held various positions in the Basque regional government and has been a member of the parliament since 1998.

2018 was a politically complicated year for Spain. How would you evaluate the government's recent performance, and what would you highlight as the main achievements of your ministry?
Indeed, it has taken 15 months of intense work to rebuild democratic institutions after the previous government's serious cases of corruption and to place equity at the center of public policies after a crisis and cuts that deepened social differences. The current government is doing things differently. We have prioritized dialogue as a way to resolve conflicts and encourage respect for democratic institutions. In terms of education, we came from a hard position of cuts, ineffective and unfair education models, and significant neglect. Public spending on education fell from 4.4% of GDP in 2011 to 3.89% in 2018, while the number of students increased. For this reason, the new government passed a law that repealed the main cuts of the conservative government, which had increased the ratio of students per classroom by 20% and raised the minimum number of teaching hours. The second major step was the government's approval of the draft education law to repeal the law that contained harmful measures and was questioned by the international educational consensus. The new law modernizes the system with the development of five strategic axes: children's rights, personalization of education, gender equity, education for sustainability, and education in the digital era. We aim to make vocational training the crown jewel of the Spanish education system. To this end, we developed a strategic plan for vocational training, which I presented, alongside the president, to business and union organizations. The production sector is experiencing a true digital revolution, and we need a new system to meet the new demands of the labor market. We are approving new titles and specialization courses and incorporating modules for all the productive sectors. Finally, we initiated processes of study and participation in two fundamental themes: the reinforcement and improvement of the teaching career and to ensure the full integration of those who have special educational or financial needs.

The vast majority of companies highlight the retention of human talent, especially with technological training, as their main challenge. What strategy is the ministry following to address this situation and include technological training in the school curriculum?
The current digital revolution is drastically changing the educational and formative context. This transformation implies a new way of understanding talent, because it is changing the way we build knowledge. The necessary transformations in the education system will be both organizational and pedagogical and impact all stages and teachings, from early childhood education to high school, vocational training, and lifelong learning. To address the talent challenge, we will launch actions aimed at developing the digital competence of teachers, students, and education centers. In addition, in a meaningful and universal way, we have to launch actions to boost STEM training. It is especially important to incorporate women into these trainings to combat the gender gap. We will promote a state framework, aligned with the European Digital Competition Framework, capable of ensuring that young people and their teachers acquire the digital competence they need.

What are the objectives and priorities of the ministry for 2020?
First, we will promote the new education law. We will develop a strategy of digitalization as one of the levers of effective economic and social transformation of the education system and its components. We will establish a school of AI under the ministry. In addition, we will design 80 new FP offers, associated, among others, with smart manufacturing, maintenance, digitalization, cybersecurity, AI, big data, virtual and augmented reality, collaborative robotics, autonomous vehicles, and cloud computing. We will increase the number of scholarships and reform the study aid system to ensure no one is left behind. We will modernize the basic school curriculum, so as to ensure comprehensive training and the development of key student competencies. For this purpose, we will create an institute for curriculum development and educational innovation.