Education not only about knowledge, expert says
Children should be taught "life is about always being aware of the challenges"
Children should be taught "life is about always being aware of the challenges"
Thousands of teachers and students urge government not to impose measure
Judges endorse existing regulations on the use of Catalan in classrooms amid unionist accusations of "indoctrination"
The latest PISA survey shows that pupils in Catalonia have performed above the Spanish, European Union and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average in all subjects for the first time since the report series was launched in 2000. Catalan students had never reached a score of 500 in the three Pisa tests, always struggling with scientific and mathematical skills, but this time around they passed all of the exams. The average mark in Science is 504 points (12 points more than in the previous edition three years ago), 500 points in maths (7 more) and 500 in reading comprehension, losing a point compared to 2012. The average in Spain, the EU or the OECD is not 500 points or over for any of the three tests. According to the Catalan Minister for Education, Meritxell Ruiz, the results support the “transformation of the educational model” Catalonia has been undergoing since the introduction of the Education Act of Catalonia (LEC, going by its Catalan initials) in 2009.
Catalonia's Supreme Court (TSJC) has ruled against the petition filed by the Spanish Ministry of Education that asked to reopen the enrolment process for the next school year in order to use registration forms in which parents could explicitly choose whether they wanted their children to be taught in Spanish as an instruction language. In the last few years, the Spanish Government has been undertaking a judicial battle to change Catalonia's school model, which has been developed with an extremely wide consensus over the last 35 years and completely guarantees the knowledge of both Spanish and Catalan, as results show. The model is based on the linguistic immersion principle, through which children are mostly taught in Catalan, although many flexible measures are included. However, the Spanish Government would like to have Spanish as an instruction language as well, despite most of the pedagogic experts considering that if this were the case, many children from Spanish-speaking environments would not have a proficient knowledge of Catalan and would not be bilingual.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has reviewed and improved its economic growth forecasts for Spain, going from a 2.5% growth rate for 2015 forecast in April to a 3.1% one foreseen this June, and from 2% to 2.5% for 2016. However, the IMF has also issued recommendations and warnings, emphasising that Spain will have to carry out "additional fiscal efforts" and "structural reforms" in order not to jeopardise the country’s economic recovery. The IMF recommends that Spain reduce the costs of public healthcare and education by making users pay for part of the services. According to the international organisation, Autonomous Community governments – such as Catalonia's – should have greater fiscal responsibilities in such systems since they exclusively manage them. In this vein, the IMF has praised the fiscal consolidation efforts undertaken over the past few years by regional governments and has asked for an increase in their funding and fiscal powers, as well as for the adapting of the deficit targets to their needs.
The Spanish Ministry of Education has filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Catalonia (TSJC) to cancel the already-sent enrolment applications for the next school year in order to include the option of choosing Spanish as the language of tuition. Five parties representing 80% of the Catalan Parliament have strongly protested against this "new attack" on a school model that guarantees that pupils master both Spanish and Catalan and has many flexibility measures for newcomers. The model is also backed by an extremely broad majority of Catalan society and only a few dozen families, out of the 1.55 million pupils in Catalonia, had requested education in Spanish. Linguistic immersion in Catalan ensures knowledge of the language by children who are not regularly exposed to it, while the model also ensures knowledge of Spanish. Therefore, equal opportunities and complete bilingualism are ensured. However, the model has been the target of Spanish nationalists for a long time.
The Autonomous Community governments, such as the Catalan Executive, cannot meet the deficit objectives imposed by the Spanish Government because of the current inter-territorial fiscal scheme, according to a report from the Spanish banking giant BBVA. The bank has published two studies on two consecutive days that shed some light on this scheme and its consequences. In the first report, the BBVA states that spending per capita on basic Welfare State services, such as healthcare and education, varies by 60% among the Autonomous Communities. A second report highlights that the Spanish Executive reduced the funds for the Autonomous Community governments in 2014, despite the economic situation and the intake of public revenue improving. On top of this, it refuses to review a fiscal scheme that legally expired 16 months ago and that was designed before the financial crisis.
