University Access Exams' instructions ruled discriminatory against non-Catalan speakers

Courts recognize Assembly for a Bilingual School as a legitimate party in the process

3 min
A student doing the PAZ

BarcelonaIn the middle of a judicial offensive against Catalan in education, Catalonia's High Court has agreed with the Assembly for a Bilingual School, which last June sued the Catalan government over its instructions for holding university entrance exams, because they only asked invigilators to distribute exam papers in Catalan, and only when students requested it handing out a copy in Catalan. Thus, Catalonia's High Court has declared the instructions null and void. According to the judges, doing this is contrary to the Constitution because it violates the right of students not to be discriminated against (Article 14 of the Constitution) and the right to education (Article 27).

The sentence, which goes along the same lines as the precautionary measures, says that students' interests and rights "are superior" to the Administration's organisational interest. In the judicial proceedings, the universities of Barcelona, Girona and the UPC, as well as the organisation Plataforma per la Llengua, appeared to support the Generalitat's thesis. The Government defended that the PAU did not violate any fundamental rights: the Generalitat's lawyers argued that students could answer in the language they wanted, that the right to choose the language of the statements was guaranteed and that those who wanted the texts in Spanish were treated "normally" and were "not identified". They added that exams were distributed in Catalan not out of "prevalence, preponderance or primacy" of Catalan, but to "streamline" the process and "reduce costs".

In addition, the Generalitat argued from the outset that the Association for a Bilingual School has no standing to appeal against this issue. This is a particularly important point: the Hih Court has overturned this argument and has recognised the right of the anti-immersion organisation to challenge the exams because there is a "concordance between the purposes" of the association and the object of the appeal. This opens the door for the same court to consider that the organisation is also entitled to request compliance with the sentence that establishes 25% of classes must be taught in Spanish in all schools. The organisation has already asked the Catalan High Court to enforce this ruling.

In a statement, the organisation has highlighted "the special transcendence" of the judicial decision because it "expressly" recognises it as a legitimate affected party. In addition, Association for a Bilingual schools said university entrance exams should change in June as a result of the ruling. The Department of Universities and Research, however, has said there will be no changes and it is considering appealing against the decision. "It has been shown that we always guarantee students' right to choose the language in which they want to take the exam and that students have never been asked to identify themselves," sources explain.

Only 5% of the students asked for the exams in Spanish

The 2021 university access exams were marked by the court order to stop prioritising Catalan in exams and to distribute the statements in Spanish too. That order was published when the exams had already been printed and the Generalitat said the exams would not change. Tests were distributed in Catalan and whoever wanted to could ask for them in Spanish or Aranese, as always. Thus, invigilators asked students who wanted exam papers in Spanish to raise their hands Less than 5% of students in Catalonia did.

For the September exams, the TSJC once again issued a resolution in which it ordered the Department of Universities and Research and Catalonia's Inter-university Council "not to identify" the students who choose to take the tests in Spanish and to offer students "exam papers in any of Catalonia's co-official languages, without a preference for any of them", since it is up to students to choose what suits them best to sit the exam. In practice, the court order meant each student had to be asked individually in which language they wanted their exam paper before the start of each test.