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Demonstrations throughout Catalonia against the Spanish Government’s Education Reform relegating the Catalan language

More than 60 demonstrations have taken place to protest against the new law announced by the Spanish Education Minister, José Ignacio Wert. The demonstrators consider it to be “an attack” against the Catalan language, as it would no longer be a ‘core subject’ and pupils could end their schooling period without taking a single Catalan language exam. Furthermore, it would end the current linguistic immersion model, which has been in place for the last 30 years and ensures that all children end their studies knowing both Spanish and Catalan. Almost the entire Catalan political class and civil society is against Wert’s reform, as well as public figures in the rest of Spain, such as the Rector of the Madrid Complutense University. The current model guarantees social cohesion and equal opportunities. It has been praised by international organisations and has been validated twice by the Spanish Constitutional Court.

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10 December 2012 11:35 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- More than 60 demonstrations were organised throughout Catalonia on Monday evening to protest against the new law announced by the Spanish Education Minister, José Ignacio Wert. The largest protest took place in Barcelona and it completely occupied Sant Jaume Square, in front of the Palace of the Catalan Government. The demonstrations were organised by the civil society platform \u2018Somescola.cat\u2019, made up of teachers, trade unions, intellectuals and citizens. The demonstrators considered the Spanish Executive\u2019s reform to be \u201Can attack\u201D against the Catalan language, as it would no longer be a \u2018core subject\u2019 at school. This means that pupils could end their schooling without taking a single Catalan language exam and therefore without mastering the language. Wert\u2019s reform would end the current linguistic immersion model that has been in place for the last 30 years and has been validated twice by the Constitutional Court as it ensures that all children end their studies knowing both Spanish and Catalan. Furthermore, the demonstrators fear the reform would split Catalan society and create two different language communities. Monday\u2019s motto was \u2018For a country for all, school in Catalan\u2019. However, the Spanish Government, run by the People\u2019s Party (PP), believes that Catalonia\u2019s current education model does not respect \u201Cthe right to be schooled in Spanish\u201D, a right that does not exist in the Constitution. In addition, in October, Wert stated that the Catalan school system was fostering pro-independence feelings and that his objective was \u201Cto Spanishise\u201D Catalan pupils. Despite many vocal critics, he reaffirmed his intentions. In fact, almost the entire Catalan political class and civil society is against Wert\u2019s reform, as well as public figures in the rest of Spain, such as the Rector of the Complutense University of Madrid, José Carrillo. However, on Monday, hours before the demonstrations kicked off, the PP\u2019s Secretary General, María Dolores de Cospedal, totally rejected the idea that the reform was an attack against Catalan and other co-official languages. Furthermore, she accused those protesting against the reform of \u201Ctrying to confuse society\u201D and \u201Cmaking politics using language\u201D.


The President of the Madrid Complutense University supports Catalonia\u2019s linguistic immersion model

In a press conference held on Monday in Madrid, José Carrillo stated that the Spanish Government reform has no \u201Cpedagogical reasons\u201D and it represents \u201Ca step backwards\u201D. Carrillo affirmed that Wert\u2019s initiative is \u201Cideological\u201D and \u201Cbased on a centralist nationalism\u201D. In addition, it is \u201Can unprecedented aggression towards the linguistic immersion\u201D model. He explained that the current model in place in Catalonia works and that it \u201Cdoes not represent not knowing Spanish\u201D. Carrillo insisted that he \u201Cdoes not know any Catalan who does not speak Spanish perfectly\u201D.

In Barcelona, in a meeting to discuss the consequences for universities of Wert\u2019s reform, the rectors of the Catalan universities also criticised the new law. The President of the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), Joan Josep Moreso, stated that Wert\u2019s reform represents \u201Can attack, in every sense of the word\u201D against \u201Ca consensual model\u201D. Imma Tubella, President of Catalonia\u2019s Open University (UOC), qualified the initiative as a \u201Cmicro coup d\u2019état\u201D due to its political and ideological implications.

