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Courts request Catalan schools to teach “at least 25%" of the mandatory subjects in Spanish

Catalonia’s High Court has interpreted the last sentence of the Spanish Supreme Court and forces the Catalan Government to offer “at least” 25% of the mandatory school curricula in Spanish in the schools where pupils ask for it. A dozen of parents had complained in the last few years, filing several appeals and stating they wanted their children to be taught in Spanish in Catalonia’s public schools. The Catalan school model is based on the linguistic immersion principle and almost all the subjects are taught in Catalan except Spanish which is taught as a language. However, the system includes many flexibility measures for new-comers and individualised attention in Spanish. The Spanish Supreme Court considered this was insufficient and sentenced that a class had to be taught in Spanish if the family of a single pupil asked for it and even if the other children’s families had not requested it.

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31 January 2014 08:44 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- On Friday, Catalonia’s High Court (TSJC) requested the Catalan Government to offer “at least” 25% of the mandatory school curricula in Spanish in the schools where a single pupil asks for it. The TSJC made this announcement following a sentence from Spanish Supreme Court that was issued on Monday. This represents another episode in a long sequence of judicial appeals that aim to change the entire Catalan school model, which has been in place for 35 years and absolutely guarantees the knowledge of both Catalan and Spanish at the end of the schooling period, as proven by the results. However, Spanish nationalist media and parties have been targeting Catalan school for the last decade. Furthermore, the Spanish Government aims “to Hispanicise” Catalan pupils with its new Education Reform. In the last few years a dozen of parents filed several judicial complaints and appeals requesting their children to be taught in Spanish in Catalonia’s public schools. The Catalan school model is based on the linguistic immersion principle and almost all the subjects are taught in Catalan except Spanish which is taught as a language, although some schools offer a few subjects in Spanish using their autonomy to set their own education project. It has been praised by the UNESCO and the European Commission since it fosters equal opportunities, strengthens a true bilingualism and does not create two separate language communities. The system, which schools more than 1 million pupils per year, includes many flexibility measures for new-comers and individualised attention in Spanish. However, the Spanish Supreme Court considered this was insufficient and sentenced that Spanish had to be included as a language of instruction for an entire class group if the family of a single pupil was asking for it and even if the other children’s families had not requested it. The Catalan Government appealed this sentence but on Monday the Spanish Supreme Court rejected the appeal. This Friday, the Catalan Education Minister, Irene Rigau, announced they will file another appeal against the TSJC’s decision. She criticised the attempts to change via the judicial system a model that has been working for more than 3 decades and which is based on an extremely broad consensus among the Catalan society.


Rigau said to be “shocked and outraged” because the TSJC is not waiting for the Constitutional Court to decide on the appeal filed by the Catalan Government a few months ago. Furthermore, she emphasised that the Spanish Supreme Court is going beyond its jurisdiction while it is trying to change Catalonia’s Education Law. In Spain, the Constitutional Court is the only judicial power that can interpret and change laws. In the past, the Constitutional Court backed the Catalan school model, although in 2010 it introduced an ambiguous nuance while it trimmed the Catalan Statute of Autonomy. Many experts identify this sentence from 2010 as one of the main triggers for nowadays conflict between Catalonia and Spain.

Catalan has to be “the centre of gravity” of the system but…

On Friday, the TSJC stated that the Catalan language has to be “the centre of gravity” but added that Spanish has to be offered “in a reasonable proportion”. However, the measure would only be implemented for the schools where the five families that filed the appeal bring their children. The TSJC interprets the Constitutional Court’s sentence against the Catalan Statute of Autonomy from 2010, which totally trimmed the text despite it having been approved by the Spanish Parliament and the Catalan people through a binding referendum. The Constitutional Court validated the Catalan school system and the linguistic immersion model recognised in the Statute of Autonomy. Years before it had already validated the model, stating that the Constitution does not recognise “the right to be taught in Spanish” but only “the right and duty to know Spanish”. Since the Catalan school system absolutely guarantees the second, the Court validated the linguistic immersion. In fact, Catalan pupils obtain the same results or even better ones – depending on the year – in Spanish language than the average of their peers throughout Spain.

However, in 2010, the Constitutional Court included a nuance, which is the excuse used by the Supreme Court to force to change the model. The Constitutional Court stated that the linguistic immersion had to be understood as the “Catalan language as the centre of gravity” of the system but that “Spanish could not be excluded”. The Catalan Government argues that Spanish is not excluded since there is the subject of Spanish language and children totally master it by the end of their school years. However the Supreme Court considers it is insufficient.

In previous sentences it repeatedly asked the Catalan Government to make Spanish an instruction language but it left the Catalan Executive to decide in which proportion. However, Catalan authorities rejected this decision and filed several appeals against it. On Monday the Supreme Court ruled against the last appeal and supports the dozen families asking their children to be taught in Spanish.

The TSJC is interpreting Monday’s sentence and at the same time takes into consideration the reports presented by the Catalan Government and the five schools involved (where the five families who had filed the appeal bring their children). Finally, the Court has decided that in the classes where the family of a single pupil requests it, “at least 25%” of the mandatory subjects have to be taught in Spanish, no matter if the families of the rest of the children want them to be taught in Catalan. The TSJC considered it was insufficient to offer subjects such as Drawing in Spanish, as some schools already do. The Court has specified that Spanish has to be an instruction language in a mandatory subject such as History, Geography, Mathematics or Biology.

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  • Class in a Catalan high-school (by M. Belmez)

  • Class in a Catalan high-school (by M. Belmez)