Court sets 2-week deadline for government to introduce Spanish quota in schools

Magistrates order education minister to give instructions and set controls to make sure 25% of teaching is in Spanish and not all in Catalan

Primary school students wearing face masks in a school corridor (by Aleix Freixas)
Primary school students wearing face masks in a school corridor (by Aleix Freixas) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

May 9, 2022 03:00 PM

The Catalan high court (TSJC) has set a two-week deadline for the Catalan government to introduce a 25% Spanish language quota in all Catalan schools, thus putting an end to the current system, in which Catalan is the only working language. This immersion system has been in force for over 40 years in order to bolster the minority language. 

On Monday, magistrates ordered education minister Josep González Cambray to give instructions to schools and to ensure that Spanish is used in the classroom not only for the Spanish language subject. 

However, the ministry has announced that they will appeal the decision as it is an "aberrant" judicial order.

"We care about the education system and about learning. We will continue to teach all our students with a successful model," the ministry said to media outlets on Monday afternoon in front of the ministry's doors. 

The TSJC's decision stems from the Supreme Court ruling on November 23, 2021, which obliged Catalonia to put an end to Catalan as the only language of instruction by introducing a 25% Spanish language quota.  

The pro-independence government in Barcelona has for years been trying to avoid the ruling by appealing and finding legal ways to maintain the current setup. 

In March, as a last-ditch to dodge it, the executive tried to persuade the court that it is implementing its ruling by issuing two initiatives: on the one hand, a language policy decree for schools after gauging Catalan residents' opinions through an open participatory process.

Regarding the decree, Cambray did not make any specific initial proposal as to its contents but said that it will be built on the basis of the contributions received.

On the other hand, also in March, a majority of parties in the Catalan parliament – the ruling pro-independence parties, Esquerra and Junts, as well as the Socialists and En Comú Podem – reached an agreement to protect the Catalan language immersion system in schools, a day before the deadline to implement the 25% Spanish language quota. 

They presented the bill in Parliament, which, if approved, will see Catalan considered "the language of Catalonia." It describes Catalan as the main language of instruction in schools but says Spanish is used in accordance with the terms set by each school's language objectives. Yet, after an initial consensus, Junts U-turned and is now reluctant to back it. Talks are still underway but the initiative has not been passed in the chamber. 

Catalan immersion system

There are over 1.6 million students in Catalonia and since 1983, the vast majority of schools use Catalan as the working language with pupils. The territory has two main official languages, Spanish and Catalan, but there is a Catalan immersion system in place to strengthen the use of the language. 

The goal of this education policy in public and semi-public schools is for students to be proficient in both languages. Most of Catalonia’s students go to these kinds of schools; private ones, on the other hand, are exempt from implementing the immersion system. 

"The immersion system places a community, students, in this case, in a language setting to achieve full bilingualism. And in Catalonia, there are two coexisting languages, Catalan and Spanish, but there is one that is clearly stronger in society," Anna Rosès, a Catalan language teacher at Barcelona’s Escola Pia Sarrià, told Catalan News when preparing an episode of Filling the Sink podcast.


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