Historical retreat of Catalan in the classroom

2 min
catalan at school

The situation of Catalan in schools is alarming. According to the data made public yesterday by the Catalan government after a survey of secondary school students, the decline in the use of the language is historical, both among teachers when they address a group of students and among the students themselves when they have to do group work. In fifteen years a lot has gone backwards. The reality is that, in practice, Catalan is no longer the most widely used language in the classroom, to the benefit of Spanish, which, just as it is happening in Catalan society, is also imposing itself in schools. Until now we had believed, or had wanted to believe, that language immersion shielded the language for teaching in schools, and that in any case the problem was in the playgrounds and corridors, and of course in the street, where the use of Catalan among young people had been falling due to the demographic and sociological changes of the last two decades. We now know that this was a self-deception or that, in any case, it did not correspond to reality. And we also know that all the demagogy against immersion, equating it with ideological indoctrination, was simply this, demagogy. The language war that has been pursued by the Unionist right has not been successful, but it has been a constant distorting force that has undermined the consensus that arose after Franco's dictatorship to help normalise the use of Catalan in schools and that has managed to make headway through the courts.

The fact is that, four decades later, Catalan continues to be the minority language in Catalonia in many key areas of everyday life, from audiovisual entertainment to justice and the world of work. And we now know, moreover, that the supposed educational stronghold where it was apparently pre-eminent is no longer so. Or, at the very least, it is beginning to show serious cracks, both socially and legally. Surely, given the territorial and sociolinguistic diversity of the country, the variety of situations between schools and geographical areas is important, but in any case the average is what it is and it is very worrying.

Faced with this situation, there are basically two things to say. Firstly, it is good that the Government openly acknowledges the problem. For too many years they have wanted to look the other way or they have been directly negligent. And secondly, the solution will come from the involvement of both teachers and the whole school community (parents, administration, leisure monitors...). But the problem goes beyond that and affects society as a whole: after all, what is happening in schools is a reflection of what is also happening outside, at home, in the media, in commerce, everywhere. Therefore, without a more general involvement, it will be difficult to overcome the situation in the classroom. In this sense, the creation of a new broad political and citizen consensus in favour of the social use of Catalan is unavoidable. If this is not the case, the regression could become unstoppable. And to make this consensus possible, we must make it clear once and for all that Catalan is a cultural wealth open to everyone who wants to make it their own and that it does not go against Spanish, a language that is also part of this society and that is not and has never been in danger in Catalonia.