Courts oblige the Catalan Government to made Spanish a school language of instruction together with Catalan

The Catalan Supreme Court of Justice issues a court order giving the Catalan Government 2 months to change the current school model and include Spanish as a school language of instruction. The Government will appeal. Teacher unions and the main parent associations back the current model. Currently, Catalan is the language used and Spanish is taught in school but only as a subject. For the Catalan Government, the court decision breaks a model praised by international organisations, which guarantees social cohesion and the knowledge of both languages by all pupils.

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

September 3, 2011 12:32 AM

Barcelona (ACN).- The knowledge of Catalan language by all pupils in Catalan schools may be at risk. The courts are demanding the Catalan Government to modify the system and include Spanish as a school language of instruction. Teacher unions and the main parent associations back the current model and encourage the Catalan Government to resist the pressure. The Government will appeal.  Currently, all subjects in public schools are taught in Catalan, except foreign languages and Spanish. The current model has been in place for 30 years and guarantees the knowledge of both Catalan and Spanish. In actual fact, Catalan pupils get the same or better marks in Spanish language exams when compared to the rest of Spain. In addition, it does not discriminate children for a language reason. The model has been recognised as good practice by the European Commission and UNESCO. Despite these facts, the Supreme Court of Catalonia has demanded the Government to modify the system within two months, in order to fulfil the sentence from the Spanish Supreme Court from last December. The Spanish Supreme Court sentenced that Spanish should be language of instruction in Catalan schools on an appeal by 3 parents who took the Catalan Government to court for denying to school their children in Spanish within the public education system of Catalonia. However, the Spanish Constitutional Court has validated twice the Catalan school model, on 1994 and on 2010. The Catalan Minister for Education, Irene Rigau, announced that the Government will appeal.

The Spanish Supreme Court's decision, if implemented, may create a split between 2  language communities, may endanger the Catalan language, and may condemn some social groups to be monolingual, only knowing Spanish, and thus to be in a clear disadvantage regarding bilingual individuals, who will know both Catalan and Spanish. The current model puts priority on the Catalan language since many children do not speak Catalan at home or on the street. This way it guarantees that all children know both languages when they leave school.

The Catalan model has been validated twice by the Spanish Constitutional Court

Irene Rigau reminded that the current school model, in place since early 1980s, was validated by the Spanish Constitutional Court following a sentence from 1994. In addition, in the Constitutional Court sentence on the Catalan Statute of Autonomy from June 2010, the Court recognised “the Catalan language as the gravity centre” of the school system, while stating that the model should guarantee that Spanish is known and used within the territory”. The sentence was interpreted as another validation of  the Catalan school model, which does not discriminate children for language reasons.

Catalan language is in a weaker position in Catalonia

The current Catalan model has received international recognition by UNESCO and the European Commission. It has been considered an integration model 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 that know both official languages. In addition, the social groups not exposed to Catalan mainly come from working class environments and immigration. Therefore, not using Catalan in schools would increase social differences and inequalities.