El Trabajo En Red Como Proyecto Educativo (Networking as an Educational Project), Spain

  • Date published:
    26 February 2016

Programme Overview

Programme Title El Trabajo En Red Como Proyecto Educativo (Networking as an Educational Project)
Implementing Organization Centro De Educación Permanente Polígono Sur De Desarrollo Comunitario Ceper (Polígono Sur Centre for Continuing Education and Community Development)
Language of Instruction Spanish, English and the mother tongue of various migrant groups
Funding Government
Programme Partners More than 35 partners are involved, including Roma unions and associations of Andalusia, employment centres, radio stations, old people’s groups and community associations, universities and student unions, local schools and libraries, teacher training centres, hospitals and mental health centres, and cultural and sports centres.
Date of Inception 1980

Country Context and Background

Spain’s average scores for both literacy and numeracy are among the lowest in the OECD group of developed nations. Many young people leave school with poor skills in literacy and numeracy while large numbers of adults struggle with literacy. According to the OECD’s 2013 Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), only one in every 20 Spanish adults is proficient at the highest level of literacy (Level 4 or 5), and nearly three out of 10 adults perform at or below the lowest level of proficiency (Level 1) in both literacy and numeracy.
Unemployment rates are high for those who do not complete secondary education in Spain, rising steeply from around 20% in 2007 to 60% in 2012. More than a quarter of young adults in Spain have not attained upper secondary education (UNESCO, 2014).

The challenge this poses for Spain’s education system has been deepened by large increases in its immigrant population between 1996 and 2009. Between 650,000 and 800,000 people of Roma origin now live in Spain, about a third of them in Andalusia. Most of them experience poverty and social exclusion, and have poor literacy skills. The government has implemented a number of educational initiatives aimed at Roma people since 2001, distributing learning materials, developing intercultural programmes, and funding job-training sessions (World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples, 2005).

The district of Polígono Sur in Seville, Andalusia, popularly known as Tres Mil Viviendas (the Three-Thousand Dwellings), is home to 40,000 people from immigrant backgrounds (principally from Latin America, Eastern Europe, Morocco and Sub-Saharan Africa). Physical and social barriers isolate the district from the rest of the city and it is blighted by high levels of illiteracy, unemployment, vandalism and drug addiction.

Spain’s economic situation, high unemployment, and the fact that many Spanish youngsters leave school early, led the local adult education centre to propose a plan to promote education for life and vocational training. Its aim was to support social inclusion while promoting the integrated development of women’s empowerment and basic skills, prioritizing a learning-to-learn approach and the development of personal autonomy and initiative.

The origins of the programme can be traced back to 1980, when 17 education professionals began a project which aimed to teach inhabitants of the poorest districts of Seville how to read and write. The project led to the creation of local centres for adult education, which later became a part of the Red de Centros Públicos para la Educación de Personas Adultas (the State Centres for Adult Education Network), a key strand of the Andalusian regional government’s efforts to address poor literacy in the area.
The programme relies not only on government support but also on the backing of neighbouring associations and the residents of Polígono Sur who are committed to education and its role in growing communities and promoting social inclusion. These supporters have recognised the truth of poet and educationalist José Martí’s motto: ‘Ser cultos, para ser libres’ (‘Be educated to be free’).


Programme Overview

The Polígono Sur Centre for Continuing Education has been working in the six most socially-excluded areas of Seville for more than 30 years. Its methodology involves coordinated teamwork in a network including agents working in Polígono Sur, and the creation of an educational plan for the area.
Underpinning this approach is the belief that to guarantee continuous education in people’s lives, it is necessary to create specific training pathways in which training for life and training for employment are two connected strands. The following are the main pathways of the programme.

Work with Groups at Risk of Social Exclusion

This work includes:

  • A literacy programme;
  • A road-safety education programme, begun in response to the needs of the many people in the area who require a driving licence as a working tool for street vending. Most of these people are illiterate or with limited reading skills that do not allow them to complete a technical/theoretical driving assessment; and
  • Programmes to promote cross-cultural understanding and the Spanish language among immigrants. One example is the Flamenco Patrimony and Roma Culture Programme that provides knowledge about Roma patrimony and creates ways for positively living together.