The current model guarantees equal opportunities and knowledge of both Spanish and Catalan

The current Catalan school model has been praised by the European Commission and UNESCO, as it guarantees social cohesion and equal opportunities. The model fosters true bilingualism, does not create two language communities, does not segregate for language reasons, and avoids social fractures (as in Belgium, for instance). In addition, the model has been validated twice by the Spanish Constitutional Court, the last time being in 2010. The Court recognised the Catalan Government\u2019s powers to define the exact model according to the laws approved by the Catalan Parliament. Furthermore, the Constitutional Court recognised Catalan as the main language of instruction and the validity of the linguistic immersion principle as it guarantees knowledge of both Spanish and Catalan. In fact, the Constitution does not include the right to be schooled in Spanish but it includes the right and duty to know Spanish. According to the Constitutional Court, the current model is absolutuly respecful with this right.

In fact, results show that Catalan students have the same - or even higher, depending on the years - knowledge of the Spanish language at the end of their studies compared to the Spanish average. Furthermore, it ensures that all pupils will also have a proficient knowledge of Catalan language. The model is based on the language immersion principle. It ensures that children who do not speak Catalan at home know the language by the end of their schooling period. Otherwise, most of them would not have the opportunity to learn Catalan, since they do not speak Catalan at home and Spanish has a dominant position in the streets and the media. Therefore, ensuring that all children in Catalonia know Catalan ensures equal opportunities, since the model also guarantees that all the children perfectly command Spanish, as academic results show. In fact, results show that, despite the language immersion, children from Spanish-speaking families have worse results in Catalan than the results achieved in Spanish by children from Catalan-speaking backgrounds. Furthermore, the model allows for individual attention in Spanish for children arriving in Catalonia, guaranteeing the respect for individual needs.

Demonstrations in more than 60 Catalan towns

The civil society platform \u2018Somescola.cat\u2019 has organised more than 60 demonstrations throughout Catalonia to protest against the Spanish Government\u2019s school reform that will consider the Catalan language not to be a \u2018core subject\u2019. With the new law, Catalan language and Catalan literature will neither be a \u2018core subject\u2019 \u2013 such as Spanish, Mathematics, History and English \u2013 nor a \u2018specific subject\u2019 \u2013 such as Music, Art, Physical Education and a second foreign language. Catalan will be relegated to a third category of courses called \u2018specialisation subjects\u2019, which do not need to be taken by all pupils.

The largest demonstration was in Barcelona, where Sant Jaume Square was fully packed, with 4,500 people gathered on Monday evening according to the local police. Their motto was \u2018For a country for all, school in Catalan\u2019. Other large demonstrations took place in Tarragona, Girona, Lleida, Manresa, Figueres, Vic and Tortosa, among other cities and towns. \u2018Somescola.cat\u2019 was asking the Catalan Government to react \u201Cwith the maximum force\u201D to defend \u201Ca school built by all\u201D over the last 35 years, after Franco\u2019s dictatorship. Most of the demonstrations ended with claims supporting Catalonia\u2019s independence from Spain. \u201CPhilip V and Franco tried to exterminate the Catalan language and they could not; Wert can not do it either\u201D, stated the writer Rodolfo del Hoyo. \u201CLanguages do not have to be perceived as a problem but as an opportunity\u201D, stated the manifesto by \u2018Somescola.cat\u2019, which was read at the end of the Barcelona demonstration. Once it was over, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas (from the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition, CiU), met with twenty representatives from \u2018Somescola.cat\u2019 to listen to their claims. Mas was joined by the Catalan Ministers for Education and Culture, Irene Rigau and Ferran Mascarell respectively.

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  • Children in Tarragona holding the demonstration's banner: 'For a country for all, school in Catalan' (by R. Segura)

  • Children in Tarragona holding the demonstration's banner: 'For a country for all, school in Catalan' (by R. Segura)