Minister sends schools seven-point questionnaire to validate their linguistic projects

Education Dpt wants to verify all answers in the coming month to be able to give them legal coverage

3 min
Josep Gonzalez and Cambray at the parlamanet during a recent meeting

BarcelonaHeads of 5,000 Catalan schools already know how they ought to respond to the ruling demanding 25% of classes be taught in Spanish. The Department of Education has sent them instructions via e-mail to inform them on how to enforce the decree passed on Monday in which the Government explicitly rejects the application of percentages in the use of languages in schools. This email to directors has a double goal: on the one hand, to reassure teachers and management teams and to try to protect them legally, since the Government would be responsible for the legality of every school's linguistic projects; on the other, to convince the Catalan High Court that it is not disobeying the ruling, but that the Catalan Government – albeit disregarding percentages – wishes to regulate the use of languages.

The way it is seeking to achieve this double purpose is through a seven-point questionnaire that headmasters will have 30 days to answer. These are "very simple" yes-or-no questions. The questionnaire asks whether it is Catalan which is "normally used" in the school as a "classroom and learning" language; whether Catalan is used to greet new students; whether both Catalan and Spanish have a "curricular and educational" use which is adequate to the school's sociolinguistic reality; whether "the use of percentages" in the choice of languages is avoided; whether the linguistic project incorporates "exclusively pedagogical criteria"; whether it takes into account the sociolinguistic reality of the school and, finally, whether it takes into account the results of internal and external tests in linguistic matters. The schools have until June 30 to respond.

If all answers are affirmative, it means that the project complies with the new regulations approved by the Catalan government and, therefore, it will be validated. On the other hand, if any of the answers are negative, it means the project does not comply with the new decree and schools will be given a year to modify their project.

The government calculates that practically all schools will answer affirmatively to all questions and, therefore, projects be validated automatically in the coming month. The key, here, is that it is the department that takes responsibility for validating these documents, which means Catalan Education minister Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray will answer before the courts. This is one of the commitments head teachers demanded of the minister, as they are very concerned about legal repercussions they could face if the Catalan government does not comply with the sentence. With this questionnaire, the Education Dpt believes it is complying with the sentence because it is giving instructions to schools (as established in the ruling), even if it is avoiding asking schools to teach one more subject in Spanish.

Warning to teachers

The instructions also make it clear that, once the linguistic project is validated, it is the responsibility of all staff to ensure it is complied with. It is a warning to teachers, albeit subtle, to speak Catalan to the class, since the Government had detected a certain relaxation in the use of Catalan in the classroom.

The Department will explain to the High Court the measures it has taken. But it remains to be seen if all this is enough in judges' eyes, who have always been very clear and have ruled that all Catalan schools must teach 25% of classes in Spanish.

Among the doubts this new scenario casts is what will happen in schools which have already been ordered individually by a court to teach 25% of classes in Spanish to a group where one the students' parents sued. The Government wants to take part in these court cases to argue the new Catalan and Spanish laws have changed situation.