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Artur Mas says he will lead a “clear and unequivocal defence” of the Catalan language

The President urges institutions and citizens to defend the Catalan education system, which has been put at risk following a court order obliging the Government to include Spanish as a school language of instruction. Meanwhile, the Catalan Minister for Education, Irene Rigau, warns that on the 2nd of November the government “will not separate pupils by language”

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05 September 2011 07:34 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan President, Artur Mas, said that he and his government will lead \u201Ca clear and unequivocal defence\u201D of the Catalan language in school. His comments came following a Court decision obliging the Government to change the educational system in Catalonia, making Spanish a school language of instruction by the 2nd of November. Currently, subjects in public schools are taught in Catalan whilst pupils also learn Spanish with other foreign languages. All children know both Catalan and Spanish when they leave school.


According to its critics, the Spanish Supreme Court's decision, if implemented, may create a split between the two language communities, it may endanger the Catalan language, and it may condemn some social groups to being monolingual, only knowing Spanish, and thus to be in a clear disadvantage compared with bilingual individuals, who will know both Catalan and Spanish.

Mas urged citizens and public institutions to defend the linguistic model and the use of Catalan as the language of instruction in schools. The President said the teaching of Catalan \u201Cis the only way to keep our language\u201D alive and warned that any attack or threat against the language \u201Cwill fail\u201D.

\u201CDespite all attempts to marginalize our culture and language, we will keep faithful to and we will stand for the identity, the traditions and the language\u201D, he said. Mas argued that the Catalan language and culture has often had to fight off attempts by others to marginalize them, but added that those attempts are against the will of \u201Can entire people\u201D. The President said he will fight off any effort to make of Catalan \u201Ca folklorist and provincial\u201D thing.

The Catalan Minister for Education, ready to lose her job to defend the system

The Catalan minister for Education, Irene Rigau, warned that on the 2nd of November the Government \u201Cwill not separate pupils by language\u201D and admitted she is ready to be disciplined or even dismissed from public office if the Courts reject the Government appeal on the issue. The 2nd of November is the day fixed by the Court to make Spanish the language of instruction in Catalonia together with Catalan.

The Spanish Supreme Court judged that Spanish should be language of instruction in Catalan schools based on an appeal by three parents who took the Catalan Government to court for denying their children a full education, covering all subjects in Spanish, within the public education system of Catalonia. The Spanish Constitutional Court has validated on two occasions the Catalan school model, once in 1994 and again in 2010; The Government hopes it will win the appeal against the separation of pupils by language. Rigau said the Catalan school system is designed for \u201Ceverybody\u201D and she completely rejected the possibility of separating children with regards to the language they speak. She said parents should know that their sons and daughters \u201Cwill learn two languages\u201D in Catalan schools.

On the other hand, the Government spokesman, Francesc Homs, said the education system in Catalonia \u201Cis not open for discussion\u201D. Homs questioned why the system should change if it has worked \u201Cfor 30 years\u201D and has promoted cohesion amongst the cultural diverse citizens of the country. The government has the support of the main opposition party (the socialist PSC), as well as of the parties that advocate for independence (the ERC and the SI); and the Greens (the ICV-EA)

However, the conservative People\u2019s Party in Catalonia (PPC) has criticized the government stance, rejecting the idea that asking for Spanish to be language of instruction in Catalonia is \u201Can attack against Catalan\u201D. \u201CWhat the Government is being asked to do is to adapt the educational system, incorporating Spanish so that both languages coexist\u201D, said the PPC spokesman, Enric Millo.

Millo said the Government should comply \u201Cwith the law\u201D and take \u201Call the necessary steps\u201D for schools to teach subjects both in Spanish and Catalan. The aim of the PP is that parents should be able to choose in which language their children are taught. But critics say this would divide children and create inequalities.The PPC does not agree and considers it \u201Cunusual\u201D that some people have asked the government not to comply with the Court decision.

A tool for cohesion and coexistence

In a statement, the Institute for Catalan Studies (IEC) has defended the educational system. The text stated that \u201Cthe educative community, the Catalan people and experts, even in the international arena\u201D have recognized the value of the current model \u201Cthat guarantees a linguistic competence in two official languages\u201D. The institute argued that pupils in Catalonia have \u201Csimilar\u201D grades in Spanish as pupils in \u201Cmonolingual territories of Spain\u201D thus rejecting claims that children do not learn Spanish in Catalonia.

According to the IEC the current educational model is an \u201Cessential and indispensable tool for social cohesion, intercultural and linguistic coexistence and equality of opportunity\u201D. The institute hopes the tribunals will accept the Catalan government appeal and warned against the problems that could originate if they do not \u2013\u201Ca conflict of disastrous consequences for pupils and society and for the Catalan language\u201D.

The current Catalan model has received international recognition by UNESCO and the European Commission. It has been considered as a model for integration that guarantees the complete knowledge of both languages and does not create a split in language communities. The Catalan language is in a weaker position in Catalonia, and some social groups are not exposed to Catalan at all. School is the only contact that some children may have with the Catalan language. If these children were not taught in Catalan, they would not know the Catalan language and they would therefore be at a clear disadvantage compared to students who know both official languages.

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  • Catalan is the language of instruction in Catalonia (by ACN)

  • Catalan is the language of instruction in Catalonia (by ACN)