Work with Young People who have Left the Education System

Taking into account current education legislation in Andalusia and the needs of young people in Polígono Sur, the following training initiatives have been created:

  • Literacy for non-literate young people who were frequently absent from school;
  • Early Readers: young people who left school early with only basic knowledge of reading and writing;
  • Basic Training: for those who did not complete primary education. There are two levels, depending on the skills levels of participants;
  • Support in gaining the Certificate of Secondary Compulsory Education (ESO), through study sessions coordinated with teaching staff from Mayor Zaragoza secondary school in Seville;
  • Assessment for entering upper vocational education and training courses: a programme aimed at people who wish to continue their training and gain a higher qualification; and
  • Other non-formal education programmes, including courses on personal and social development, ICTs, English and entrepreneurialism.

Education for Active Citizenship

This is achieved through programmes such as:

  • Conversations about literature and music: This initiative, begun in 2006–2007 following the model of La Verneda School in Barcelona, has promoted intergenerational dialogue between older people and students at local schools and communication through reading. The activity includes primary and secondary students, and adult learners (mostly women) attending the Centre for Continuing Education; and
  • A theatre group called No nos duele nái> (We feel no pain): Created by students in 2007–2008 as a response to talks on literature and music, the group writes and performs its own plays addressing social and educational issues.

Education for Employment

This involves:

  • Cooperation with providers of employment and training workshops in the district;
  • Coordination with the Centre for Employment Guidance to provide training for people looking for work; and
  • Coordination between adult education teaching staff and employment programme specialists to create a training curriculum adapted to the specific needs of the population.


Education for Social and Economic Enterprise

The teaching staff developed this initiative following their participation in innovative education programmes organized by the Ministry of Education and the European Education and Training Programme’s Spanish agency. The following projects have been undertaken:

  • ARCE, a network of public schools and public educational institutions used by adult learners all over Spain to exchange knowledge and experience;
  • An EU-funded Grundtvig project run by the European Education and Training Programme to share information on the use of new technologies in education among European countries; and
  • An EU-funded Comenius Regio programme, in partnership with the Portuguese region of Beja, which developed a range of activities, including the Entrepreneurial Culture Programme, and the Centre for Continuing Education’s Socio-Educative Ecological Allotments Project.


Aims and Objectives

Together, the various strands of work carried out by the programme aim to:

  • Work from personal to community development to improve the quality of life;
  • Value diversity and promote inter-cultural understanding, and understanding of Roma culture, in particular;
  • Open up new opportunities for young people who did not complete their studies to return to education;
  • Promote self-esteem and emotional intelligence;
  • Develop critical thinking;
  • Strengthen the teaching of values and integrity;
  • Achieve an inclusive community centre at which students can contribute to the development of their district;
  • Support personal development and social integration;
  • Encourage active ageing by giving older people the opportunity to update their skills;
  • Strengthen intergenerational solidarity;
  • Develop basic competences, mainly learning to learn, autonomy and personal initiative, and social competences;
  • Create cooperation between employment programme professionals and adult educators to improve training and access to qualification; and
  • Create social allotments, and support their subsequent development and maintenance. The programme has a 400 square-metre space, divided into 14 allotments, where teachers, learners and neighbours grow organic vegetables and learn about cooperative living and sustainable development.

Programme Implementation

Structure and Processes

The work of the teachers at the Polígono Sur Centre for Continuing Education is overseen by the centre’s board and supported by teaching teams and commissions focused on the economy, community cohesion, schools and local activities.

The programme takes two years in total to complete (ten months per year). Currently, 12 professionals work two shifts a day – morning and evening from 8am to 9pm – to offer greater flexibility to the population of Polígono Sur.


As adult education is not compulsory, centres for continuing education have limited access to resources useful in assessing students’ needs. The centre, for example, does not have a professional advisor on remedial pedagogy and doesn’t receive support from the district’s Educational Guidance Team. To assess a student’s needs, the centre works closely with local community services and health centres, as well as other entities and institutions. The centre also conducts interviews with learners to determine their needs and the sort of support that might be appropriate.
The centre caters for students with physical and mental disabilities, as well as offenders and ex-offenders, including people participating in the Home Office’s medio abierto programme of social reintegration during imprisonment. These people are supported in direct coordination with their institutions, through monthly or annual monitoring.
The centre’s teaching staff actively seek support from colleagues in other sectors of the education community, including neighbourhood, sports and cultural associations, which work hand in hand with the school, and other key partner institutions.

