Agreement in Catalonia to stand by the Catalan school model despite the Spanish Government’s reform
The parties supporting the current school model, representing 80% of the new Catalan Parliament, and Catalonia’s School Council – with all the stakeholders – have met to decide upon a consensual answer to the Spanish Government’s Education Reform relegating the Catalan language and centralising competence. The meeting ended with a consensual decision to stick to the current Catalan Education Law if the Spanish Executive does not change the spirit of its reform and continues to insist on breaking up the school model that has been in place for more than 30 years. Cancelling the linguistic immersion model would mean splitting Catalan society into two language communities, which is absolutely not acceptable to the wide majority of Catalans. The current model has been validated twice by the Spanish Constitutional Court and is based on Catalonia’s Statute of Autonomy which was approved via referendum.
Barcelona (ACN).- Catalonia will stick to the current school model, based on the linguistic immersion principle, if the Spanish Government approves the announced Education Reform that centralises competence and relegates the Catalan language, dramatically threatening social cohesion and equal opportunities. On Wednesday afternoon the Catalan Government and the parties supporting the current school model met with Catalonia\u2019s School Council (formed by all the stakeholders such as teachers, parents, privately-owned school representatives, university experts, etc.) to decide upon a joint answer to the reform announced by the Spanish Education Minister, José Ignacio Wert. The parties assisting the meeting organised by the Acting President of the Catalan Executive, Artur Mas \u2013 who will very likely be re-elected within the next few weeks \u2013 represent 80% of the new Catalan Parliament, elected less than a month ago. The meeting ended with a consensual decision to stick to the current Catalan Education Law if the Spanish Executive does not change the spirit of its reform and continues to insist on breaking up the school model that has been in place for more than 30 years. The current model has been validated twice by the Spanish Constitutional Court (the last time in 2010) and it is based on Catalonia\u2019s Statute of Autonomy, which was approved by the Spanish Parliament and via referendum by the Catalan people. Cancelling the linguistic immersion model would mean splitting Catalan society into two language communities, which is absolutely \u201Cunacceptable\u201D to the wide majority of Catalans as the official declaration approved at the meeting states. The Acting Catalan Minister for Education, Irene Rigau, will meet with Wert on Friday and will tell him the stance of Catalonia\u2019s education community, the Catalan Government and the main political parties. On Wednesday Wert explained his proposal to the Spanish Parliament and stated that it is \u201Ca lie\u201D he wants to relegate Catalan language and create \u201Can ideological and social battle\u201D. Wert stated that those protesting are \u201Ccreating an artificial confrontational climate\u201D.
Five parties representing 80% of the new Catalan Parliament were present at the meeting. They were: the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), which has been running the Catalan Government for the last two years and won the November elections; the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC), which is likely to support the CiU in the next term; the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), which is part of the Spanish Socialists PSOE; the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA); and the radical left-wing and independence party CUP. Catalonia\u2019s School Council has proposed a declaration that has been supported by all the parties. The declaration requests the Spanish Government to take the reform away as it is \u201Cunacceptable\u201D and \u201Cincompatible\u201D with the current legislative framework. The criticism mainly focuses on the Catalan language aspect but it goes beyond this, as it also invades many powers of the Catalan Executive, in what is perceived as a centralist initiative. Furthermore, Left-Wing parties have denounced that the reform does not respect secularity, dumps the quality of the public education system and fosters privately-owned schools.
The current model guarantees knowledge of both Spanish and Catalan
The current model has been validated twice by the Spanish Constitutional Court and is based on Catalonia\u2019s Statute of Autonomy, which was approved firstly by the Spanish Parliament and secondly via referendum by the majority of Catalans. The current model has been built up with consensual decisions adopted by most of the political parties and the education community in Catalonia over the last 35 years. The model started to be put in place 30 years ago and it is based on the linguistic immersion principle that guarantees that pupils will know both Spanish and Catalan by the end of their studies. In fact, results show that Catalan students have the same \u2013 or even higher, depending on the years \u2013 knowledge of the Spanish language at the end of their studies compared to the Spanish average. In addition, it ensures that all pupils know Catalan even though they do not speak it with their family. Therefore, the model results in true bilingualism and for this reason it has been praised by the European Commission and UNESCO for fostering social cohesion and equal opportunities and for not creating two separated language communities as in other countries (such as Belgium).
Wert stated he wanted \u201Cto Hispanicize Catalan pupils\u201D
However, Wert \u2013 who used to be a collaborator with ultra-conservative and Spanish nationalist media before his current office \u2013 has decided to end Catalonia\u2019s current school model. A few weeks ago, he stated that his aim was \u201Cto Hispanicize Catalan pupils\u201D since he believes Catalonia\u2019s education system fosters pro-independence feelings. Despite the vocal criticism, Wert has not rectified his decision. On the contrary, he has publicly stated \u201CI am like a wild bull [such as those used in bullfighting], I get stronger with punishment\u201D.
Wert accuses those protesting of \u201Clying\u201D and creating \u201Can artificial climate of confrontation\u201D
The same day that the meeting took place, Wert explained his reform to the Spanish Parliament and he stated it was \u201Ca lie\u201D that his proposal aims to relegate the Catalan language or create \u201Ca linguistic and social battle\u201D. According to the Spanish Minister, those protesting are creating \u201Can artificial climate of confrontation\u201D. However, he said he is open \u201Cto talking\u201D. Before the parliamentary session, Wert met his party colleague and leader of the People\u2019s Party in Catalonia, Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, who asked him to change some of the wording of the reform to make it smoother and less offensive for Catalan people.
The Catalan People\u2019s Party asks for a change of wording
Sánchez-Camacho asked Wert to no longer call the Catalan language subject a \u201Cspeciality\u201D as \u201Cit has been used by some political parties\u201D to complain about discriminatory treatment of the language by the new law, she said. However, with the reform, neither the Catalan language or Catalan literature will be a \u2018core subject\u2019 in primary or high school \u2013 such as Spanish, Mathematics, History and English are \u2013 nor a \u2018specific subject\u2019 \u2013 such as Music, Art, Physical Education and a second foreign language. Catalan will be relegated to a third category of courses called \u2018specialisation subjects\u2019, which do not need to be taken by all pupils. As experts have been explaining, this means that some pupils born and living in Catalonia could end their schooling period without having taken a single Catalan language exam, despite being a co-official language.
Towards breaking up Catalan society
The fear is that in the long-term this reform will create a group of citizens who are mostly monolingual and with little knowledge of Catalan, and therefore have fewer opportunities. Furthermore, it would create two separate language communities, altogether dramatically affecting social cohesion and breaking up Catalan society. In addition, the reform goes absolutely against the consensus of the last 35 years, Catalonia\u2019s self-government rights recognised by the current legislation and the will of the wide majority of Catalan society.