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Madrid to oblige the Catalan Government to pay for a privately-owned school if a pupil wants to study in Spanish

The Spanish Government has approved its Education Reform, which aims to make Spanish a teaching language in Catalonia and reduces the Autonomous Communities’ power to manage their education system. The new law states the Spanish Government is to decide on the curricula of the main subjects, such as History. In addition, tests will be set at the end of the schoolstages and their contents will be exclusively decided from Madrid. Since the tests will be the same for the whole of Spain, items regarding Catalan culture, geography or history will not enter into the final examinations. The Catalan Education Minister, Irene Rigau, considered the law to be “pre-democratic” and “re-centralist”. She also stated that “it is impossible to honour it in Catalonia”, since privately-owned schools teach in Catalan and the law goes against the Catalan Statute of Autonomy (Catalonia’s main law).

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18 May 2013 12:53 AM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- On Friday, the Spanish Government approved its Education Reform, which aims to make Spanish a teaching language in Catalonia and reduces the Autonomous Communities\u2019 power to manage the education system. The Spanish Government will pay for the cost of a privately-owned school for a pupil wanting to have Spanish as their teaching language. Later Madrid will deduct the amount from the money transfers funding the Catalan Government, which will indirectly make the Catalan Executive pay for the private school. In addition, the new law states that the Spanish Government is to decide on the curricula of the main subjects, such as History. On top of this, tests will be set at the end of the school stages and their contents will be exclusively decided from Madrid. Since the tests will be the same for the whole of Spain, items regarding Catalan culture, geography or history will not enter into the final examinations and therefore will be de facto considered as secondary. On top of this, the new law gives more weight to the subject of Religion \u2013 understood as Catholicism \u2013 and makes it count for the grade average of pupils studying in the public school system of a non-denominational state. The new law is facing absolute opposition in Catalonia, which unites teacher unions, parent associations, cultural and social organisations, pedagogical experts, the Catalan Government and all the political parties in Catalonia apart from the People\u2019s Party \u2013 running the Spanish Government \u2013 and the anti-Catalan nationalism and Spanish nationalist party Ciutadans (C\u2019s). The Catalan Education Minister, Irene Rigau, vigorously criticised the new law and stated that it is \u201Cimpossible\u201D to honour it in Catalonia as the law totally ignores Catalan reality and legal framework. In the last few months, several demonstrations and events have been held in Catalonia against the new Education Reform, but the Spanish Government has barely modified it at all. The new law is expected to be approved by the Spanish Parliament in the coming months since the PP holds an absolute majority. However, it is also likely it will be brought to the Constitutional Court and its implementation might be frozen for a while. In addition, the PP has imposed this reform at a Spanish level without almost any support among the Education stakeholders. This last fact means the law is likely to be changed in the future by a less conservative Spanish Government.


The Catalan school model guarantees knowledge of both Spanish and Catalan

The Catalan school model has been in place for more than 30 years and totally guarantees knowledge of both Catalan and Spanish at the end of the schooling period. It is based on the language immersion principle, having Catalan as the instruction language and teaching Spanish as a subject. Results show that students from Catalonia have the same level of Spanish at the end of their schooling period than the average throughout Spain. The Catalan school model has been validated twice by the Spanish Constitutional Court. It has also been praised as a best example by international organisations such as UNESCO and the European Commission, since it guarantees social cohesion and equal opportunities and does not create two separate language communities. In addition, the model offers individualised attention in Spanish for the children who do not understand Catalan yet, such as newcomers.

Without linguistic immersion, many children would not speak Catalan in Catalonia

Many pedagogical experts warn that without a model based on the linguistic immersion principle, most of the children from Spanish-speaking families in Catalonia would not have the opportunity to learn Catalan. The reason is that those kids are not exposed to 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 command Spanish perfectly, as academic results show. In fact, results show that, despite the language immersion scheme, children from Spanish-speaking families have worse results in Catalan than the results achieved in Spanish by children from Catalan-speaking backgrounds. In addition, children from Catalonia have the same results in Spanish language as their peers throughout Spain, and in some isolated years the results have even been above the Spanish average.

However, after a recent sentence passed by the Spanish Supreme Court \u2013 which goes against the Constitutional Court\u2019s sentences, the Catalan Government is also obliged to offer individualised attention in Spanish to the children who ask for it. In the 2012/2013 school year, out of the 50,000 families that were putting a child through school for the first time, only 17 asked for education in Spanish. This proves once again that the Catalan school model has a great and transversal support in Catalonia and that the linguistic problem is mostly fed by Madrid-based media and Spanish nationalist circles.

