University entrance exams begin amid legal standoff over preferential use of Catalan language
40,000 students take tests after two academic years marked by pandemic
40,000 'Batxillerat' secondary school students in Catalonia began to sit their 'PAU' university entrance exams on Tuesday morning—less than 24 hours after a Catalan High Court (TSJC) ruling against the preferential use of the Catalan language.
Although tests are available in Catalan, Spanish, and Aranese, Catalonia’s co-official languages, in the past, administrators have distributed them in Catalan and provided them in other languages only upon request.
But according to a complaint put forth by the Assembly for Bilingual Schooling in Catalonia, this infringes upon students' rights to choose the language they wish to be tested in.
The court ruling states that students should be given the opportunity "to individually choose the co-official language they prefer."
Despite this, Catalonia’s Research and Universities Department does not seem set to change its ways. Accusing the court of undue interference, it has continued to hand out exams in Catalan unless students ask otherwise.
At the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), only 67 students out of 5,000 requested their tests in Spanish.
At the University of Barcelona (UB), where lecture halls have been turned into exam sites for students whose past two academic years have been marked by Covid-19, signs indicate that tests are available in Catalan, Spanish, and Aranese "as is the case every year."
Pandemic-time tests, an additional challenge
Groups of anxious teenagers could be seen outside examination centers on Tuesday morning.
Albert Aragonès, a student from Barcelona's Pérez Iborra school who hopes to study journalism at UPF university, told the Catalan News Agency he was a bit nervous about taking the exam and because "it had been a while" since he had been around many people.
Laura Correa and Andrea Bofill, from Escola Pia Balmes, told the Catalan News Agency that the last two academic years had been "a bit more complicated" than usual since they had both been quarantined on multiple occasions.
Students taking the 'PAU' must be seated at least 1.5 m from one another, wash their hands with hand sanitizer before entering examination venues, and wear face masks for the duration of the tests.