education and research

education and research
   Education has undergone major development in Spain since 1970, when it was first made free and compulsory for all to age 14 with the introduction of EGB. In the ten years to 1995, expenditure in absolute terms increased three-fold, rising to 5 percent of GDP. While significant, however, this expansion began from a low base by comparison with other developed countries. By the early 1990s, expenditure per student at primary and secondary levels in the state sector was still only $2,840, as against the OECD average of $4,700. Spending per third-level student was $3,770, compared to an OECD average of $10,030. The combined participation rate for all forms of education stood at 86 percent in the mid-1990s, equal to that of France, and higher than Japan's. Nevertheless, the under-development of previous decades was still having an effect on the general educational level of society. Though a larger proportion of the young population was benefitting from education than in 1970, and adult illiteracy had virtually disappeared, only 25 percent of the population in the age group 25 to 64 had completed secondary education, as against 80 percent in Germany and the US.
   The organization of the educational system is a combined activity of national and regional governments. Central government is responsible for the validation of qualifications, syllabuses and progression requirements. The autonomous communities with the largest measures of selfgovernment (e.g. Catalonia, the Basque country and Andalusia) enjoy considerable independence in the internal administration of the system within their areas, including universities. Other regions work directly under the control of the central government.
   The period since 1970 has been punctuated by several important, and sometimes controversial, legislative measures designed to increase access to education. Despite considerable opposition from the Church, right-wing political interests and middle-class parents, the LODE (1984) attempted to create an integrated system by extending state subsidies to private schools, thereby reducing the economic and social barriers between them and the public sector. It stipulated that all schools receiving state subsidies must offer free education, apply the same admission criteria as state schools, observe minimum standards, to be monitored by government inspectors, and establish school councils, on which parents and pupils would be represented. This act increased state control of primary and secondary education, but left untouched the question of quality, widely perceived as deficient. In 1994, a survey of pupils between the ages of 13 and 16 showed that 45 percent saw themselves as deriving little benefit from the education system, owing to the high examination failure rates, and the frequency with which years were repeated.
   The LOGSE (1990) attempted to address the issue of quality by initiating a series of reforms, due to be phased in fully by the year 2000. The main provisions were the raising of the age of compulsory schooling to 16, the breaking-down of the barrier between academic and vocational education, and the diversification and modernization of the curriculum. The other main effect was the virtual secularization of education. In 1979, classes in ethics were made available to pupils who did not wish to attend religious instruction, which had been compulsory under Franco. In the event, only about 10 percent of primary school pupils and 20–30 percent of secondary pupils availed themselves of these. The LOGSE did away with the ethics classes, leaving religious instruction in a somewhat exposed position as an optional activity, though the conservative PP government elected in March 1996 considered reintroducing religion as an academic subject into the core curriculum. The introduction of greater flexibility in the curriculum as a result of the LOGSE was an attempt to correct the traditional bias of the secondary school system towards academic study. In 1992, only 3 percent of the workforce between the ages of 25 and 64 had received professional training, as against 27 percent in Germany and France. Overall, 80 percent of workers have no professional qualification. The new curriculum allows for the teaching of manual skills as well as management and languages, the latter to begin at age 8. Language learning, indeed, has been one of the most successful developments in the 1990s, with 92 percent of pupils learning a foreign language, predominantly English. Opportunities for language acquisition by adults are provided by a national network of official language schools.
   The availability of free education does not extend beyond secondary school. When the student goes to university, registration and tuition fees are payable, and there is no comprehensive national system of higher education grants, though scholarships are available for those whose parental income falls below about £15,000 per annum. Fee levels, however, are modest by comparison with Britain and the US, though student organizations have frequently demonstrated in favour of a reduction in fees. About 1.4 million students nationally are enrolled in higher education, the effect of a rapid expansion which has led to complaints of masificación ("massification", or over-expansion). Though over twenty new universities have been founded in Spain since 1970 (about half the total), some of the older institutions are very large by British standards: the Complutense in Madrid, for example, has 130,000 students. Overcrowding in classrooms, lack of contact with teaching staff, and poor facilities have led to student demonstrations and boycotts. There is a clear perception that expansion has not improved the quality of education, though when the government introduced selective examinations for university entrance in the late 1980s, students protested vigorously. Spain, in fact, has the highest drop-out rate in the EU, with only 45 percent of students completing their degrees within the normal time-span, as compared with 90 percent in the UK, and 70 percent in Germany. Like primary and secondary education, the tertiary sector has been the subject of legislative reform, mainly through the LRU (1983), which codified the basis of academic freedom and university autonomy. Universities draw up their own statutes and budgets, and elect their own governing bodies. Within the terms of a national curricular framework, they have a certain freedom to introduce new degree programmes, which are of four years" duration rather than the traditional five. This act, however, made no change in the status of tenured staff, who continue to be classified as civil servants. In common with established staff in state schools, they enter the profession by competitive public examination (oposiciones), and can then, subject to merit and length of service, seek to transfer to other institutions within the system.
