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The Spanish Education Minister: “Our interest is to ‘Spanishise’ Catalan students”

José Ignacio Wert, the Education Minister, made this statement at the Spanish Parliament, while defending the recentralisation measures he is trying to implement. Wert’s words have provoked major outrage in Catalonia. The Catalan Government, all the non-Spanish nationalist parties, trade unions and civil society organisations have qualified Wert’s statements as being “totalitarian”, “a barbarity”, and “pre-Constitutional”, reminding them of Franco times. Furthermore, many citizens channelled their outrage for Wert’s words through Twitter, making the related hashtag Spain’s main trending topic. Besides, results show Catalan students have better results in Spanish than Spain’s average.

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11 October 2012 12:03 AM

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ACN / Gaspar Pericay Coll

Barcelona (ACN).- On Wednesday, the Spanish Education Minister, José Ignacio Wert, admitted that the Spanish Government\u2019s \u201Cinterest is to \u2018Spanishise\u2019 the Catalan students\u201D. These words have provoked an outraged reaction among most of the Catalan political, social and educational classes. All the non-Spanish nationalist parties have heavily criticised Wert, as well as the Catalan Government. The Catalan Education Minister, Irene Rigau, considered that Wert pushing towards an \u201Cinvolution\u201D is like going back \u201Cto pre-Constitutional times\u201D. Rigau was referring to Franco\u2019s Fascist dictatorial regime, when the Catalan language was banned and Spanish nationalists tried to homogenise Spain, imposing Spanish identity on Catalans. Rigau lamented the current Spanish Government\u2019s \u201Cidentity offensive\u201D and the \u201Crecentralisation will\u201D. In addition one of Spain\u2019s two main trade unions, UGT (General Workers Union), qualified Wert\u2019s statements as being \u201Ctotalitarian\u201D. Many citizens channelled their outrage for Wert\u2019s words through Twitter, making the related hashtag Spain\u2019s main trending topic. The civil society platform defending the Catalan language at school stated that \u201Cthe Spanish Government wants to finish Catalonia\u2019s educational model\u201D. The Catalan education system has been validated twice by the Constitutional Court and praised by the European Commission and UNESCO as a good example of not segregating for language reasons and guaranteeing the knowledge of both Spanish and Catalan at the end of school. Furthermore, results show Catalan students have better results in Spanish than Spain\u2019s average.


\u201COur interest is \u2018Spanishise\u2019 Catalan students\u201D

Before the Spanish Parliament, Wert was defending the recentralisation reform he is trying to have approved, by which the Catalan Government\u2019s say in the school curriculum and its evaluation powers would be significantly reduced. Without any doubt, the Spanish Education Minister admitted that \u201Cour interest is to \u2018Spanishise\u2019 Catalan students and make them proud of being Spanish and Catalan\u201D. Wert, who is a sociologist and was collaborating with Spanish nationalist and ultra conservative media and think tanks before becoming Spain\u2019s Minister for Education and Culture, justified the initiative because, according to him, the Catalan education system \u201Cexaggerates [\u2026] the specificities of Catalonia\u201D, almost \u201Cto caricature levels\u201D. Wert stated that in Catalonia \u201Cthe shared elements from Catalonia\u2019s history within Spain are hidden\u201D in the Catalan public education system. He justified this statement by saying that the Catalan Government had changed years ago the name of the subject taught in the last year of school previously called \u2018History of Spain\u2019 into \u2018History\u2019, which is the name it has been having in the rest of school years. Last week, in a press interview, Wert has already stated that Catalonia\u2019s education system was promoting independence. Back then, many people reminded him that a number of people defending independence were educated under Franco\u2019s regime.

Outraged reactions in Catalonia

Wert\u2019s last statement has provoked many outraged reactions in Catalonia. The Spokesperson for CiU at the Spanish Senate Committee for Education and Culture, Joan Bagué, considered Wert\u2019s words to have \u201Ca colonial touch\u201D and that they \u201Ctreat Catalans as if they were a colony\u201D. Furthermore the Spanish Education Minister is \u201Cdespising the work of Catalan teachers\u201D and his statement has \u201CFrancoist and post Civil War dregs\u201D. The leader of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), Pere Navarro, who opposes independence and is federated to the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), considered Wert\u2019s words to be \u201Ca barbarity\u201D, which \u201Cconfirm the recentralisation\u201D put forward by the Spanish Government. The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) underlined the Minister\u2019s \u201Cindoctrination and colonisation\u201D attitudes. The Leader of the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA), Joan Herrera, stated that Wert\u2019s words are \u201Can atrocity [\u2026] from past times\u201D.  

A school model praised by UNESCO and the European Commission

The model, which has been in place for three decades, is defined by Catalonia\u2019s Statute of Autonomy (a sort of Constitution approved by the Spanish and Catalan Parliaments and by the Catalan people through a referendum). Furthermore, it has been validated by the Spanish Constitutional Court twice and praised by international organisations such as UNESCO and the European Commission. These international organisations consider the Catalan school model to be a best practice example of integrating two language communities, not segregating for language reasons, avoiding social fractures (as in Belgium, for instance) and guaranteeing the knowledge of both co-official languages.

Catalan students have better results in Spanish than Spain\u2019s average

Academic results show that Catalan students have better results in Spanish language than the average of their Spanish peers. 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 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.

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  • A political cartoon published in Catalonia in 1937 during the Civil War (by Twitter @janquim)

  • A political cartoon published in Catalonia in 1937 during the Civil War (by Twitter @janquim)