Catalan government appeals schools' 25% Spanish quota deadline

Executive announces decree 'to protect schools' in attempt to keep Catalan immersion system despite judicial rulings

Children eat inside a classroom in a school (by Mar Martí)
Children eat inside a classroom in a school (by Mar Martí) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

May 17, 2022 01:42 PM

The Catalan government has appealed the Catalan high court's two-week deadline to implement a 25% Spanish quota in schools, set on May 9.

Including a larger share of Spanish in classrooms would put an end to the current system, in which Catalan is the only working language. This immersion system has been in force for over 40 years in order to bolster the minority language.

After the cabinet's weekly meeting on Tuesday, spokesperson Patrícia Plaja rejected the courts interference in schools, saying the magistrates' ruling has an "ideological" rather than "educational" basis.

She said the government has asked the court to provisionally suspend the imposition of the quota until judges deliberate on their new appeal.

"Executing the ruling immediately, so close to the end of the academic year, would be seriously damaging to the educational community," she said.

A response "in different spheres" is needed, Plaja said, adding that the appeal is not the only tool they are planning to use in order to counter the magistrates' decision.

The government is "working" so that amendments to the law are approved – yet, a bill being discussed in parliament is causing internal disagreements between the two coalition partners.

If approved, the bill will see Catalan considered "the language of Catalonia." It describes Catalan as the main language of instruction in schools but says Spanish can be used in accordance with the terms set by each school's language objectives. Yet, after an initial consensus, Junts U-turned and is now reluctant to back it. Talks are still underway but the initiative has not been passed in the chamber.

At the same time, Plaja said that in the near future they will also put forward a decree "to protect schools."

The efforts aim to keep the Catalan immersion system despite the latest judicial decisions, stemming the Supreme Court ruling on November 23, 2021, which ordered Catalonia to put an end to Catalan as the only language of instruction by introducing a 25% Spanish language quota.

Catalan immersion system

There are over 1.6 million students in Catalonia and since 1983, the vast majority of schools use Catalan as the working language with pupils. Catalonia has two main official languages, Spanish and Catalan, but the Catalan immersion system is in place to strengthen the use of the minority language.

The goal of this education policy in public and semi-public schools is for students to be proficient in both languages. Most of Catalonia's students go to these kinds of schools; private ones, on the other hand, are exempt from implementing the immersion system.

"The immersion system places a community, students in this case, in a language setting to achieve full bilingualism. And in Catalonia, there are two coexisting languages, Catalan and Spanish, but there is one that is clearly stronger in society," Anna Rosès, a Catalan language teacher at Barcelona's Escola Pia Sarrià, told Catalan News for the Filling the Sink podcast you can hear in full below.