Spain: Marking Q A& Global perspective Excellence in Higher Education

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Spain is transitioning towards a new, more sustainable growth model and endeavouring to build a knowledge economy and society grounded on education and R&D. The country has presently embarked on an ambitious reform of the education sector, underlining the culture of effort, and fundamentally aimed at raising efficiency and quality of education. HE Gustavo de Aristegui, Ambassador of Spain to India, shares his insight with Shahid Akhter, ENN on the quantum changes aimed at strengthening instrumental knowledge, more competency-based learning approaches and adaptation of graduates to the workplace.

 Fact File
>>Six Spanish Universities are in the World University ranking 100 under 50 published by the Times Higher Education in 2013. Furthermore,three Spanish Business Schools, IE, IESE and ESADE are amongst the world top 20 in the MBA ranking.
>>Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world after Mandarin Chinese and the primary, official or co-official language of 21countries.
>>The Spanish University system has been the preferred destination for postgraduate students and researchers from Latin America, and Spain is also the 3rd country in the world with most students from the United States
>>Spain ranks 4th in Europe in students with post-secondary education in scientific and technical areas. It has gone from playing a minor role in the international science scene (ranked 30th in the early 80s) to become 10th scientific power in the world and 5th in the EU in 2011.
>>A report by the European Commission reveals that 39,300 Erasmus students came to study in Spain in the 2011-12. This puts Spain ahead of France (28,964), Germany (27,872) and the UK (25,760).
>>Granada University received more exchange students than any other in Europe in 2011-12. Four other Spanish institutions – Madrid’s Computense University, Seville University, Valencia University and Valencia Polytechnic – were in the top 10.

What are the educational changes taking place in Spain?
Aware of some weaknesses of the Spanish education model, the Government has put forward a new Draft Constitutional Law to improve Education quality (Spanish acronym: LOMCE). The future legislation aims at strengthening instrumental knowledge, making education more flexible and providing education centres a greater degree of autonomy. A new system of external evaluations at the end of each cycle of education has been proposed, so as to evaluate student learning and hence be able to adapt it and adjust the demand for higher education studies to the possibilities of supply. It is essential to reinforce the links between education and employment, and pointing to that direction, the new legislation strives to foster and modernise vocational training, making it better oriented and more focussed on employability. I feel private companies should work closer with the education sector with the common objective of training and adapting graduates to the workplace.
Any special provision that refers to foreign languages and the role of ICT?
Teaching of English as a foreign language in Spain starts earlier than in other EU and OECD countries. The new legislation will entitle the Government to define in consultation with the Autonomous Regions the bases for multilingual education. Larger use of ICT in the education sector will be promoted by expanding the concept of classroom in space and time, creating virtual learning environments, and thus, promoting e-learning education system.
Spain has the highest secondary school dropout rate in Europe. What educational reforms are going to be introduced to tackle this?
Yes indeed, this is of utmost concern to the Government, and that is why the profound reform of the whole education system in Spain is considered urgent and fundamental. Few of the proposed reforms are to: Anticipate to an earlier moment first election of students between academic and vocational training. European countries with lower school dropout rates allow students to opt for academic or vocational training before the age of 16. Foster and modernise Vocational Training. Introduction of external evaluations throughout the country at the end of each cycle of education. Improve Personal counseling to students in primary, secondary and transition between education cycles.
The Spanish government claims to be working on the improvement of education quality but at the same time introduced severe cuts in education. How do you intend to achieve positive changes?

Fact File
Certain performance indicators of Spain’s education model such as high exam failure rateand levels of school drop-out ,have drawn the attention of the Government to some weaknesses of the system, and asa result inspired the new Draft Constitutional Law to improve Education Quality

As per the PISA results in 2009, Spain scored 481 points, 12 points below the OECD average; results were worse than in 2000, when Spain scored 493 points. These negative results have been produced in spite of the investment in education standing far higher than the OECD and EU averages.
Spain allocates 10,094 dollars per year of public expenditure per student in public education, 21 percent higher than the OECD and EU average; investment has doubled in the last decade from 27 billion to 53 billion euros. As per the latest figures available for 2011 public spending in education in Spain stood at 50,714.2 million euros, representing a 4.77 percent of the GDP. Reduction in the school dropout rate and improvement in vocational training of young people are the main objectives of the European Social Fund and hence, this could be counted as one funding source for the implementation of the new Education Act.

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“The impact of the current global economic crisis has affected Spanish economy and thus, the country is reinventing itself and transitioning towards a new, more sustainable growth model. We are endeavouring to build a knowledge based economy and society solidly grounded on education, competitiveness and R&D”

Please share the MoUs between Spain and India in the field of research, innovation and higher education?
Collaboration in STI between Spain and India is gaining momentum, having been lately a very important area of understanding between both countries. Spain has entered into alliances with different Indian R&D funding agencies, namely the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Biotechnology, and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy with the objective to promote and finance academic and industrial research and technology development co-operation projects between research centres, universities and companies of both countries.
On the scientific co-operation front and since 2010, 43 joint research proposals in areas such as renewable energy ICT, health and medical research and nanotechnology between Spanish and Indian research groups have been selected for funding and are generating short visits and exchanges.
Similarly during the period 2012- 2013 under the innovation-driven programmes a total of 7 joint projects have been selected for funding in biotechnology, renewable energy and manufacturing technologies.
Collaborations between universities from both countries are gradually increasing in number and importance. Few examples are: Ongoing collaboration between Alliance 4 Universities of Spain and a consortium of 6 leading Indian educational institutions (IIIT Bangalore, IIsC Bangalore, NIT Hamirpur, IIFT New Delhi, Birla Institute of Management and Technology and the Jaypee Education Foundation) for internationalisation of higher education.
Research Excellence Programme of the Universidad Santiago de Compostela, Spain (USC) – India (PEIN).
Post-doc, professors and researchers exchanges between Universidad Rovira i Virgil, Spain, IIT Madras, and Anna University.
There is an MBA scholarship programme of Fundación La Caixa, Spain and Casa Asia for Spanish nationals interested in pursuing MBA studies at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. Recently a new agreement for exchange programmes between the School of Economics and Business Administration (IESE), University of Navarra, Spain and the Institute of Management and Technology Ghaziabad has been concluded. Another example is the collaboration between the University of Valladolid, Spain and the University of Ahmedabad in tourism and heritage management. S&T co-operation and Higher Education exchanges are registering an exponential growth. I am fully convinced that in the coming years they are called to become an essential pillar in our bilateral relations with India.

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