The PP aims to \u201CHispanicize\u201D Catalan pupils

In other Autonomous Communities where Catalan is spoken and where the People\u2019s Party has imposed its education model \u2013 in Valencia, Aragon and the Balearic Islands, the Spanish language has been prioritised and there have been more or less successful attempts to marginalise the Catalan language. In addition, they have combined it with policies to dilute the Catalan identity. In fact, the Spanish Education Minister who is behind the new law, José Ignacio Wert (who was participating in shows of extreme-right televisions before becoming minister), stated in the autumn in front of the Spanish Parliament that his intention was to \u201CHispanicize\u201D Catalan pupils and make them feel Spanish. Wert also linked the support for Catalonia\u2019s independence to the Catalan school model.

The PP\u2019s Secretary General, María Dolores de Cospedal, stated on Friday that the new law will help \u201Cto give the nation a spine\u201D. \u201CTeachers undertake the most important task that might be carried out in a society, which is teaching the future generations not only content but also to love and defend their country\u201D, stated De Cospedal. According to her, \u201Can education model gives the nation a spine and makes the future Spaniards know what their country is and know how to feel proud of and to defend their country\u201D.

A \u201Cpre-democratic\u201D law that aims to recentralise education in Spain

The Catalan Education Minister, Irene Rigau, considered the law to be \u201Cpre-democratic\u201D and \u201Cre-centralist\u201D, explaining that it harks back to an Education model from the late 1970s, just after Franco\u2019s dictatorship. In fact, since the early 1980s the Autonomous Communities have exclusively managed the education system in Spain. Three and half decades of legislation have been developed in Catalonia and in Spain following this principle, recognised on several occasions by the Spanish Constitutional Court. Furthermore, the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, which is Catalonia\u2019s main law and was approved by the Spanish Parliament and by a binding referendum in Catalonia, recognises Catalan as the teaching language of the Catalan school system. On top of this, in 2010 the Spanish Constitutional Court recognised that Catalan should be \u201Cthe centre of gravity\u201D of the school model in Catalonia.

Rigau, who is a member of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), argued that considering the legal framework and that privately-owned schools in Catalonia also teach in Catalan, \u201Cit is impossible to honour [the new law] in Catalonia\u201D. \u201CDo they want to create a school in Spanish in a town because one family has asked to have their children schooled in Spanish?\u201D, she wondered. Rigau stressed the fact that privately-owned schools teach in Catalan in Catalonia, and not in Spanish. She also accused the Spanish Government of wanting to \u201Cbreak pedagogical bases\u201D and \u201Cto impose a unique vision of Spain\u201D, not taking into account its multinational nature.

In addition, Rigau referred to the formula of the Spanish Government paying for schools and later deducting the money from the transfer to fund the Catalan Government (since taxes are raised by the Spanish Government and later redistributed to the Autonomous Communities).  \u201CIt is a great wound to Catalonia\u2019s self-government\u201D she emphasised, as well as to \u201Cthe institutional dignity\u201D of the Catalan Government.

All education stakeholders in Catalonia are against the new law as well as political parties

The platform Som Escola, which groups together most of the parent associations and teacher unions, was created to stand against Wert\u2019s reform. They have asked for \u201Cdisobedience\u201D and stated that \u201CCatalonia does not have to pay for the destruction of its school system\u201D. They denounced it \u201Cdeeply\u201D and said that it reduces the Catalan Government\u2019s power over Education and \u201Chomogenises\u201D academic content throughout Spain marginalising Catalonia\u2019s linguistic, historical and cultural differences.

The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) also asked people not to obey the new law because they consider it to be proof of the Spanish Government\u2019s attempt to split Catalonia into two communities. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) \u2013 which is federated to the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) \u2013 stated that the new law is \u201Ca coup d\u2019état\u201D to the Education system and they announced their support for the Catalan Government to take the new law to the Constitutional Court. The Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) asked the Catalan Government \u201Cto disobey\u201D the new law because \u201Cit\u2019s nonsense\u201D. The radical leftwing and independence party CUP also asked \u201Cto disobey\u201D the new law and asked the Spanish Government \u201Cto stop attacking the Catalan people\u201D.

Only the People\u2019s Party \u2013 running the Spanish Government \u2013 and the populist Spanish nationalist anti-Catalan nationalism party Ciutadans (C\u2019s) considered the new law to be going in the right direction. However, C\u2019s thought it was \u201Ca botched job\u201D, the fact that pupils whose families want them to be schooled in Spanish are obliged to attend a privately-owned school.

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  • The Spanish Education Minister (right) on Friday (by R. Pi de Cabanyes)

  • The Spanish Education Minister (right) on Friday (by R. Pi de Cabanyes)