Less than half of teachers routinely use Catalan to address their entire classroom

The use of Catalan among pupils when they are in groups also plummets: from 68% to 21% in 15 years

3 min
A secondary school classroom in Sant Vicenç dels Horts

BarcelonaCatalan is in clear decline in the classroom and is spoken less and less. "We want to reverse this situation and we want to do it now, we have to take action", said the Catalan Minister Josep González-Cambray this morning, during the presentation of the data and a new action plan for the promotion of Catalan in the classroom. "We are entering a new stage in language policy", said the Catalan Minister of Culture, Natàlia Garriga, who also appeared to explain that the promotion plan will be carried out not only by the Department of Education, but in a cross-cutting manner with all the Government's departments. "I don't want to be alarmist: the Catalan language has weaknesses, but it also has opportunities", said Garriga.

One of the most worrying phenomena at the moment is the decline of the Catalan language in the classroom. According to the Government's calculations, the use of Catalan among students to address teachers has gone from 56% in 2006, to 53% in 2013, and only 39.4% in 2021. And what is even more worrying for the Education Ministry: the number of teachers who always use Catalan in the classroom is also falling. Currently the figure has fallen from almost 64% in 2006, to 61% in 2013 and to 46.8% today. "We note an infrequent use in different learning contexts and a trend among teachers and this situation also occurs in non-teaching times, in canteens, in extracurricular activities and also in the playground", said the Minister.

The habitual use of Catalan has also plummeted among pupils when it comes to interacting in groups in class to carry out activities, for example. Whereas in 2006, 67.8% of students said that they did group activities in Catalan 'always' or 'almost always', now only 21.4% say they use this language. "Until now we had perceptions and now we have data", said González-Cambray in reference to these figures, which form part of a study that has not yet been completed. "We have to act as quickly as possible. It is a country matter", he insisted.

A new programme to promote the language

"It is evident and we recognise that not enough has been done in recent years and we identify and recognise that we have to take action", admitted González-Cambray. The Government does not like the situation and, in order to reverse it, they have presented a plan for the promotion of Catalan in the classroom that should help to improve the data. The plan will be compulsory for all schools and will begin to be implemented this academic year. In four years' time, the department hopes that it will be applied in all public and state-subsidised schools in Catalonia.

The plan is based on "driving groups" for Catalan that will be formed with primary and secondary school teachers, and principals from the schools themselves. The plan will begin with a pilot programme in 200 schools and will be scaled up to 1,000 schools each year for four years, until all the schools in Catalonia have been reached. However, the Minister did not want to detail the financial allocation for this new measure to promote Catalan: "We will see as we implement the plan, but what I can say is that we have provided the necessary funds in the 2022 budget", he summarised.

Right now, as explained by the Minister, the data collection and the elaboration of indicators on what is happening with the use of Catalan in the classroom are still in progress. Afterwards, they will have to choose the first centres where the plan will begin. "They will be primary schools, secondary schools, vocational training centres, public and subsidised centres", González-Cambray explained. In the second quarter of the 2021-2022 academic year, the "driving groups" will be created and during the third quarter it will begin to be applied.

At the same time, the Departments of Education and Research and Universities are also working to ensure that the university degrees in the education sector and the master's degree for teachers have the necessary content "so that teachers finish having been prepared and with the necessary tools to apply the Catalan school model", said the Minister. In addition, the Government intends for the plan to have evaluable results, with data and indicators to monitor the situation of Catalan in the classroom in the future. "The 120,000 teaching professionals in this country will go through this course; in this way we will raise awareness and give them the tools to maintain the use of Catalan", González-Cambray argued.