Catalan Euro MPs ask European institutions to take up a stance regarding Catalonia's school model
Four Members of the European Parliament representing three Catalan parties have asked the European Commission and the European Council to declare their position regarding the linguistic immersion model in place in Catalonia’s schools. The four MEPs are reacting to a series of court decisions deriving from Spanish Supreme Court sentences and to Spanish Government initiatives against the current Catalan school model, which has been in place for the last 30 years and guarantees knowledge of both Spanish and Catalan. In fact, this model has already been praised by the European Commission, in 2007. The four MEPs represent the Centre Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) and the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC).
Brussels (ACN).- On Thursday, four Members of the European Parliament representing three Catalan parties filed a question to the European Commission and the European Council asking them to declare their position regarding the linguistic immersion model in place in Catalonia’s schools. Furthermore, they also announced they will soon meet with the European Commissioner for Multilingualism, Androulla Vassiliou, to talk about this issue. The four MEPs are reacting to a series of court decisions deriving from Spanish Supreme Court sentences and to Spanish Government initiatives against the current Catalan school model, which has been in place for the last 30 years and guarantees knowledge of both Spanish and Catalan at the end of the schooling period. This model is widely supported in Catalonia, as it also guarantees social cohesion and equal opportunities since it fosters true bilingualism. For these reasons it has already been praised by the European Commission, in 2007. It has also been validated by the Spanish Constitutional Court twice, since there is no “right to be schooled in Spanish” but there is “the duty and right to know Spanish”, which the model totally guarantees. However, in the last few years, the model has been attacked by Spanish nationalist media and associations, arguing that there is a linguistic conflict, which is fully denied by parent associations, teachers unions and by all the Catalan political parties which are not Spanish nationalist. The latest attack against the current model is an order from the Catalan Supreme Court, which has interpreted a Spanish Supreme Court sentence, which dictated the use of Spanish as the tuition language for the entire classroom if the parents of a single student requested it, no matter if the rest of parents were opposed to it. The decision announced on Wednesday caused a transversal rejection throughout the Catalan society.
The four MEPs who filed the question are Ramon Tremosa and Salvador Sedó from the Centre Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), Raül Romeva from the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) and Ana Miranda, who is from the Galician Nationalist Party (BNG) but is representing the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) since both parties share a parliamentary seat. The four MEPs are directly asking the European Commission and the European Council to take up a stance regarding the Catalan Supreme Court order (TSJC) – which follows a sentence from the Spanish Supreme Court. They believe that the TSJC order “is threatening, once again, the linguistic immersion principle in Catalonia’s education system”.
A model praised by the European Commission in 2007
The Euro MPs reminded the European institutions in their question that Catalonia’s linguistic immersion school model is a successful model that has been recognised by several international organisations. For instance it was acknowledged as a best practice example by the European Commission’s group of high-level experts on Multilingualism in their report published in 2007. In addition, the Catalan MEPs noted that Article 22 of the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights protects linguistic diversity, which would be in danger in Catalonia if pupils did not learn Catalan during their obligatory schooling period. In addition, Article 21 of the same charter bans discrimination for language reasons. For these reasons they are asking the European institutions to declare their stance on the issue and to respect the parents’ right to have their children schooled following the linguistic immersion principle.
Catalan is in a weaker position, despite linguistic immersion
The current model ensures that children who do not speak Catalan at home know the language by the end of their schooling period. Otherwise, most of them would not have the opportunity to learn Catalan, since they are not exposed to this language at home and Spanish has a dominant position in the streets and the media. Therefore, ensuring that all children in Catalonia know Catalan ensures equal opportunities, since the model also guarantees that all the children command Spanish perfectly, as academic results show. According to studies published by the Spanish Education Ministry and PISA reports, results show that Catalan students have the same – or even higher, depending on the years – knowledge of the Spanish language at the end of their studies compared to the Spanish average. Furthermore, despite the language immersion scheme, academic results show that children from Spanish-speaking families have worse results in Catalan than the results achieved in Spanish by children from Catalan-speaking backgrounds. Therefore, according to pedagogic experts, fewer tuition hours in Catalan would widen the gap between kids from Catalan- and Spanish-speaking families regarding their knowledge of Catalan, meaning that some children would end their studies without fully commanding the language.
The MEPs ask Spain to honour the European Charter of Regional and Minority Languages
The four MEPs are requesting that the European Council takes up a stance, as it has already declared itself in favour of linguistic diversity and it has recognised the importance of teaching in the native language of a community in order to guarantee the integration of non-native speakers. In this vein, they ask Spain to honour the European Charter of Regional and Minority Languages, which it signed in 2001.