UN 'seriously concerned' by rulings against use of Catalan in schools

Special Rapporteur says daily use of Spanish is 'guaranteed and favored' 

A group of children beginning the new school year in Barcelona, September 6, 2023
A group of children beginning the new school year in Barcelona, September 6, 2023 / Emma Monrós
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

December 13, 2023 04:30 PM

December 13, 2023 05:15 PM

Fernand de Varennes, the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, said he was "seriously concerned" by recent decisions restricting the use of Catalan in schools.

In July, Catalonia's High Court ruled that three classrooms in Catalonia must teach at least one additional core subject in Spanish, after some families challenged the existing language immersion system.  

However, the court said it would not apply the ruling to the entire education system, but only to the specific cases in which families ask schools to provide an "effective and balanced" education in Spanish. 

Now, Varennes has urged the Spanish government to clarify the compatibility of the TSJC's rulings with international law. He asked the Spanish government to respond within 60 days, but the deadline has already expired without a response. 

"If the use of Catalan in the successful immersion program in Catalonia is reduced, there is a risk that students from Spanish-speaking backgrounds will not learn Catalan well, as it is a minority language. Spanish is the majority language in the country, and its daily use and exposure is guaranteed and favored," the text states. 

The Rapporteur stressed that the Catalan language learning model has been considered "highly successful" by UNESCO and other international commentators.  

"Children in the Catalan immersion program have the same proficiency in Spanish, mathematics and other academic subjects as those enrolled in Spanish, while also achieving proficiency in the minority language of Catalan," he said.  

Varennes sent the report on October 13 after seven civil society organizations informed him about the rulings. 

Listen to our Filling the Sink podcast to learn more about the immersion system.