Right and far right vow to take Catalan language bill to Constitutional Court
Parliament votes on Wednesday on law to counter 25% Spanish quota in schools
Parliament votes on Wednesday on law to counter 25% Spanish quota in schools
60.2% of families with one parent born outside Catalonia use Catalan with their children and 27.5% of natives with both parents born outside use Catalan with their children, according to data from 2013 coming from the Language Policy Report 2014 released this week. Ferran Mascarell, the Catalan Minister for Culture, said that "Catalan health remains" and said that "Catalan has passed a phase that was complicated because there have been significant demographic changes," along with technological changes and negative Spanish Government's policies. In Catalonia, the majority of the population 15 years and older claimed to understand, speak, read and write in Catalan: 94.3% understood, 80.4% could speak, 82.4% could read and 60.4% could write. Besides, while 48.1% of the population above 15 has a high level of Catalan in all language abilities, 26.6% reported important deficits in using or understanding the language.
The Spanish Minister for Education, José Ignacio Wert, has been recorded stating that "the situation of Spanish in the education system of Catalonia, limited to being used as a non-tuition language, like any foreign language, is comparable to the situation of Catalan in the times they like so much to remember", referring to Franco's dictatorship. Wert made the statement on Wednesday with a group of journalists and one of them recorded it. His words were immediately replied to by many Catalan parties, and Wert had to clarify a few hours later that he had expressed himself in a wrong way. He then said that Catalan was persecuted during Francoism "in a ruthless way" and that such persecution was "abominable". However, his previous statement is to be added to a long list, such as when in October 2012 he said that "Catalan pupils must be Hispanicised", defending the cultural homogenisation promoted by Spanish nationalism for the last centuries.
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 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 2012, 26.5% of the Catalans could have a conversation with someone in English, according to the latest survey on foreign languages issued by the Catalan Institute of Statistics (IDESCAT). The youngest population was also the most skilled, with 50.8% of teenagers aged 15-19 knowing the language. According to EU studies on bilingualism, Catalonia should offer a more positive context for English learning, due to having two main official languages, Catalan and Castilian (referred to as Spanish abroad). But, despite improving figures, the Catalans remain slightly behind the Spaniards and are still outdistanced by the Scandinavian leaders. Nevertheless, recent figures point towards a positive change in trend, sparked by a school system that fosters true bilingualism. Interestingly, Catalan currently is the minority language in Catalonia, following successive waves of immigration from other regions in Spain and Franco’s repression.
Irene Rigau, the Catalan Minister for Education, announced that Catalonia will participate in the working group created to analyse how to better implement the Spanish Government's Education Reform. Such a group was announced by the Spanish Education Minister, José Ignacio Wert, to make "Catalonia feel comfortable" with a Reform that totally changes the current school model. However, Rigau stated that the results of the working group will have to be assessed before implementing the Reform. On Wednesday, she refused to attend a meeting in Madrid to discuss how Spanish will be made an instruction language in Catalan schools. After the meeting, the Spanish Government stated that this will done "one way or the other" in September 2014. Meanwhile, the judicial battle goes on and the five schools forced to teach 25% of the subjects in Spanish will be allowed to appeal.
The Spanish Ministry of Education has released the decree proposal stating that the Catalan Government has the obligation to provide alternatives to families who request their children to be taught in Spanish in public schools, where Catalan is the first language of instruction and Spanish is mostly taught as a subject. Furthermore, Catalonia and all other Autonomous Communities with two official languages will have “to fully assume” the costs of these children’s education in privately-owned schools using Spanish as the language of instruction if the families do not find the appropriate public alternative. The money will be deducted from the Autonomous Communities’ funding scheme if they do not cooperate. However, the decree does not work the other way round in regions such as Valencia, where families are having problems to school their children in Catalan (co-official there).
The Spanish Supreme Court has ruled against the Catalan school model again. The model, which is based on the linguistic immersion principle, has been in place since the mid-1980s and totally guarantees the pupils’ knowledge of both Spanish and Catalan at the end of their schooling period. On Monday the Court rejected an appeal lodged last year by the Catalan Government against a previous judgement that obliged a school to go against Catalonia’s Education Law and teach the entire class in Spanish following a single request from a little girl’s family, irrespective of the opinion of the other pupils’ families. This is another episode in a long series of judicial rulings, appeals and judgements against Catalonia’s school model and the Catalan language since 2010. Spanish nationalists, particularly Madrid-based media and the People’s Party (PP), have been attacking this model and the Catalan language for the last decade and a half, but recently they have managed to get the centralist judicial authorities to back them.
On Tuesday Catalonia’s education stakeholders – including unions, pedagogic organisations and parent associations – asked the Catalan Executive and Parliament to lead “the boycott” of the Spanish Government’s Education Reform, known as LOMQE. This reform aims to recentralise education powers, foster religion and impose Spanish as a language of instruction in Catalonia. Furthermore, on Monday evening thousands of people demonstrated in front of Catalonia’s High Court (TSJC) in support of the current school model in Catalonia, which is based on the linguistic immersion principle that guarantees the knowledge of both Spanish and Catalan. Political parties, trade unions, cultural associations and teaching organisations were protesting against the TSJC’s recent ruling that imposed a requirement that 25% of a school’s curriculum be taught in Spanish if a single pupil asks for it. The TSJC was interpreting a judgement by the Spanish Supreme Court, framed in a broader offensive against Catalan language.
In order “to guarantee the general interest”, the Catalan Executive rejects changing “a single comma” of the linguistic immersion model in place in Catalonia’s school system despite the latest judicial sentences forcing to introduce Spanish as a language of instruction, as confirmed by the Government’s Spokesperson Francesc Homs. The Catalan Executive “will continue to implement Catalonia’s Education Law (LEC)” and will file an appeal against last week’s sentence issued by the Catalan High Court (TSJC), interpreting a previous decision from the Spanish Supreme Court. Furthermore, the Catalan Council for Constitutional Guarantees – an independent advisory body on jurisdiction matters – stated that the Spanish Government’s Education Reform is “unconstitutional” and goes against Catalonia’s self-government and its own laws such as the LEC.
The Catalan Government and the other four Autonomous Community executives that are not run by the People’s Party (PP) are totally opposed to the Spanish Executive’s Education Reform, which recentralises powers, homogenises curricula, fosters the presence of religion and sidelines Catalan language and history. The Reform has raised a huge controversy in Catalonia, since it ends the Catalan school model that has been in place for the last 35 years and is backed by a large consensus. On Wednesday the Education Ministers of Catalonia, the Basque Country, Andalusia, Asturias and the Canaries criticised the Spanish Government’s “lack of dialogue”. They pointed out “the improvisation, precipitation and imposition” of the Spanish Education Minister, José Ignacio Wert. They also argued that it is “impossible” to “implement” the Reform in the next school-year.
In appeal, the Spanish Supreme Court has sided with the family who requested their son to be taught in Spanish in school, alongside Catalan. Despite the Constitution not advocating pupils had “the right to be taught in Spanish”, but only stating they had “the right and duty to know Spanish”, a dozen families have requested their children to be taught in this language, turning to the judicial system. Whilst the Constitutional Court has validated on two occasions the Catalan schooling system, based on Catalan as first language of instruction, the Supreme Court ruled against it. The Catalan Government was offering individualised attention to these children, but the judicial decision states that Spanish has to be used for “the entire class of the pupil”, even though the rest of the pupils have not requested to be taught in this language.