The centre’s curriculum is based on two main methodological principles:

  • Networking: This demands that teaching staff work as a team to draw together all of the available resources in Polígono Sur and to coordinate with projects developed by other institutions, entities, associations and social agencies in Polígono Sur; and
  • Supporting equality of access to education through learning communities: The centres are open to their neighbourhoods and there is a commitment among staff to building cooperation with local intermediaries and neighbourhood agencies and involving them in the centre’s activities. This approach is based on the model of learning as dialogue popularised by Freire.

Adhering to these principles implies a commitment to:

  • The creation of alternatives to traditional ways of organizing the learning environment;
  • Placing the community at the centre of the training-learning process;
  • Ensuring training has is purposeful and jointly planned with clear objectives;
  • Undertaking continuous and systematic evaluation involving the different sectors of the educational community; and
  • Creating opportunities for the equal participation of students, teaching staff, families and the community.

Programme Content and Teaching Material

The centre’s education programmes are designed to be adapted to the needs of the communities they target and have a fixed annual duration.

The following regulations support the development of the adult education curriculum:

  • Decree 196/2005, which stresses the lifelong learning feature of adult education;
  • Order August 2007, which regulates basic training for adults in Andalusia and its objectives;
  • Order September 2007, which regulates the non-formal education of adult learners; and
  • Decree 196/2005, which stresses that adult education must enable access to higher education, and that vocational training and must attend to the specific needs of disadvantaged groups.

Each education plan is devised with these regulations and the characteristics of students in mind. The curriculum must also reflect the basic socio-educational development needs of the adult population of Polígono Sur.

The following subject areas have been developed as part of the curriculum:

  • Self-esteem and personal consciousness;
  • Community empowerment;
  • Co-education and equality between men and women;
  • Access to ICTs;
  • Work, personal development and social entrepreneurship;
  • Care for the environment and sustainable development;
  • Active ageing;
  • Healthy habits for life; and
  • Developing initiative and critical thought among young people.

The diversity of students who participate in the programme requires teaching materials which are responsive to the needs of both students and tutors and which can be applied in an ordinary classroom context. The programme designs its own teaching units and employs teaching methods based upon project work and intense interaction with students. Books by classic authors are used for the programme’s dialogue-based literacy circles.

Professionals from each of the teaching teams are involved in jointly designing and creating the teaching materials. For many years, teams from Seville’s teacher training centre (run by the Regional Government of Andalusia) have presented new, innovative materials which the centre has adapted to the needs of the different students. The centre also cooperates with Seville’s universities (the University of Seville and the University Pablo de Olavide) in projects for higher education students, creating opportunities for students and teaching staff to work together in developing new curriculum materials and methodologies.

Recruitment and Training of Facilitators

The programme’s facilitators are all paid public school teachers. Each facilitator is in charge of a group of around 20 learners. The school participates in the CEP, a public institution for teachers’ continuing professional development. Centre staff are advised by the public Teachers’ Training Centre in developing the contents of internal training.

The centre has its own annual training programme, with sessions for new teaching staff at the start of each year. During the sessions, teachers are made familiar with the area they will be working in, the services available, the institutions working in those areas and the functions of the different agencies they will encounter. The teachers of Polígono Sur must know each other, and be prepared to share experiences, difficulties, achievements and goals. The centre emphasises the following in its teacher training:

  • Tutorial support and guidance (including self-esteem, personal and social guidance for students, coordination with social services and other entities, and the dynamics of group and community cohesion);
  • Innovative approaches to lifelong learning (including the investigation and elaboration of pedagogical material);
  • The educational and social use of new technologies;
  • Improvement in community cohesion and development; and
  • Strategies and tools for evaluation of the centre and its programme.

The Learners

The programme engages people of all ages and backgrounds from across Polígono Sur. The average number of students is 20 per class. Learners are recruited through active engagement with communities, campaigns to raise awareness of the programme and partnership work with social workers, local associations and correctional institutions.

