Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Catalan Government will not change “a single coma” of the school model

Barcelona (ACN).- In order “to guarantee the general interest”, the Catalan Executive rejects changing “a single coma” of the linguistic immersion model in place in Catalonia’s school system for the last 30 years, as it was confirmed by the Government’s Spokesperson and Minister for the Presidency Francesc Homs on Tuesday. Despite the latest judicial sentences forcing to introduce Spanish as a language of instruction, the Catalan Government “will continue to implement Catalonia’s Education Law (LEC)”, stated Homs. In addition, he announced that on Friday they will file an appeal against last week’s sentence issued by the Catalan High Court (TSJC) that was interpreting a previous decision from the Spanish Supreme Court. The TSJC ruling forced to teach “at least” 25% of the mandatory school subjects in Spanish in the classrooms where the family of a single student is asking for it, regardless of the opinion of the other pupils’ families. “They want to dismantle through the back door what we have been building over the last 30 years via democratic means and backed by an extraordinary consensus”, complained Homs. He also highlighted that the system had previously been backed by the Constitutional Court and built through many laws that have not been declared unconstitutional. Furthermore, the Catalan Council for Constitutional Guarantees (CGE) – an independent advisory body on jurisdiction matters – stated on Tuesday that the Spanish Government’s Education Reform is “unconstitutional” since it recentralises power and goes against the linguistic immersion model. The CGE identified 9 unconstitutional areas and highlighted that the Spanish Executive’s Reform goes against Catalonia’s self-government and own laws such as the LEC. The CGE rejects the idea that the Spanish authorities can assess whether tuition language are used “in a proportionate way”, which is to be decided by the Catalan Government. Therefore, Homs announced that the Catalan Government will take such a reform to the Constitutional Court in order to stop its implementation.

Catalan Education Minister, Irene Rigau
The Catalan Government refuses to immediately change the entire school system for the recent judicial sentences and announced it will appeal against them. Therefore, since the matter is far from being closed, the Catalan Executive “will not change a single coma” of the linguistic immersion model in order “to guarantee the general interest” despite last week’s sentences. Homs highlighted that the system guarantees “the knowledge of both Catalan and Spanish” and that some years, Catalan pupils have gotten results “above the average” of their peers throughout Spain in Spanish language tests.

The TSJC sentence directly affects 5 families and 5 schools, in a system comprising more than 1 million pupils. It follows a previous sentence issued on Monday last week by the Spanish Supreme Court, which states that families are entitled to have their children being taught in Spanish as the instruction language in Catalonia.

This contradicts the current school model, recognised in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, which was approved by the Spanish Parliament and the Catalan people through a binding referendum in 2006. However, it re-interprets a sentence from 2010 from the Constitutional Court that stated that “Catalan has to be the centre of gravity” of Catalonia’s school system but it cannot exclude Spanish. Furthermore, it added that the Catalan Government had to decide on the exact model and include Spanish “in a proportionate way”.

Back then, the Constitutional Court, in a totally-politicised process, trimmed the Catalan Statute of Autonomy approved 4 years ago and was one of the triggers of the current self-determination process. In a previous sentence, the Constitutional Court had validated the linguistic immersion model, since it guarantees that pupils know both Catalan and Spanish by the end of their studies. The Court highlighted that the Constitution does not include “the right to be taught in Spanish” but only includes “the right and duty to know Spanish”. Since the Catalan school system totally guarantees this duty, as proven by academic results, the Court validated it.

In fact, the Catalan school system has been praise by the UNESCO and the European Commission as a “best practice example” since it guarantees equal opportunities and true bilingualism, avoiding the creation of two separate language communities. It is based on the linguistic immersion principle, making Catalan the language of instruction for almost all the subjects except Spanish and a few others depending on each school. It includes many flexibility measure as well as means to integrate new-comers, such as individualised attention in Spanish. The model has been in place since 1983 and it has been always supported by an almost total consensus among the Catalan society.

However, in the last decade Spanish nationalism has targeted it, particularly from Madrid-based media. It has said that Spanish is marginalised in Catalonia and has sponsored several initiatives to go against the model. Anybody who has been in Catalonia can witness that Spanish is totally present and used in public spaces. Furthermore, most of the TV and radio programmes are broadcast in Spanish, as well as a large part of the cultural offer is in this language.

However, the 2010 sentence from the Constitutional Court re-interpreting through an illegitimate and politicised process a law already in place and approved through a binding referendum was the excuse used by Spanish nationalists to go against the Catalan school system.

The Supreme Court – which, in the Spanish legal system cannot change laws and does not decide on fundamental right (since there is a Constitutional Court) – ruled that families had the right to have their children schooled in Spanish. In the last few years, it has issued a series of sentences in this sense and rejected the Catalan Government’s appeal. Catalonia’s High Court is following the Spanish Supreme Court’s doctrine and supervising its implementation. For this reason it is also issuing sentences against the current model.

On top of this, the Spanish Government is developing an Education Reform that aims to guarantee that children can be schooled in Spanish in Catalonia. A year ago, the Spanish Education Minister, José Ignacio Wert, stated that his “interest was to Hispanicise Catalan pupils”. In fact, Wert and the Spanish nationalism link the Catalan school model to the rising support for Catalonia’s independence from Spain and they are decided to stop it. However, statistical results show that support for independence has increased among all the age groups, including those who studied under Franco’s Fascist Dictatorship and its school system.

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