The governments of Catalonia, the Basque Country, Andalusia, the Canary Islands and Asturias, which are the only Autonomous Communities that are not run by the governing People's Party (PP), have protested once again against yet another recentralising measure of the Spanish Executive that violates their exclusive powers on Education. The representatives of these 5 Autonomous Communities, which together represent almost 50% of Spain's population, left a meeting organised by the Spanish Minister for Education, José Ignacio Wert, held to present a new centralist and imposed measure in this field: from now on, the final exams of the obligatory education cycle and the baccalaureate (A-levels) will be drafted by the Spanish Government, which will make sure they are "homogenous" for the whole of Spain, as Wert said. Far from being anecdotal, the measure means subjects such as History of Catalonia, Catalan Geography and Catalan Language and Literature will not be included in the exams or will be treated as second-class subjects.
In times of shrinking public funding, higher tuition fees and fewer scholarships, a controversial new university reform has been approved by the Spanish Government. The so-called "flexibilisation" of Bachelor's degrees or the "3+2" system has been introduced, provoking a wave of protests and criticism across the university community. The new reform allows universities to choose an undergraduate programme length that ranges from 3 to 4 years, abandoning the 4-year scheme adopted in 2010. Then, a one- or two-year Master's will follow. Many fear that it will devaluate undergraduate degrees, obliging students to undertake a Master’s in order to find a decent job. Moreover, as postgraduate tuition fees are substantially higher, some think that the overall price of education is likely to rise, pushing the Spanish university system towards the US model. Other arguments against the reform are: the lack of democratic discussion on the new text, the temporal proximity of the previous reform and the potential increase in disorder within the system.
An independent Catalonia would be totally viable, according to a report conducted by the research institute from the bank, Credit Suisse. In addition it would improve its ranking on the United Nation's Human Development Index (HDI) and reach the 20th position while Spain would drop by three places and reach the 26th position. The report claims that small countries tend to have a higher standard of living due to a number of factors, such as more efficient services, a higher chance of benefitting from globalisation and a more homogenous population. It uses these findings to predict the HDI of territories seeking independence, such as Catalonia, Scotland, Flanders and Quebec.
On Thursday, the Catalan Finance Minister, Andreu Mas-Colell, admitted that Catalonia will not be able to meet the strict 1% deficit target imposed by the Spanish Government for 2014. In fact, the Catalan Executive had previously warned on several occasions that this deficit target was not realistic, despite the great austerity efforts undertaken over the past four years. In addition, despite Spain's economic recovery of 2014 – which is led by Catalonia – and therefore the increase of taxable activity, the Spanish Government will reduce the Catalan executive's funds by €500 million this year while the deficit target becomes stricter. On Wednesday, the Catalan President, Artur Mas, already stated that, considering the austerity measures adopted since 2011, further budget cuts cannot be undertaken in 2014 without dramatically damaging basic public services such as healthcare and education. Instead of relaxing the deficit target or transferring pending funds and debts to the Catalan Government, the Spanish Finance Ministry will reduce the interest rate that the Autonomous Communities have to pay back to 1% for the loans of the Liquifidity Fund (FLA).
Just 36.3% of Catalans have Catalan as their main language, according to a survey presented on Friday by the Catalan Ministry of Culture and the Catalan Institute of Statistics (Idescat). The survey examining language use in the population of 2013 found that 31% of the Catalan population had Catalan as their mother tongue and a slightly higher percentage usually converse in Catalan as their main language: 36.3%. Nonetheless, 55.1% of those surveyed reported having Spanish as their mother tongue, with 50.7% using Spanish as their main language. In 2003, 46% reported having Catalan as their main language, but this fell to 35.6% by 2008. Additionally, the report found that 94.3% of Catalans surveyed in 2013 could understand Catalan.