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Government and opposition leaders seal deal to counter 25% Spanish quota in schools

Vox and Ciudadanos challenge bill in council for statutory guarantees

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25 May 2022 05:28 PM

by

ACN | Barcelona

Updated May 25, 2022 at 5:28 pm. 

The two government partners, Esquerra and Junts, and the leading opposition party, the Socialists, have sealed a deal on putting forward legislation to counter the 25% Spanish quota in schools ordered by the Spanish Supreme Court.

The agreement, also supported by anti-austerity En Comú Podem, but not far-left CUP, consists of a law that considers Catalan as still the working language in classrooms while saying Spanish is a "curricular" language.

The agreement was set to be backed by 80% of MPs in a fast-track procedure in the Catalan parliament by May 31, the latest deadline set by the high court, but far-right Vox and Ciudadanos delayed its approval by questioning its legality in the council for statutory guarantees on Wednesday. The entity has a month to issue a non-binding issue on the matter, meaning the bill will likely be approved once the high court deadline is up. 

Including a larger share of Spanish in classrooms would put an end to the current system in which Catalan is the only working language. Catalan and Spanish are both official languages in Catalonia, although the linguistic immersion system in force for over 40 years in order to bolster the minority language.

Parties have found consensus by saying that Spanish will be used "according to what the linguistic projects of each school" establish – which infers that rather than setting a strict 25% of Spanish in each classroom, teachers would be able to decide how much each language is used.

"The use of the official languages in education has to take into account the sociolinguistic situation," it adds, referring to the fact that the levels of knowledge and use of Catalan and Spanish across the country are not homogeneous.

"Rigorous" text

The law also states that "the curricular and educational use of Catalan and Spanish must be guaranteed and have an adequate presence in the curriculum and in educational projects." In addition, it specifies that "the scope of this presence must be determined exclusively using pedagogical criteria."

This sentiment was echoed by Jordi Sànchez of Junts per Catalunya at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon." Catalan will continue to be the working language in educational environments. Only pedagogical criteria can regulate language use," he said.

Junts spokesperson Mònica Sales added that "consensus" over the bill was hugely important, and that the agreed text was "rigorous" and allows them to "deal with the judicial situation." 

Sales also made it clear that the law does not make provisions for teaching through Spanish. "It is a language to be learned, but in no case a vehicular language," she said. The new law, she added, does not mean "compliance" with the 25% court ruling.

Decree

In parallel, the government is finalizing a decree with the same aim of countering the 25% quota, which will also have to go through parliament.

Marta Vilalta of Esquerra explained how the two pieces of legislation will work. The law agreed on Tuesday by the four parties is a "legal umbrella" that sets "pedagogical criteria and not percentages" for languages in Catalan classrooms.

The government decree "is more to protect schools. It will contain support, advice, evaluation and approval of the language projects of each school."

En Comú Podem spokesman David Cid said the agreement reached was "solid" and "rebuilds consensus."

After weeks of intense negotiations against the clock, Cid said the deal was cause for "joy and satisfaction" as it will "protect Catalan in school and linguistic immersion from judicial interference."

Differing interpretations

Catalan Socialists spokesperson Alícia Romero said her party was happy that Catalan remains the "center of gravity," as they were with the previous agreement of March 24, which was later rejected by Junts.

"We have always said that Catalan must be defended and protected and that Spanish should also be a language of learning," Romero explained.

Romero said that Spanish being "a curricular language" means that it will be used in the curriculum, "used for [teaching] other material and this evidently is a vehicular language," thus offering a different interpretation of the agreed text to other parties.

Pressed on the differing viewpoints, she said the most important thing was what the text of the law says.

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