New education ministry decree emphasizes Catalan as working language in schools

Text specifies administration as responsible for language project, offering legal security to schools

Education minister Anna Simó speaking to the press on July 13, 2023
Education minister Anna Simó speaking to the press on July 13, 2023 / Norma Vidal
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

July 17, 2023 02:20 PM

July 17, 2023 06:39 PM

The department of education will roll out a decree that emphasizes Catalan as the working language in schools.

The text is aimed at providing extra legal security to educational centers, specifying that the responsibility for the language project in the territory is the ministry of education, and not the schools themselves. 

The decree entails deploying a broad regulation that specifies, among other things, how to prepare and revise the center's language projects, while language projects cannot be changed once the course has already started.

The decree will also establish a C2 level of Catalan as a requirement to be a teacher in public schools from the 2025-2026 school year. How this affects active teachers will have to be assessed at the union negotiating table.

The language regime decree also guarantees that students will leave school with the ability to speak three languages, ensures the personalized welcome of newly arrived students, and underlines the adequacy of the language immersion model; as announced today by Anna Simó, the Catalan education minister.

Education minister Anna Simó speaking to the press on July 13, 2023

More "legal security" 

According to the head of the education department, the decree aims to "give legal security" to schools and deploy a 2009 law that dictates the language regime of the Catalan education system.

The text is now in the public exhibition period and contributions can be made until September 15. Processing can be extended until April 2024.

During a press conference to present the new decree, Simó denounced the "threat" that the Catalan language faces from right-wing governments in other regions of Spain, as well as the "interference" of the high court, which recently ruled that three classes must teach at least one core subject through Spanish.

Regarding the possibility that the Constitutional Court could pronounce the decree and the law on Catalan in school impermissible, Simó said that it would not affect the regulation that is currently being processed.

Immersion system

There are over 1.6 million students in Catalonia and since 1983, the vast majority of schools use Catalan as the working language with pupils. The territory has two main official languages, Spanish and Catalan, but there is a Catalan immersion system in place 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 places a community, students, in this case, in a language setting to achieve full bilingualism. And in Catalonia, there are two coexisting languages, Catalan and Spanish, but there is one that is clearly stronger in society," Anna Rosès, a Catalan language teacher at Barcelona’s Escola Pia Sarrià, told Catalan News. 

Some of the reasons why Spanish has a bigger presence are because of pop culture, cinema, television channels, court rulings, or 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. 

Listen to our Filling the Sink podcast to learn more about the immersion system.