Government counters judiciary with decree ‘not applying’ 25% Spanish quota in schools

Use of languages in classrooms should depend on sociolinguistic situation of each center, not ‘homogeneous’ plan, says cabinet

The Catalan cabinet convening on May 30, 2022 (by Bernat Vilaró)
The Catalan cabinet convening on May 30, 2022 (by Bernat Vilaró) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

May 30, 2022 02:00 PM

The Catalan government has countered the judiciary decision ordering a 25% Spanish quota in schools with a decree approved on Monday in which "not applying" strictly such percentage is explicitly stated. 

According to the piece of 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.

One day before the Catalan high court deadline to introduce such a change, the new decree reads that the ultimate "responsibility" for the schooling plans for each center will fall on the education department, and not each school director. Centers will submit their plans, including their linguistic section, and the Catalan government will decide whether it falls within the legal framework.

The new law 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.

"All students have to have a good understanding of Catalan and Spanish at the end of their schooling," said Plaja, and each plan has to make sure this is complied, with the percentage of each language in classrooms not necessarily being the same in a mostly Catalan-speaking region and another one more leaning to Spanish. 

This new legislation "is in response to the ideologically driven court sentence that is not based on pedagogic content. The law will allow us to solve this issue and surpass judicialization," Plaja added.

The cabinet pushed for the law to help protect schools and directors of education centers.

"This law plans to create, greenlight, review and modify the linguistic academic plans. A lot of centers already have one but it will need to be reviewed. This will start as soon as possible and in a maximum time frame of six months, all those projects that do not comply with the new law will have to be corrected and approved," the government spokesperson explained.

However, some political forces consider the new decree something improvised. 

"We believe this decree is something improvised by the Catalan government to avoid applying the ruling by the Catalan high court," Lluïsa Moret, from the socialist party said on Monday.

The Ciudadanos party has also sounded the alarm and will take the decree to the council for statutory guarantees. "The government tries to create another gimmick to avoid implementing the 25% quota in Spanish in classes," Carlos Carrizosa, leader of the party in Catalonia, said.  

Parallel parliamentary deal

The two government partners, Esquerra and Junts, and the leading opposition party, the Socialists, 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 still considers Catalan as 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 May 25.

Spokesperson for the Catalan Socialists 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.

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.