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Catalan Education Minister believes the Spanish Government's school reform can still be stopped

Irene Rigau, the Catalan Minister for Education, announced that Catalonia will participate in the working group created to analyse how to better implement the Spanish Government's Education Reform. Such a group was announced by the Spanish Education Minister, José Ignacio Wert, to make "Catalonia feel comfortable" with a Reform that totally changes the current school model. However, Rigau stated that the results of the working group will have to be assessed before implementing the Reform. On Wednesday, she refused to attend a meeting in Madrid to discuss how Spanish will be made an instruction language in Catalan schools. After the meeting, the Spanish Government stated that this will done "one way or the other" in September 2014. Meanwhile, the judicial battle goes on and the five schools forced to teach 25% of the subjects in Spanish will be allowed to appeal.

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20 March 2014 08:35 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- On Thursday, Irene Rigau, the Catalan Minister for Education, announced that Catalonia will participate in the working group created to analyse how to better implement the Spanish Government's Education Reform. However, she also stated that the results of such a working group will have to be assessed before implementing the Education Reform. On Wednesday, after a meeting that Rigau refused to attend, the Spanish Government said that the Reform will be implemented "one way or the other" in September 2014 throughout Spain, including Catalonia. Rigau refused to attend because the meeting discussed how Spanish will be made an instruction language in Catalan schools, an idea which is unacceptable for the wide majority of Catalans. In addition, Rigau insisted on the need to analyse the results of the working group, which might highlight difficulties to implement the Reform from the next school year, particularly regarding the imposition of the Spanish language on the Catalan school system. Such a working group was announced earlier this week by the Spanish Education Minister, José Ignacio Wert, aiming to make "Catalonia feel comfortable" with the Reform, despite all the Catalan education stakeholders totally opposing it. In fact, the new legislation obliges the Catalan Government to offer Spanish as an instruction language or to pay for privately-owned schools. Wert's Reform entirely changes Catalonia's current school model, which has been in place for the last three decades and fosters bilingualism. Simultaneously, a tedious judicial process is currently in place, trying to make Spanish an instruction language in Catalonia. Regarding this process, on Thursday, it has been confirmed that after weeks of uncertainty, finally the five schools that were forced to teach "at least" 25% of the compulsory subjects in Spanish have been allowed to join the appeal against such a decision. Furthermore, also on Thursday, the Catalan Ombudsmann, Rafel Ribó, urged the Catalan Government to keep the current school model, since "Catalonia has an excellent situation of linguistic equilibrium". "It is a treasure that has to be preserved and fostered", since, besides the cultural advantages, it guarantees social cohesion and equal opportunities.


The current Catalan school system is based on the linguistic immersion principle and it guarantees that pupils entirely master both Catalan and Spanish at the end of the schooling period. However, Spanish nationalists have put the model under the spotlight, stating that they have "the right" to school their children in Spanish in Catalonia, even though such measure would not guarantee a sufficient knowledge of Catalan, according to experts. Such a right does not exist in the Constitution, which only recognises the "right and duty to know Spanish". As the Constitutional Court already acknowledged it, the Catalan school system respects such a right, as Catalan students get similar or even better results (depending on the years) in their Spanish assessments than the average of their peers in the rest of Spain. However, for the Spanish Government, which is run by the People's Party (PP), this is not enough and they would like to change the entire model, making Spanish an instruction language.

In practical terms, this would mean that children from Spanish-speaking environments schooled in Spanish would not be sufficiently exposed to Catalan and they might have problems mastering this language. Consequently, bilingualism would not be fostered and it would be quite the contrary, since the knowledge of Spanish would be guaranteed but not that of Catalan. In the long-term, this would affect equal opportunities and would create two separate language communities. In fact, the Autonomous Communities governed by the PP for many years have managed to change the school system and to marginalise the languages that are not Spanish, schooling thousands of kids who are monolingual. Therefore, in the long term, this is a strategy to homogenise Spain and to marginalise the Catalan language as it was summed up by Wert in October 2012. Back then he said in front of the Spanish Parliament: "our objective is to Hispanicise Catalan pupils".

In parallel with the political Education Reform, a judicial battle is going on, since a small group of families is trying to grant their children the right to be schooled in Spanish in Catalonia's public school system. The Spanish Supreme Court, which neither has the power to change laws nor to act as a legislative or an executive power, is trying to impose Spanish in the classrooms attended by the children of these families. This represents changing the current Education Law of Catalonia, approved in 2006, and going against the text of the Statute of Autonomy voted by the Catalan people through a binding referendum. However, in January, the court forced five schools to teach "at least" 25% of the mandatory subjects in Spanish from the month of March. Now, the five schools will be allowed to participate in an appeal prepared by the Catalan Education Ministry.

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  • The Catalan Education Minister, Irene Rigau, on Thursday in Barcelona (by P. Mateos)

  • The Catalan Education Minister, Irene Rigau, on Thursday in Barcelona (by P. Mateos)