Most learners, by virtue of their ethnic or cultural origins, come from underprivileged backgrounds. Most of the centre’s learners have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • A significant discrepancy between the level of educational competence attained and the stage at which the student is enrolled. This is usually due to early school leaving;
  • Difficulties in school integration due to the socio-cultural disadvantage;
  • Irregular school attendance;
  • Limited knowledge of the language used in the learning process (in the case of immigrants and
  • Illiteracy and troubles with school attendance, particularly for Roma people because of their specific family and cultural circumstances; and
  • A low level of education, especially competences related to ‘learning to learn’, as well as low levels of self-esteem among adults joining the programme.

The centre has been running for 33 years. In the beginning, it engaged about 100 learners each year. During the last eight years, thanks to the development of new educational programmes, the average number of learners has risen to 600 per year.

The centre also admits young people who did not complete secondary education, giving them an opportunity to gain the training and qualifications they need for employment. Immigrants and Roma people have a particular need for this sort of training.

Roughly speaking, all of the centre’s learners fall into one of these categories:

  • Young people aged between 18 and 24 years (and some aged 16, with the authorization of Seville’s Regional Office for Education, Culture and Sport of Seville), who failed academically and have low levels of skills and self-esteem;
  • Women and men aged between 25 and 45 years who did not have the opportunity to complete their studies and need to improve their social and work skills;
  • Women and men aged between 45 and 60, or older, who are not pursuing qualifications but find education beneficial in other ways; and
  • Women older than 65 who wish to stay active and continue their learning.


Assessment of Learners

Learners are assessed by continuous evaluation, consisting of an initial interview and an exam to assess the learner’s level of ability, and quarterly exams thereafter.

The achievements of the learners are recognised through a certificate of progress. This evidence of achievement is issued by the centre and is recognized by the regional government of Andalusia.

Use of ICTs

Most people living in Polígono Sur do not have either computers or access to the internet at home. There is a need, therefore, for more training in the use of digital skills. The centre teaches students basic computer skills and offers workshops in more advanced skills.

The centre includes the application of new technologies in the development of all of its educational plans. ICT activities offered at the centre include:

  • A digital journal, AdultoSur, aimed at and written by students;
  • The creation of a blog site (adultosur.blogspot.com) on which students highlight the activities of the centre, local news and anything else they consider important; and
  • The creation of a Facebook page used a meeting point for the region’s educational community.

Monitoring and Evaluation of the Programme

There are three key phases to the evaluation process: diagnosis, continuous evaluation and analysis, and proposals for improvement.

First, the centre assesses the priorities for local communities, working closely with other social agencies in the area. An initial evaluation serves as a basis for determining the needs and expectations of the group. Following on from this, the programme is continuously evaluated, with student results, the teaching and learning process, and the community’s expectations and achievements all considered.

The centre’s evaluation team has developed various resources to evaluate the social and educational aspects of the programme in a participatory way. These generate proposals for improvement which are the starting point for the following academic year. A self-evaluation is conducted at the end of the programme. Improvement proposals for the following academic year are summarized in a report.

Programme Impact

The programme has had the following positive outcomes:

Work with Groups at Special Risk of Social Exclusion

The programme led to the creation of an educational meeting space and improved community cohesion in the region’s most disadvantaged area. It has also created stimulating cultural and leisure activities involving people in the community. The centre’s road-safety programme helped about 600 people to get their driving licences. The percentage of students passing their driving test is close to 95%.

Work with Young People who left the Education System

The programme has achieved the following:

  • An increase in the number of young people who return to school;
  • A positive and supportive atmosphere in the classroom, facilitating the transition and adaptation of learners;
  • A high pass rate, with 80% of learners achieving qualifications. In addition, 40% of learners continue their studies at different levels;
  • An increase in students’ self-confidence and the development of their personal and social skills;
  • The development of student initiatives and autonomy through the Students’ Association, which represents an alternative leisure activity for young people in the district;
  • The empowerment of young people who were hindered in their studies by the cultural stigma associated with their background; and
  • An improvement in intergenerational understanding, overcoming mutual prejudice.

Education for Active Citizenship

Outcomes of the music and literature talks included:

  • Adult education exchange sessions at Seville’s town hall, with female students giving the talks (academic year 2006–2007);
  • The organisation of the V National Conference of Talks on Literature and Music in Polígono Sur, with more than 400 people from associations, entities and educational institutions across Spain participating (Academic year 2008–2009); and
  • Annual talks and interventions by older women at Pablo de Olavide University.

