Society 04/10/2021

School in Catalan again under siege: teaching programmes must have a copy in Spanish

A ruling by the transparency commission forces public centres to send a unionist association teaching programmes in Spanish

3 min
A secondary school student in a charter school in Sant Vicenç dels Horts.

BarcelonaNew offensive against Catalan as a vehicular language in public schools. If until now some families and unionist entities had taken some schools to court because they believed that not enough hours were taught in Spanish, now the objective is teaching staff's internal documents. All schools in Catalonia have to send a Spanish-language version of "the complete teaching programmes of primary and secondary school" from this year or last to an Association called Hablamos Español by October 15. The order has been given by the Department of Education itself, forced by a resolution of the transparency commission, after this association asked the Department for these documents in Spanish in December 2020.

These teaching programmes are used by teachers to prepare and put into practice the general objectives that mark the educational curriculum of each subject. In fact, upon receiving the association's request, the Department of Education responded that "thousands of documents" would have to be provided. "There must be as many teaching programmes as there are subjects or areas taught in a school," the Department explained. For example, if a school teaches five areas (language, science, arts, mathematics and physical education), there must be five teaching programmes. But if the school uses project-based learning, it needs to have a teaching programme for each project. This must be repeated at every level. The Department alerted, in a report that was sent to the entity, that the request for information affected 2,500 schools, and each one could have, on average, about forty teaching programmes. In spite of the fact that the Department proposed "to select a more manageable volume of information" by taking a random sample, for example, the entity ratified that it wanted the information of all the subjects and of all the state schools. The argument was that they want to "help families who need it so that their children receive a legally guaranteed education in Spanish".

Despite warning of the "risk of collapsing the [association's] e-mail", the Department has asked state schools to send them all the teaching programmes they have in Spanish. But in no case do hey say that they ought to translate them should they only have versions in Catalan. That is to say, the idea would be that those who have Spanish versions send them and those who do not have them needn't translate them. According to several schools consulted by ARA, they have simply informed the association they do not have any teaching programmes in Spanish.

Hablamos Español Association does not specify how many programmes they have received so far nor what they want to do with them. As the president of the organisation, Gloria Lago, explained to ARA, they have asked for them because, despite being "interesting and useful" information, they have not found them on any state school website. "We all have the right to understand and know Catalan schools' teaching programmes. It is an normal to ask for such a logical thing", Lago thinks. In her opinion, "the only language they need to know is Spanish". The entity that Lago presides has collected signatures for a popular legislative initiative (ILP) to be debated in the Spanish parliament, in favour of the "freedom of linguistic election", so that children can decide if they want to study in Catalan or in Spanish, and is also behind some demonstrations "against linguistic imposition and indoctrination" in Catalonia. According to Lago, who had previously founded Galicia Bilingüe (an entity that, despite its name, defends education in Castilian in Galicia), in Hablamos Español there are members from all over Spain.


In 2018, a different pro-Spanish association, Asamblea por una Escuela Bilingüe, obtained schools' language projects. These detail schools plans for which classes to teach in Catalan, in Spanish and in foreign languages, as well as languages used outside school. After analysing them, the associations published the study. "Catalan public schools' linguistic projects: the marginalization of Spanish", where they concluded that no public school in Catalonia teaches 25% of classes in Spanish. The Association relied on several court rulings that have forced some schools to modify their linguistic model so that students receive 25% of classes in Spanish (i.e. the subject of Spanish itself and, in addition, another core subject).

Until then, the Catalonia's High Court had published rulings that forced this minimum percentage of hours in Spanish at school, but with a capital difference. The rulings agreed with plaintiffs who demanded 25% of classes were in Spanish at their children's schools. Therefore, the decision only affected a few centers and classes. But in December 2020 the Catalan High Court ruled that all Catalan schools must teach 25% of classes in Spanish. That is, the new ruling affects the entire public education system, because the complaint came from the State Attorney's Office, which, on behalf of the Spanish Ministry of Education filed an appeal in 2015 against the Generalitat for not guaranteeing education in Spanish. According to the judges, Spanish is a "residual language in a significant part of schools and teaching groups". The Department of Education appealed this sentence in the Supreme Court, which has to publish the final decision soon.

Precisely this weekend ARA published a special dossier on Catalan in schools and universities, because, in spite of partisan distortions, the reality is that Catalan has receded in the classroom, which is the only opportunity for many to learn it.