Catalan Ministry: "University entrance exam is untouchable"

The Education Ministry ignores the TSJC and maintains that the exams will be in Catalan and will strengthen communication about the possibility of doing them in Spanish

4 min

BarcelonaThe university entrance exams in Catalonia remain unchanged. The Catalan Ministry of Research and Universities assures that it fully fulfills th precautionary measures of the TSJC, that obliges them to offer the exams in the three co-official languages. Therefore, it has stated that there will not be more changes than that of "reinforcing the communication" to inform on the range of languages avaliable. Beyond this, the test by default will continue to be in Catalan, as the "vehicular language" of the school system. This has been has defended by the Catalan minister Gemma Geis, who in an emergency appearance criticized the "interferences" of justice that attacked the "consensus of the country" in the university and linguistic model. "This exam cannot be touched", she proclaimed.

The department has found itself with some precautionary measures dictated by the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC). These include accepting the request of the Assembly for a Bilingual School in Catalonia to stop prioritizing Catalan in the exams and to have the same number of copies in Spanish and Aranese.

Up until now, the exam papers were distributed in Catalan and, if a student wanted to take the tests in another language, he or she had to request it. "The choice of the language of the exam papers cannot be determined by the administration and, instead, they will have to be available in the three co-official languages and the student will be offered individually the option to choose them in the language he or she prefers", says the resolution of the fifth section of the administrative contentious chamber of the TSJC. Furthermore, it has issued the urgent precautionary measures in response to the arguments of the complainant. Now, both the Generalitat and the public prosecutor's office have three days to present their arguments in the form of allegations and then the TSJC "will dictate an order that will resolve the lifting, maintenance or modification of the adopted measure", says the text of the six magistrates.

The TSJC has released the urgent measures so that the students are given information concerning "exams in Catalan or in Spanish or in Aranese according to the choice of the student, except in the exams of Catalan language or literature, Catalan literature, Spanish language and literature, Spanish literature and foreign language, which will be delivered in the language of the exercise". Although this is a preventive measure and the final sentence has not yet been issued - the magistrates also want to hear the arguments of the other parties before making a final decision -, the resolution also currently affects the September tests, scheduled for 7th, 8th and 9th of September.

"The regulations of the exams in 2021 contain in its third paragraph of section 1.1.2 the instruction to first distribute the statements of the exam in Catalan, and in a residual way («....only if a student requests it...») in Spanish, even forgetting Aranese, something that is separate, without prejudice to the definitive judgement by the processing of the contentious-administrative appeal, from the constitutional doctrine exposed. The official language is configured as a subjective right: the right of citizens to use the language of their choice, and to relate to the public authorities and the administration by making their own choice, and not the other way round. For this reason, the request for the suspension of the indicated paragraph must be upheld in order to maintain the right of choice, which corresponds to the student", says the text of the six magistrates justifying their decision

This is the article that, as a precautionary measure, the judges overturned for the time being. Although it does not yet enter into the core of the issue - it will do so in the final judgment - the court considers that from the outset, the point of these rules of organization of the university access exam is contrary to the Constitution, because it leaves the choice of the language of the exam in the hands of the administration. In fact, the magistrates recovered the sentence of the Constitutional Court on the Statute of June 28th, 2010, which, among others, eliminated the "preferential" character of Catalan.

The TSJC recalls that the high court already said then that the fact that Catalan was defined "as Catalonia's own language" could not "justify the statutory imposition of its preferential use, to the detriment of Spanish, also an official language of the Autonomous Community by the public administrations and the public media of Catalonia". According to the magistrates, this part of the regulation leaves Spanish in a "residual" position, "even forgetting Aranese". "The official language is configured as a subjective right: the right of citizens to use the language of their choice, and to relate to the public authorities and the Administration by imposing their choice, and not the other way around", the magistrates concluded.

An attack on language immersion

The National Federation of Students of Catalonia (FNEC) has issued a statement in which it has urged the 225 members of the examination courts of these exams to "stand up and exercise conscientious objection" to some measures of the TSJC that "undermine the foundations of the sociolinguistic and educational system of Catalonia". Likewise, they ask that the Government "does not cooperate or comply with this resolution". According to the FNEC, "this intrusion of justice is a disgrace and an attack on the educational system and linguistic immersion", since "all students in Catalonia who sit the exam have a high enough knowledge of Catalan to take it" as it has always been done.

For its part, CCOO has assured that there were no "complaints nor a majority demand" to do the exams in another language that was not Catalan and considers that it does not make sense that a court of justice has the capacity to "determine pedagogical subjects", according to the secretary of the union in the Education sector, Teresa Esparbaré.

On the contrary, the entity that has driven the complaint against the organization of the exams in the TSJC considers the judicial decision as a new step towards ending the linguistic immersion and the "violation of linguistic rights". They understand what it implies, pointed out the president of the Assembly for a Bilingual School in Catalonia, Ana Losada. The organization says that until now in these exams "there were no conditions of equality", because although there was the option to take the test in Spanish, as they were not informed of this possibility, students who wanted it had to ask for it individually. According to the activist, they would have to "begin the exam when their classmates were already doing it and they were marked with an incident in the box". While awaiting the final ruling, the organization says that the resolution, now made public by the TSJC, gives them "a good expectation" that they will end up giving them a definate reasoning.