   Although the LRU sought to modernize university curricula and introduce more flexibility, universities still remain dominated by generalists taking traditional degrees. Even allowing for the possibility that the figures may be distorted by the weight of numbers in the older and larger institutions, it is a fact that, in the session 1994–5, law still had 28 percent more students than faculties of economics and business, more than three times as many as languages, and more than six times as many as chemistry. Medicine accounts for fewer than 4 percent of all students in university faculties, while the EU average output of graduates in medicine is 17 percent. Only 17 percent of all students of information technology follow courses in university faculties, but even when one adds to these all the IT students studying in vocationally oriented escuelas universitarias, law students still outnumber them four and a half times. A similar pattern may be observed even in the Open University, the UNED, where five times as many students study in the general area of law and social sciences as in humanities, and six times as many as in science and engineering combined. University departments are active in research and publication, and have produced work of high quality in all fields, though most of the internationally recognized contributions to research have been in the humanities. Despite the exile of many of the best intellects in the country after the Civil War, fundamental work of great distinction has been done in history (by, for instance, Menéndez Pidal, Artola, Maravall, Domínguez Ortiz, Vicens Vives and Fusi), philosophy and history of philosophy (Abellán, Aranguren, Elías Díaz and Marías), language (Alvar and Lapesa), literature (Mainer and Rico) and sociology (Amando de Miguel).
   The prominence of the humanities is in part due to past under-investment in science and technology, which only began to be made good on a significant scale in the 1980s. Spending on research and development in the decade to 1994 increased from 0.6 percent of GDP to 1 percent, the highest proportional increase in the OECD. In absolute terms, total investment in research has increased fivefold between 1982 and 1994, but as a percentage of GDP, R & D expenditure is still less than half that of the UK, France, Italy and Germany. As in other countries, the bulk of the expansion in research has been in science and technology. Between 1985 and 1994, the number of research scientists and engineers doubled, to 42,000.
   Research activity is dispersed over a large number of public and private institutions, of which the most important is the CSIC. Private foundations and institutes have also had an important role. For example, the Juan March Institute for Study and Research runs the Centre for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences (CEACS) and the Centre for International Meetings on Biology. CEACS, founded in 1987, and recognized by the Ministry of Education, carries out postgraduate teaching and research, specializing in comparative studies in European politics, economics and sociology. It awards its own Masters degrees and prepares students for doctoral qualifications vali-dated by one of the state universities.
   By the early 1980s, the government became convinced of the need to focus research effort and implement a national strategy. The Science Law of 1986 provided for an institutional framework to co-ordinate the activities of the universities, CSIC, the National Industrial Institute and a large number of other bodies dependent on the Ministries of Agriculture, Industry, and Defence. A National Research Plan was drawn up, to be overseen by an interdepartmental Science and Technology Committee. Beginning in 1988, various stages of the plan have been implemented, including investment, training, evaluation, and integration with international programmes under European Union auspices.
   Further reading
   - Alted, A. (1995), "Educational Policy in Democratic Spain", in H.Graham and J.Labanyi (eds) Spanish Cultural Studies, an Introduction: The Struggle for Modernity, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 320–5 (an excellent overview of the changes in educational structure and policy since 1970).
   - Chislett, W. (1996), Spain 1996: The Central Hispano Handbook, Madrid: Central Hispano, pp. 32–5 (a brief but clear summary, illustrated with useful graphs).
   - Spain 1995 (1995) Madrid: government publication, pp. 347–81 (a useful overview of education and research policy).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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