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Education minister sends questionnaire to schools to validate their language plans

Deadline to introduce 25% Spanish quota in classrooms expires as new government decree says it will 'not apply' it

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31 May 2022 10:40 AM

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ACN | Barcelona

The Catalan education minister, Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray, has sent a questionnaire to school directors to validate their language plans.

On the day of the judicial deadline to introduce the 25% Spanish quota in classrooms was expiring, Tuesday, the cabinet asked schools seven questions to know whether the decree they approved the day before is going to be brought into effect.

Indeed, on Monday, the government countered the judiciary decision that ordered the quota with a new decree "not applying" such percentages strictly.

According to the legislation passed in an extraordinary cabinet meeting, the use of languages in classrooms should depend on the sociolinguistic situation of each center and its pupils, and not a "homogeneous" plan obliging all schools to have the same amount of hours in each language, as explained by the executive's spokesperson, Patrícia Plaja.

Seven questions

The seven questions include confirming that Catalan is used as the predominant working language in classrooms, also for those students who have just arrived in Catalonia, whether both Catalan and Spanish are used as a learning language, if the choice of teaching language is made after only educational and sociolinguistic considerations, if the level of languages shown in regular tests is taken into account, and whether strict percentages for each language – as mandated by the Supreme Court on November 23, 2021 – are avoided.

All school directors will have to answer the seven questions, and if they reply by saying 'yes' to all of them, they will not need to change their language plans next year – but they will have to do so if they reply 'no' to any of them. They have until June 30 to inform the ministry about the questions raised.

Gonzàlez-Cambray has also informed school heads that, following the decree passed on Monday, his department is "ultimately responsible" for the legality of their school plans as they will be verified.

The new decree has already come into force once published in the government's official gazette on Monday afternoon. However, it will not be applied until the next academic course, and in the coming weeks lawmakers in parliament have to approve it.

In parallel to this piece of legislation and the verification of the school plans, the government aims to persuade the Catalan high court that it is complying with the judicial rulings with a law that will be voted by MPs in the coming weeks, for which Spanish will be a "curricular language" but Catalan will remain as the working one. 

Catalan language immersion system

Catalonia has a decades-long policy of language immersion, ie teaching in Catalan. With Spanish the dominant language in the media and online, the education policy is designed to protect the Catalan language, ensure bilingualism, and avoid the creation of separate language communities.

An education law passed by Spain's conservative People's Party government in 2015 was the starting gun for a legal process that ended up in Spain's Supreme Court and most recently led to the High Court in January 2022 confirming that Catalan schools had two months to introduce a 25% quota of classes in Spanish. 

Filling the Sink podcast

Press play below to listen to the Filling the Sink podcast released on March 19 to learn more about the immersion system in Catalan schools. 

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  • The Catalan education minister, Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray, in Tàrrega, on May 6, 2022 (by Oriol Bosch)

  • The Catalan education minister, Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray, in Tàrrega, on May 6, 2022 (by Oriol Bosch)

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