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All the Autonomous Communities not run by the People’s Party reject the Education Reform

The Catalan Government and the other four Autonomous Community executives that are not run by the People’s Party (PP) are totally opposed to the Spanish Executive’s Education Reform, which recentralises powers, homogenises curricula, fosters the presence of religion and sidelines Catalan language and history. The Reform has raised a huge controversy in Catalonia, since it ends the Catalan school model that has been in place for the last 35 years and is backed by a large consensus. On Wednesday the Education Ministers of Catalonia, the Basque Country, Andalusia, Asturias and the Canaries criticised the Spanish Government’s “lack of dialogue”. They pointed out “the improvisation, precipitation and imposition” of the Spanish Education Minister, José Ignacio Wert. They also argued that it is “impossible” to “implement” the Reform in the next school-year.

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30 January 2014 01:32 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan Government and the other four Autonomous Community executives that are not run by the People’s Party (PP) are totally opposed to the Spanish Government’s Education Reform, which recentralises powers, homogenises curricula, fosters the presence of religion and sidelines Catalan language and history. The Reform has raised a huge controversy in Catalonia, since it ends the Catalan school model that has been in place for the last 35 years and is backed by a large consensus. On Wednesday Catalonia, the Basque Country, Andalusia, Asturias and the Canaries showed their frontal opposition to the project. The Education Ministers of the 5 governments organised a joint press conference at which they criticised the Spanish Government’s “lack of dialogue” on the issue. They pointed out “the improvisation, precipitation and imposition” of the Spanish Education Minister, José Ignacio Wert. They also argued that it is “impossible” to “implement” the Reform in the next school-year, from September 2014. For all these reasons, they asked the Spanish Government “to stop” the Reform.


On Wednesday, at an event organised in Madrid’s Círculo de Bellas Artes, Catalonia, the Basque Country, Andalusia, Asturias and the Canaries showed their opposition to the Education Reform imposed by the Spanish Government, known as LOMCE. They represent all the Autonomous Community governments that are not run by the People’s Party (PP), which also runs the Spanish Executive. The Education Ministers of the 5 Autonomous Communities are asking the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy “to stop” the LOMCE.

Catalan Minister criticises “the lack of dialogue” and the Spanish Government’s imposition

The Catalan Education Minister, Irene Rigau, argued that there were “qualitative, time-related and funding-related reasons” not to implement the reform. In the last few months, Rigau has been particularly vocal against the Spanish Government’s Reform since it goes against Catalonia’s self-government and represents an attack on the knowledge of Catalan language and history. Furthermore, the new law would create two separate language communities in Catalonia, breaking social cohesion and damaging true bilingualism and equal opportunities in Catalonia.

Rigau denounced “the lack of loyalty of the Spanish Government” because “we have been missing a fluid and sincere dialogue on this issue with the Autonomous Communities”. “The Ministry has continued to work with improvisation, precipitation and imposition”, she complained. Furthermore, she criticised the fact that the changes laid out in the new law do not come with the necessary economic resources to fund the initiatives included.

According to Rigau, “trying to implement the [Reform’s] scheduled calendar is a great mistake”. She highlighted that the law as it stands “reduces the [education] centre’s autonomy as well as the Autonomous Community’s powers”. “We are facing a project that goes against autonomy and against the European Union’s directives”. “A law shaped by imposition must be stopped”, she said.

Other Autonomous Communities

The Basque Education Minister, Cristina Uriarte, declared her “total” rejection of the LOMCE. She stressed that “it cannot be implemented next [school] year”. Furthermore, according to her, the development of detailed rules of the Reform is to be approved by the Autonomous Communities, “which is a long process, of at least 9 months”. “For this reason the implementation of the LOMCE this next year is unviable”. For Uriarte, the Reform is also unviable from an organisational point of view because “the planning of a year needs time and cannot be improvised”. Furthermore, she said they have already started to work on next year’s planning, which has been sent to the Spanish Education Ministry. They have also sent submissions on the current project but they have not received a single answer from the Ministry.

The Andalusian Minister, Luciano Alonso, emphasised that the Reform is “a deficient” law, “with conceptual errors and [made with] great incoherence”. “It does not take into account that the Autonomous Communities are also [part of the] State and that we have exclusive powers in education matters”, Alonso pointed out. For this reason, the Government of Andalusia will file a constitutional appeal against the Reform since it infringes its jurisdiction. Finally, he considered that the new law is impossible to implement and the Spanish Government’s measures “that will be further announced will make the problem worse”.

The Education Minister of Asturias, Ana González, also said that the LOMCE’’s implementation “is impossible” with the current schedule and deadlines. She added that the law “segregates” because it “fosters two rhythms and two school systems”. Finally, the Deputy Minister for Education in the Canaries denounced “the total improvisation of this law” and accused the Spanish Government of acting “without regard for the Autonomous Communities”.

From a Catalan perspective, the new law is particularly worrying because it goes against the current Catalan school model, in place since 1983, approved by a wide consensus in Catalonia and currently backed by some 80% of the Members of the Catalan Parties (all except those from the PP and the anti-Catalan nationalism populist party Ciutadans).

All the opposition is against the Reform

When the Reform was approved by the Spanish Parliament in October, the opposition were united in criticising it and it was only backed by the People’s Party’s votes. According to the opposition, the reform is “born dead”, as it will be modified immediately as soon as the parliamentary majority changes. They criticise the elimination of civil education, the return of religion as an eligible subject, the centralisation of curricula, the introduction of exams at the end of each term and more recognition of privately-owned schools.

The new law goes against Catalan identity and language

When the Reform started to be debated in the Spanish Parliament around a year ago, José Ignacio Wert stated that Catalan pupils needed to be “Hispanicised”. Spanish nationalism and the PP have been criticising the Catalan school model for years, saying that Spanish language is marginalised in Catalonia. Evidence shows that Spanish is in a stronger position in Catalonia, known by 100% of the population, while Catalan is in a weaker position despite the improvements of the last decades. The Catalan school model guarantees that all pupils master both Spanish and Catalan by the end of their studies. In fact, results show that Catalan pupils in some years get better results in Spanish than the average of their peers throughout Spain. In Catalan schools, Spanish is taught as a subject and many flexibility measures are included for kids who do not know enough Catalan.

Now, the new law aims to guarantee Spanish as the language of instruction throughout Spain and therefore also in Catalonia. One of the measures provided in the new law is that, if the Catalan Government does not offer Spanish as a teaching language, the Spanish Government will give parents money to take their children to privately-owned schools teaching in Spanish. Later, the Spanish Executive will deduct the money from the funds to be transferred to the Catalan Government. However, the Association of Privately-Owned Schools is Catalonia has already stated months ago that their curricula are also based on the language immersion principle since it is better from a pedagogical point of view and parents support it.

The new law will create two separate language communities

Despite all this, the aim of the new law is that, in Catalonia, Spanish has to share the teaching time with Catalan in a proportion to be decided. Education experts insist on the need to carry on with the linguistic immersion model, as otherwise children from Spanish-speaking families will not be sufficiently exposed to Catalan. This will create a cohort of future citizens who do not know Catalan and therefore would have less job opportunities. Furthermore, in the long-term it will increase the language barrier and create two separate language communities, reducing bilingualism. Catalonia’s school model has been praised by UNESCO and the European Commission as a best-practice example to ensure true bilingualism.

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  • Irene Rigau (centre) with the four other Education Ministers opposing Wert's Reform (by X. Vallbona)

  • Irene Rigau (centre) with the four other Education Ministers opposing Wert's Reform (by X. Vallbona)