Education Dpt will not fulfil Court order demanding 25% of classes be taught in Spanish

At the end of this week, the court may be asked to enforce the ruling. The Dpt is preparing a new bill to counter the legal action

4 min

BarcelonaFour months after the Catalan High Court ruling that 25% of classes had to be taught in Spanish became final, the first details of the Government's response have arrived. Education minister Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray has announced that the Government is preparing a new decree to modify Catalonia's Education Law (CEL) to "reaffirm the Catalan school model". Cambray has said that for the moment schools "do not have to modify their linguistic projects", that is to say, they do not have to teach 25% of classes in Spanish, because what the Catalan Government wants to do is "to answer the court" with a new normative framework that is not based on percentages. "We measure learning, not percentages, and the Catalan education system gives the absolute guarantee that by the last year of compulsory education students will have full competence in Catalan and Spanish," said Cambray.

The big question now is whether this new regulatory framework, which will not come into force for another eight to twelve months, will be sufficient in the judges' eyes. With today's announcement, the department wants to gain a little time, aware that time is against it. Now begins a process of public consultation that will last a month, in which the educational community can make its contributions to develop the decree. "We will be doing it together," he assured. But the problem is that Friday is the deadline given by law to execute the High Court's ruling. If after this time the plaintiff, in this case the Spanish government (then led by the PP and now in the hands of PSOE and Podemos), believes that nothing has been done or not enough has been done, it can urge Catalonia's High Court to make the Generalitat comply with the order. Cambray has admitted that "he is in talks" with the Spanish Ministry of Education, but has taken for granted that the Spanish government will not ask for the ruling to be enforced. However, the law also allows third parties with "legitimate interest in the matter" to request the enforcement.

And here the Assembly for a Bilingual School, which has already announced that on Monday, through two lawsuits, will ask the High Court to send "direct instructions" to all the schools in the face of the Department's "disobedience". In spite of journalists' insistent questions during the press conference, Cambray has not made too clear what the Catalan Government will do if the judges accept these associations as a third party and force the Generalitat to act. He simply recalled, again and again, that "the learning of languages is not about percentages, it is about teaching" and that Catalan students already learn Spanish.

If the court finally urges the sentence to be enforced, court sources explain that it would not be immediate either, as Montse Riart reports. The High Court would have to listen to the arguments of all parties, decide whether it is in the best general interest to execute the sentence or whether to leave things as they are so as not to cause greater harm. In such a case, the court would have to assess whether the legal framework in force is the same as when the legal proceedings were started. It is not: when State's Attorney sued the Generalitat under the previous education law. Despite the fact that the Education Dpt says that this new law protects immersion because it eliminates references to Spanish as the vehicular language, High Court judges have already said that "it does not change things" because the use of Spanish within the Catalan educational model "stems directly from the Constitution".

The arguments to change the CEL

Cambray has rolled out his arguments in favour of modifying the Catalan law, passed in 2009, and doing so without establishing quotas for languages: he said that after the change in the curricula "it makes less sense than ever" because there will be less and less compartmentalisation of subjects, that "the school model in Catalan will be strengthened" and that "the presence of Catalan in coming years will increase". He has also given data which, nevertheless, are based on percentages, such as those revealed yesterday by the Catalan Ombudsman. These show that over 25% of classes are already taught in Spanish (33%, to be precise). Minister Cambray's goal is to deploy a new linguistic system that has "pedagogical, political and social" consensus and therefore will take into account advice from the Catalan government's linguistic advisory council, the evolution of learning methodologies and the sociolinguistic reality of each school.

Cambray has made the announcement on the day before a new strike in education was called, in this case by unions COS, Intersindical, SEPC and USTEC. They are protesting against the High Court's ruling and also the Catalan government's "idleness" on the issue. Cambray, however, said that there has been "zero passivity" in the face of the attack from the courts and explained that if the decree had not been passed before it is because "the Government has acted it when it understood that it had to be done". He recalled that one of the first things he did when he accepted the position of minister was to "recognise" that the use of Catalan is receding in schools (he said so an interview with the ARA) and that, when the sentence came out, he himself responded to the courts that they should address the Department on these issues and not schools.

"There is no reason to say that the Catalan government has been passive on this issue," said Cambray, and added that the government will join "mobilisations" planned for tomorrow outside Parliament.