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Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas


The Spanish education system struggles with e-learning during the COVID-19 crisis due more to lack of preparation and experience than lack of equipment

When online education became the only alternative to attending schools in response to the COVID-19 lockdown, new technologies took on a critical role. However, the use of technology and the preparedness of teachers was not at the level required for the situation. Before the pandemic, approximately 23% of 15-year-old students in Spain had never connected to the Internet in school. In total, 70% of students received instruction through digital devices less than an hour a day in their last year of compulsory secondary education, while only 30% did so for more than one hour.

The lack of experience in Spain in the use of ICT in schools  is shared by other developed countries, such as, Belgium, France or Switzerland. While, according to data from the PISA 2018 report, the situation is more favorable in countries like Denmark or Sweden, where more than 70% of 15-year-old students connect to the Internet for more than one hour a day to carry out educational tasks in school.

The percentage of students with problems to adapt to a training model based on new technologies due to lack of practice is much higher than those who experienced problems because of lack digital equipment, since, according to the PISA study, only 10% of 15-year-old students in Spain have no access to a computer at home. This lack of equipment was addressed through public subsidies and aids provided during the confinement. On the other hand, the lack of digital experience and skills of both students and teachers was more difficult to overcome despite the efforts made, widening the gap among students, according to the new COVID-19:IvieExpress report.

In response, the authors of the report, Francisco Pérez and Laura Hernández, state the need to establish a minimum criteria and standards for online teaching and digital platforms in order to make learning as homogeneous as possible for all students. This is even more important given the current health circumstances and unsettling uncertainty for the upcoming school year around reopening. The authors call for training and organizational actions in schools to limit the educational consequences of the pandemic to those that are strictly inevitable and to not base student performance on the interest shown by their family environment or the extraordinary dedication of some teachers.

In general, there is a scarce use of ICT in Spanish schools, but certain regional differences can be observed as well. For example, Catalonia and the Basque Country are the Spanish regions with the most students who connect to the Internet in school for more than one hour a day, and therefore had more experience in using new technologies in learning during the lockdown. Both of these regions have a higher rate than the OECD’s average of 40.7%. On the other hand, in the Valencian Community only 27.3% of students connected for more than one hour a day, 3 percentage points below the national average of 30.5%, while Castile and León and Galicia stand at a scarce 20%.

In summary, the lack of experience and practice in the use of Internet in schools to support learning is visible in all types of centers (public, subsidized or private) and socio-economic family backgrounds (unfavorable, intermediate or favorable).

14 July 2020