Government to ensure Catalan immersion fulfilled in schools with inspectors

Some unionist parties compare system to apartheid, fascism, or terrorism, as tension grows

Image of a primary school class in Lleida, September 2021 (by Salvador Miret)
Image of a primary school class in Lleida, September 2021 (by Salvador Miret) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

December 17, 2021 09:43 PM

The Catalan government will make sure that the Catalan language immersion system is fulfilled in schools by increasing the number of inspectors.

President Aragonès announced on Thursday evening that his cabinet wants to guarantee that linguistic plans in schools are carried out.

"If the maths course was supposed to be taught in Catalan, we have to make sure that it is taught in Catalan," he said after a meeting with parties and entities who support the system that has been in place for decades.

He also announced that schools that are forced to provide 25% of lessons in Spanish after a judicial ruling will see an increase in the number of teachers for the hours where Spanish has to be used so that "the linguistic plan is preserved anyway." Yet, neither he nor the education minister, Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray, gave more details on what tasks each teacher would have.

These measures are the Catalan government's first response to the recent ruling by Spain's Supreme Court to impose 25% of teaching in the Spanish language, which Aragonès' cabinet has refused to enforce as of yet, arguing that the magistrates' decision refers to a law that is no longer in force.

They intend to preserve the system, although unionist parties, especially right-wing ones, are increasing their efforts to put an end to it and introduce a share of Spanish beyond the Spanish language classes that are compulsory in all schools.


Check out our recent podcast on the decline in the use of the Catalan language in Catalonia, including a section explaining the current conflict over the immersion system in schools.

Catalonia's immersion system

When Catalonia recovered its self-rule in the late 1970s after 40 years of a fascist dictatorship, its new authorities decided that classes in Catalan, rather than a choice between Catalan and Spanish, would ensure that students end their studies speaking both languages – considering that the latter is learned in society because it is the most widely used one and is studied as a language at school.

After 40 years of this Catalan immersion systemthe language is understood by 94.4% of the country's population. Some 81% can speak it, 85% can read it and 65% can write it, with 64% saying they have a good command of all skills – all abilities are mastered by 97% of the population in Catalonia or more when it comes to Spanish, which suggests the system works in order to guarantee a high level of both tongues.

According to the Plataforma per la Llengua lobby which promotes the use of Catalan, 82% of residents support the immersion system.

Unionist complaints intensify after Canet school case

After the Supreme Court decision, the unionist Ciudadanos party, along with the People's Party and far-right Vox are increasingly demanding for the magistrates' decision to be enforced in all schools immediately.

Before this ruling affecting the entire system, several lower courts had imposed a 25% Spanish quota for entire grades in specific schools when families requested to not have a full Catalan immersion system.

This has happened 82 times since 2005 – at the moment, 1.5 million students are enrolled in schools across Catalonia –, and in 35 cases, the quotas are currently in effect. One of them is Escola Turó del Drac, in Canet de Mar, which since last week has one P5 class of 5-year-olds who are no longer taught fully in Catalan after the family of a single student requested the measure that judges greenlighted.

Ciudadanos (Cs), the People's Party and Vox have denounced cases of alleged intimidation against the pupil and their relatives, and the public prosecutor is investigating some offensive tweets about the child and their family.

These parties' complaints have intensified in the wake of this recent ruling. Cs' MP Carlos Carrizosa compared the situation in Catalan schools with that seen with terrorist group ETA in the Basque Country. "Canet is like Ermua [the iconic location in the Basque Country famous for demanding an end to ETA]. It helps Catalans know what [the government] is doing with society."

A PP MP, Óscar Clavell, said the Catalan independence movement is equivalent to "fascism and communism in the 21st century." "They are a destruction machine," he claimed, lamenting "the atrocities they are doing to a five-year-old."

His party leader, Pablo Casado, compared the case with racial segregation in the US and said that a "linguistic apartheid" is in force in Catalonia.

A lawmaker from far-right Vox said that the "human hunt" of a 5-year-old is going on and accused the independence camp of being a "nationalist plague."

Protest in favor of immersion

Several minor demonstrations have been held in the past few days in favor of immersion, including a strike and a march of university students on Thursday.

On Saturday morning, a bigger protest is expected around Barcelona's Arc de Triomf from 11 am.