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The Spanish Government proposes funding private schools using Spanish as teaching language in Catalonia

The Catalan Education Minister reminds her Spanish peer that such measures are not legal and do not correspond to the current legislation. The Spanish Education Minister, José Ignacio Wert, is considering giving public funds to privately-owned schools teaching in Spanish, which would set up a de facto parallel public school system in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. Wert stated earlier this week that he would work to end the current Catalan school model, which is based on the linguistic immersion principle and guarantees the knowledge of both Spanish and Catalan by all pupils, as results show.

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04 October 2012 12:30 AM

by

ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The Spanish Education Minister, José Ignacio Wert, is considering giving public funds to privately-owned schools using Spanish as a teaching language in Catalonia, according to the El Mundo newspaper and confirmed by ACN. This would create a de facto second public school system in Catalonia in which children would be taught in Spanish and not in Catalan, creating segregation for language reasons and breaking the current school model. The current model has been in place for three decades and guarantees that all pupils in Catalonia are perfectly proficient in both Catalan and Spanish at the end of their schooling period. In fact, data from the Spanish Education Ministry shows that Catalan students get better results in Spanish language than the average throughout Spain. Therefore the Catalan school model has been praised by UNESCO and the European Commission as a best practice example of  a model fostering social cohesion, guaranteeing equal opportunities and not creating two separate language communities. It is based on the linguistic immersion principle, using Catalan as the main teaching language as otherwise many children in Catalonia would barely be exposed to Catalan, while all children are exposed to Spanish. However, despite these results, the Spanish nationalists are targeting this school model with many initiatives. Wert, who was collaborating with Spanish nationalist and ultra conservative media and think tanks before becoming the Spanish Education Minister, is trying to pass a recentralising education reform. The Catalan Education Minister, Irene Rigau, said that Wert\u2019s measure of funding privately-owned schools teaching in Spanish would would be \u201Cillegal\u201D, on Wednesday in a radio interview with Rac1.


Sources from the Spanish Education Ministry have confirmed to ACN that José Ignacio Wert is looking at adopting the measure to give public funds to privately-owned schools using Spanish as the teaching language in order to create a \u201CSpanish\u201D public school in the Autonomous Communities currently using Catalan as the main teaching language: in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. The measure would seek to guarantee that all citizens in Spain have \u201Cthe right\u201D to have their children schooled in Spanish. However, such right does not exist in the Spanish Constitution, which only dictates \u201Cthe duty to known Spanish\u201D. In fact, the Spanish Constitutional Court has validated the current Catalan school model twice, as it perfectly guarantees that all children know Spanish perfectly by the end of their school period.

The Catalan Government is the authority giving licenses to schools in Catalonia

The Catalan Education minister lamented Wert\u2019s attempt to \u201CSpanishize\u201D students in Catalonia, \u201Cwhere the command of Spanish is absolutely guaranteed\u201D, said the Catalan Education Minister. Rigau considered that Wert is pushing for a state model that \u201Cdoes not admit our reality\u201D, in terms of language and culture. For her, Wert is \u201Clooking for a confrontation\u201D. Furthermore, Rigau remarked that in the current legislation the Catalan Government has the power to authorise schools in Catalonia. However, Rigau warned that the Spanish Government might try to change the current legal framework, despite the fact that the Catalan Statute of Autonomy explicitly states not to separate students by language reasons.

Only 12 families out of 50,000 new pupils asked to school their children in Spanish

This school year, more than 1,273,000 children and teenagers are being schooled in Catalonia. Out of the 50,000 new pupils, only 12 families asked to have their children schooled in Spanish and not in Catalan. This represents 0.024% of the new pupils. The public system ensures individual attention for these cases, but it does not offer schools or classrooms with Spanish as a teaching language, as it would segregate students for language reasons.

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.

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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  • Schools bags in one of Catalonia's primary schools (by O. Campuzano)

  • Schools bags in one of Catalonia's primary schools (by O. Campuzano)