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The Catalan school model, at stake in negotiations to form a new Spanish government

The conservative People’s Party (PP) and liberal unionist Ciutadans (C’s) are negotiating in order to form a stable majority for a new government in Spain and Catalonia is one of the main issues on the table. The MP from Ciutadans Jorge Soler has confirmed that the so-called ‘Catalan package’ of demands from C’s to the PP includes changing the school model, even though education is a devolved power in Catalonia. The current school model has been in place for more than 30 years and is widely recognised by school teachers unions, associations and experts, as well as families. In Catalan schools, Catalan is the language of instruction in order to guarantee that all pupils end their studies knowing both Catalan, which not everyone learns at home, and Spanish, which is widely used both in the media and on the street. However, C’s has always campaigned against this system, saying that it discriminates against Spanish families that want their children to be taught in the Spanish language. That’s why they’re asking the PP to scrap the system and introduce a trilingual model with Spanish, English and Catalan. Some of the other ‘Catalan-package’ demands of C’s is a new fiscal system and the prioritisation of key infrastructure projects such as the Mediterranean Corridor. Both PP and C’s frontally reject a referendum on independence in Catalonia.

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24 August 2016 12:41 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (CNA).- Catalonia’s school model is, along with the fight against corruption, one of the main issues on the negotiating table to form a new government in Spain. The conservative People’s Party (PP) and the liberal unionist Ciutadans (C’s) are trying to agree on a package of measures that could achieve enough support in the Spanish Congress to allow current Spanish President, Mariano Rajoy, to win the investiture debate vote, scheduled for the 30th of August. Ciutadans MP Jorge Soler has confirmed that there is a so-called ‘Catalan package’ of demands from C’s to the PP, which includes changing the school model, even though education is a devolved power in Catalonia.


The current school model has been in place for more than 30 years and is widely recognised as positive by school teachers’ unions, associations and experts, as well as by families. In Catalan schools, Catalan is the language of instruction in order to guarantee that all pupils end their studies knowing both Catalan, which not everyone learns at home, and Spanish, which is widely used both in the media and on the street. However, C’s has always campaigned against this system, saying that it discriminates against Spanish families that want their children to be taught in the Spanish language. The party of Albert Rivera wants the model to be changed, and urges Madrid to force the Catalan government to allow children to be taught in Spanish if their parents request so. 

According to C’s MP Jorge Soler, pupils in Catalonia “do not finish school with proper linguistic competences in Catalan and Spanish” and that’s why, he says, “a National Pact for Education in Madrid is needed”. Experts regularly point out that academic results show that students in Catalonia achieve similar results to those seen in the rest of Spain, but C’s have long campaigned to change the model. Soler also said that English should become the language of instruction in some classes, creating a ‘de facto’ trilingual model. However, a recent report by the Council of Europe warned Spain that the trilingual system, introduced in the Balearic Islands and Valencia, may have a “negative effect on education” in the Catalan language and urged the government to exercise “extreme caution”.

Reaction

The Catalan Minister of Education, Meritxell Ruiz, regretted the proposal by Ciutadans, describing it as “very worrying”. “Leave the language alone”, she told them, warning that political parties should not turn “pedagogical debates” into “ideological debates”. The Catalan Minister reminded both the PP and C’s that education is a devolved power. “Does it make sense for this centralising state to decide which subjects should be taught in which languages?”, she said in a radio interview. According to Ruiz, “language is not a problem and has never been a problem in Catalonia”.

The spokesman of the Green party ICV, Ernest Urtasun, said that Catalonia should fight against any attempt to change its school model. Urtasun described the system as “successful”. “They will always find us defending the language and a school model that we think works”, he warned.

New fiscal system

C’s is also asking the PP to introduce a new fiscal agreement in Catalonia, and to prioritise key infrastructure projects such as the Mediterranean Corridor. The law required the fiscal model to be revised in 2013, but nothing has been done since then. The introduction of a fair regional fiscal model is one of the historical demands of the Catalan parties, and one that many abandoned in favour of independence after several setbacks by the Spanish government.

The PP and C’s are also negotiating on measures to fight against corruption, although some parties, especially from the left, accuse Albert Rivera of having watered down his own demands on this issue. PP and C’s hope to reach an agreement over the weekend. The investiture debate is scheduled for the 30th of August.

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  • Children in a classroom within public school in Catalonia (by E. Rosanas)

  • Children in a classroom within public school in Catalonia (by E. Rosanas)