Catalan in the classroom

Unitary manoeuvre to guarantee Catalan and Spanish at school without percentages

ERC, JxCat, En Comú and the PSC will modify the linguistic policy law to avoid having to execute the 25%-in-Spanish ruling

2 min
A demonstration against 25% in Spanish in an archive image.

BarcelonaThe linguistic model in education has achieved an almost unprecedented agreement in Catalonia's Parliament, only one day before the deadline given by law to execute the High Court ruling establishing 25% of classes had to be in Spanish. After two months of discreet work, the ERC-JxCat coalition government, alongside En Comú Podem and PSC, have registered a bill to modify some articles of the law of linguistic policy, passed in 1998, which as a framework law directly affects Catalonia's 2009 Education Law. The great change is that the new wording includes for the first time that Catalan students have the right to be taught the official languages "and in the official languages", admitting that Spanish, as an official language in Catalonia, is also a language which can be used in the classroom, although it avoids stating that it should ever be the main language. The text, however, does not determine what percentage of hours have to be taught in each language, as Catalonia's High Court has done, but speaks of an "adequate presence" of the two languages that will be decided according to the school.

Thus, also for the first time, a law establishes how this "adequate" presence must be determined in the curricula and educational projects in order to guarantee "spoken and written" command of both Catalan and Spanish by the end of compulsory education. In line also with what the Department of Education has been saying these days, the new regulatory framework does not establish quotas, but determines the presence of both languages through broader criteria: the school's sociolinguistic context, students' profile, access to information through technological media or the pedagogical model, since it has been found that during group work students tend to speak more Spanish.

The promoters of this regulatory change believe that it is a way of "reinforcing" the Catalan school model, because it makes it clear that Catalan is the habitual language teaching language. At the same time they see it as another layer of protection to prevent Catalonia's High Court from forcing the Generalitat to enforce the 25%-in-Spanish ruling, because it establishes that Spanish "is also used in the terms established by each school's linguistic project". One of the keys to the agreement is that since a law is being modified –and not a decree or an ordinance, which rank lower– it could only be overturned by the Constitutional Court, opening a new judicial front.

This political agreement is not to be confused with the announcement made this Tuesday by Catalan Education minister Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray, who announced that a new decree to amend the Catalan education law and "defend the Catalan school model. Cambray's decree will come into force in 8 to 12 months, while the modification of the linguistic policy law could be imminent, in part to avoid a forced execution of the ruling.

The CUP has been aware things were moving in this direction for weeks. The anti-capitalist party have not joined the agreement, and instead have put forward another bill to modify Catalonia's Education Law and "shield" linguistic immersion, proposing that Catalan be "the only teaching and learning language at school", a wording that some promoters of the other proposal see as totally unconstitutional.