Education sector protests against 25% of classes in Spanish quota

Thousands of teachers and students urge government not to impose measure

A protest in Barcelona against the 25% Spanish language quota in schools (by Gerard Escaich Folch)
A protest in Barcelona against the 25% Spanish language quota in schools (by Gerard Escaich Folch) / Gerard Escaich Folch

Gerard Escaich Folch | Barcelona

March 23, 2022 11:23 AM

Some 7,500 teachers and students went on strike on Wednesday to urge the Catalan education ministry not to impose a ruling by Spain’s Supreme Court. The court decision confirmed 25% of teaching must be given in Spanish across Catalonia’s public and semi-public schools.

For decades, the language 'immersion system' in Catalonia has assured that Catalan has been the only working language in schools, giving students a complete command of both Catalan and Spanish when they graduate, as Spanish is more widely used in society.

According to the Catalan government, the strike was observed by 6.49% of workers in public schools, and 4.21% of those in private education centers. However, this information was only counting data from 56% of schools so far. 

This is the fourth day of strikes in two weeks for the education sector, as from March 15 to 17, teachers and students also protested against some planned changes in Catalan schools. There, demonstrations were focused on urging authorities not to apply a new academic year calendar and a new school curriculum.

Despite the rain, protesters continued their chants calling for the Catalan education minister Josep González-Cambray to resign.

As they walked down the Via Laietana avenue past the national police headquarters, anti-national police chants could also be heard, before carrying on towards Catalonia's High Court.

However, before they got there they met with some taxi drivers demonstrating near the Catalan parliament.

The protests on Wednesday were organized by education entities such as the USTEC teachers union or Sindicat d'Estudiants dels Països Catalans (SEPC), a left-wing pro-independence students' union.

"The strike is to defend a public education system that is 100% in the Catalan language as the only way to reassure the survival of our language," organizations said.

Government will not implement ruling

"Language learning is not about quotas, but about teaching," González-Cambray reaffirmed on Tuesday, only three days before the deadline to implement the Supreme Court ruling establishing that 25% of all classes in schools should be taught in Spanish.

In response to this judicial decision – which Cambray stated schools need not heed – the government will issue a language policy decree for schools after gauging Catalan residents' opinions through an open participatory process.

Catalan immersion system

The Spanish Supreme Court ruled on November 23, 2021 against the immersion system in Catalonia. The education method has been in place in schools since 1983, 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 was implemented for students to learn Catalan as the Spanish language has a bigger presence due to pop culture, cinema, television channels, court rulings, and other day-to-day activities, in which people tend to favor the language in certain settings.

Catalan speakers often switch to Spanish without hesitation when speaking with people who talk to them in Spanish, and some Catalan speakers even talk to other Catalan speakers in Spanish sometimes. 

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