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Supreme Court of Catalonia rejects Madrid's petition to reopen school enrolment to include Spanish as a tuition language

Catalonia's Supreme Court (TSJC) has ruled against the petition filed by the Spanish Ministry of Education that asked to reopen the enrolment process for the next school year in order to use registration forms in which parents could explicitly choose whether they wanted their children to be taught in Spanish as an instruction language. In the last few years, the Spanish Government has been undertaking a judicial battle to change Catalonia's school model, which has been developed with an extremely wide consensus over the last 35 years and completely guarantees the knowledge of both Spanish and Catalan, as results show. The model is based on the linguistic immersion principle, through which children are mostly taught in Catalan, although many flexible measures are included. However, the Spanish Government would like to have Spanish as an instruction language as well, despite most of the pedagogic experts considering that if this were the case, many children from Spanish-speaking environments would not have a proficient knowledge of Catalan and would not be bilingual.

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09 June 2015 10:28 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- Catalonia's Supreme Court (TSJC) has ruled against the petition filed by the Spanish Ministry of Education that asked to reopen the enrolment process for the next school year in order to use registration forms in which parents could explicitly choose whether they wanted their children to be taught in Spanish as an instruction language. In the last few years, the Spanish Government has been undertaking a judicial battle to change Catalonia's school model, which has been developed with an extremely wide consensus over the last 35 years and completely guarantees the knowledge of both Spanish and Catalan, as results show. The model is based on the linguistic immersion principle, through which children are mostly taught in Catalan, although many flexible measures are included. However, the Spanish Government would like to have Spanish as an instruction language as well, despite most of the pedagogic experts considering that if this were the case, many children from Spanish-speaking environments would not have a proficient knowledge of Catalan and would not be bilingual, damaging equal opportunities and creating two separate language communities in the long-run. Spanish nationalists say they have the right to have their children schooled in Spanish in Catalonia, although the Constitution does not recognise such a right but rather "the right and duty to know Spanish", which is guaranteed by the current model. The Catalan school system does not segregate children by language and ensures true bilingualism, and for these reasons has been praised by UNESCO and the European Commission.


On Tuesday, the TSJC rejected the appeal that was filed on 6 May by the Spanish Ministry of Education, which asked for the cancellation of the current enrolment process for the next school year in Catalonia and the extension of the registration period in order to give enough time for the changes to take place. The aim of the Spanish Education Minister, José Ignacio Wert, was to have all the enrolment forms sent out again, this time explicitly including the option of having Spanish as a tuition language. This option had not been included on the previous forms, as the Catalan model does not segregate children by language and does not have two separate tracks, one in Spanish and one in Catalan.

However, the Spanish Government is doing everything it can to change the Catalan school model and force the introduction of Spanish as one of the tuition languages, reducing the presence of Catalan. The main problem of doing so is that currently knowledge of both Catalan and Spanish is somehow guaranteed in general terms. However, a significant number of children from Spanish-speaking families are already obtaining worse results in Catalan than those obtained by children from Catalan-speaking families. And this does not happen vice-versa in general terms, since there are no significant differences regarding the knowledge of Spanish language, neither within Catalonia nor compared to knowledge of the Spanish language in other parts of Spain.

In May the TSJC ruled that "at least 25%" of core school subjects should be taught in Spanish if the family of a single children within a classroom requested it, no matter the opinion of the rest of the class. The Catalan Court was interpreting previous decisions from the Spanish Supreme Court on the appeal filed by a small group of families who were requesting their children to be taught in Spanish in Catalonia. This case, and all the decisions related to it, has opened a breach within the Catalan school model, which is being used by the Spanish Government as a way to change it and reduce the presence of Catalan.

On top of this, the Spanish Government passed a measure to offer families free tuition fees for their children to be schooled in privately-owned centres in Catalonia if they requested that their children be taught in Spanish and were not offered options in the public system. This measure foresaw that the Catalan Government would pay these tuition fees (some €6,000 per pupil each year), since the Spanish Executive would withdraw the corresponding amount from its regular transfers that are part of Catalonia's funding scheme.

However, since the Catalan model has been developed with such a broad consensus and has proven its effectiveness to ensure bilingualism over the last 35 years, no privately-owned schools offer their classes entirely in Spanish in Catalonia and they also follow the linguistic immersion principle. Therefore, the Spanish Government's measure proved to be ineffective. On top of this, its impact was something of a farce: out of the 1.55 million pupils in Catalonia, only a few dozen families (60 according to the Catalan Government, about 300 according to the Spanish Executive) requested that their children be taught in Spanish. These figures prove that there is not a real linguistic conflict in Catalonia, but rather a controversy generated by Spanish nationalist media and politicians, most of them based in Madrid.

Now, the TSJC has rejected the petition to start the enrolment process all over again in order to have an explicit box where parents could tick the option of having their children schooled in Spanish. The Court highlighted that the Catalan system "does not segregate" children by language or any other reason and that the parents can already ask for this "in a free way, at any time". Therefore, the Spanish Government's petition could "ironically have a restricting effect" and would "limit what today is a free action", stated the Court.

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  • Children in a classroom within public school in Catalonia (by E. Rosanas)

  • Children in a classroom within public school in Catalonia (by E. Rosanas)