Friday, July 15, 2011

Catalan Education or Education in Catalan?

About the author of this article for Help Catalonia

Joan Badia i Pujol
Professor of Catalan Language and Literature.
Deputy Director of Permanent Education and Pedagogical Resources in the Catalan Government (2004-2006).
Director of Innovation in the Catalan Government (2006-2009).
Deputy Director of Academic University Planning in the Catalan Government (2009-2010).
Deputy Director of European Higher Education (2009-2010).
Co-founder of http://www.practicareflexiva.pro/cat/.

Thoughout its modern history, Catalonia has never enjoyed full sovereignty in matters regarding its educational system. In the nineteen-thirties, under the aegis of the republican Generalitat (the autonomous government of Catalonia), matters of education remained in the hands of the central government in Madrid, and therefore Catalonia was only able to undertake minor, marginal initiatives. However, these initiatives had a significant impact due to their high level of quality, and became an example of what this country was capable of achieving if it could have the power to decide over its educational policies. Unfortunately, however, general Franco's regime put an abrupt end to that first experience of exercising power on matters of education.

With the advent of democracy in Spain in 1977 and the Statute of Autonomy (devolution) in 1979, the Catalan government largely took over the educational system. Nevertheless, the basic aspects of educational policy remained in the hands of the Spanish government, including the core curriculum, the structure of the system, supervision, funding, core legislation, prerequisites and training for joining the teaching profession, school governance, etc.

In this context, the Catalan government has made an attempt to implement policies to put the educational system in the service of the preservation of the Catalan language and identity. This has been done in the conviction that, anywhere in the world, schools play a key role in helping the future citizens of the nation to become full members of the society in which they will live. In order to achieve this general goal, today's pupils, the future citizens of Catalonia, must have excellent knowledge of the language of their country, its culture, its history, its geography, etc. With this objective in mind, our government has devoted its energies to implement our own educational model, which we call "l'escola catalana" or Catalan education.

Even though resources and decision-making power in key issues have been limited, the results of this policy are significant and have provided solutions to difficult challenges. For instance, the use of linguistic immersion methodologies has made it possible for all pupils to have an equal command of Catalan and Spanish by the end of their compulsory education, as demonstrated by a wide range of studies. Between 2002 and 2009, our schools have also been successful in integrating hundreds of thousands of immigrant pupils who had no knowledge of Catalan or, in many cases, of Spanish; this has been achieved thanks to the ambitious Language and Social Cohesion (LIC) programme.

However, the "Catalan education" model goes well beyond the policies currently implemented, which respond simply to a model for education "in Catalan": that is, a model in which contents are delivered in the Catalan language (though not necessarily at all levels and in all subjects). The original formulation of the "Catalan education" project was proposed by Alexandre Galí. It invoked "the right to govern the cultural institutions that will educate our children", and this involved "the creation of a kind of institution that we call 'escola catalana'", which would bring this project fully to fruition.

As a nation aspiring to full sovereignty, we have the right to define our own school model, "l'escola catalana". This requires an educational system in which decisions over governance, resources, legislation, and regulations are made in Catalonia.

Joan Badia i Pujol
Editor, Escola Catalana (Educational Magazine of Omnium Cultural)
joan.badiap@gmail.com

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