The theatre group had the following positive outcomes:

  • Presentation of a stage play, Un patio de locos (A lunatic’s patio), written by a woman student and performed on numerous occasions;
  • Presentation of a stage play, Historias de nuestra juventud (Stories of our youth), about the neighbourhood, its inhabitants and their values, and the stigma and prejudice faced by many in Polígono Sur;
  • Presentation of a stage play, No creerse la mitad (Don’t believe the half of it), which examines the bad image of the neighbourhood promoted by the media; and
  • Presentation of a stage play …Y la historia se repite (History repeats itself), set in the 40s and 50s, which draws parallels with the current economic situation.

Education for Social and Economic Enterprise

The programme achieved the following:

  • The offer of land to create the centre’s community allotment project;
  • Assigning the right training and management to teachers, depending on the group of learners and the teaching space;
  • The development of projects which support local infrastructural needs, in terms of land adaptation, materials, irrigation, etc;
  • The creation of spaces which serve the best-practice needs of the project, in terms of meetings, storage, etc;
  • The creation of a non-formal education plan to support the entrepreneurial use of community allotments;
  • The creation of an association of learners and neighbours (Verdes del Sur); and
  • The creation of associations for community development: namely, the students’ and young people’s association, La Unión, the cultural association, El Esqueleto, the over-65s association, Decididas a crear, and Verdes del Sur.



The programme has met with a number of challenges. These include:

  • Bad conditions in the area, including misused and derelict open spaces, poor access to transport, lack of maintenance of green zones and leisure areas, illegal constructions (structures attached to the ground floor of the dwellings), and deficient public services (water treatment, postal service, electricity, mail boxes and public telephones, etc.);
  • High rates of civic insecurity, because of theft and burglary, vandalism, threats to families and neighbours, bad road and traffic safety, etc;
  • High levels of early school-leaving, varying from 40% to 60% of students, depending on the time of the year;
  • Poor health conditions, including a mortality rate 1.4 times higher than the national average (double for mortality by infectious illnesses);
  • Unemployment at three times the national average and twice the level across Seville as a whole;
  • A large proportion (83%) of workers in precarious forms of employment. In some areas, such as Murillo or Martínez Montañés, almost all workers are in precarious employment.
  • A lack of employability among the population: 93% have not participated in vocational training; and
  • Low levels of industry within the area, with industrial zones located to the south of the city.

Lessons Learned

Given these challenges, the centre must see further and do more than simply offer educational opportunities to its communities. It must support social transformation. It is not enough to teach the people to read – the centre must create spaces for them to learn to think so they can become the main actors in their own learning and in effecting social change. The centre plans to broaden the adult education curriculum to create content which contributes to improving the lives of local people, for example by improving their physical and social environment and by empowering people to transform their neighbourhoods.
With only 12 teachers, this is not something the centre can achieve alone, despite the growth in student numbers. The centre would like to develop its networks, working with different social agencies to create a common working plan for an employment and training pathway in the district.
The fact that the programme is not a part of the compulsory education system means that its resources, including teaching staff, are limited, and creates a need for further networking and partnership work with other agencies in Polígono Sur.


The programme promotes itself in different ways. The centre carries out educational and social campaigns in the six areas by visiting other centres and institutions, distributing informational leaflets, developing information and awareness sessions, and utilizing the local media (press, TV, radio and public websites).
Regional government supports the programme, making long-term sustainability more likely. The centre plans to develop new programmes in the coming years by investing grants awarded in 2014 by the Spanish Education Ministry and UNESCO.



Ana García Reina
Head Teacher
Bendición y Esperanza, No. 2 Sevilla 41013, Spain
Email: 41500384.edu (at) juntadeandalucia.es
Tel: +34 955656917
Website: http://www.juntadeandalucia.es/averroes/ceperpoligonosur/index/index.php
Blog: http://adultosur.blogspot.com.es/

For citation please use

U. Hanemann (Ed.).. Last update: 24 July 2017. El Trabajo En Red Como Proyecto Educativo (Networking as an Educational Project), Spain. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. (Accessed on: 3 December 2023, 01:36 CET)

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