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A judgment of the Catalan High Court considers "residual" the use that is now made of this language

Pere Ríos

Barcelona – Dec 17, 2020 – 12:05 CET

A P3 class from the Reina Violant public school in Barcelona.CARLES RIBAS

TheTribunal Superior de Justicia de Cataluña established this Thursday for the first time the obligation to teach at least 25% of classes in Spanish throughout the educational system. The sentence could lead to a change in the linguistic immersion model that is applied in Catalonia, but presumably this will not happen due to the intention of the Generalitat to adhere to the Organic Law of Modification of the LOE (Lomloe), known as the Celaá law, which will enter into force within a few weeks, and that ceases to consider Spanish as a vehicular language in communities with a second official language.

However, the court ruling reopened the political debate between the defenders of the current model and those who demand its immediate repeal, based on a phrase in which it is assured: “Overall, the vehicular use of the Spanish language in the system of Teaching in Catalonia is residual, or at least that is the case in a significant part of teaching centers and groups, so that an infringement of the current legal framework is verified”. The Generalitat announced that it will appeal to the Supreme Court, while the  the leader of the PP, Pablo Casado, called on the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, to paralyze the enforcement of the Celaá law.

The appeal that has motivated the ruling was presented in April 2015 by the State Attorney on behalf of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports directed by José Ignacio Wert, who in 2013 promoted the Organic Law for the Improvement of Educational Quality (Lomce). The lawsuit invoked the “inactivity” of the Catalan Government in applying additional provision 38.4 of the Organic Law of Education (LOE), which dates from 2006 and which establishes the “right of male and female students to receive education in both official languages” In the autonomous communities that have another official language, in addition to Spanish.

The Department did not demand any specific percentage in the use of both languages, but the judges have established the minimum vehicular use of 25% of Spanish teaching hours that, in addition to teaching the official language itself, “must include in full at least that of another area, discipline or non-linguistic curricular subject of a core or similar nature”.

This proportion, says the ruling, which is also cited by the Constitution, is established from the individual cases raised so far in the jurisprudence of the Contentious-Administrative Chamber of the Catalan court, as well as of the Supreme Court. 25%, added the judges, is the “minimum below which it cannot be understood that the vehicular use of the language reaches the condition of normal within the system”.

The Higher Court of Catalonia admits without hesitation that its function is not to specify how the use of both languages ​​is to be guaranteed, but it does specify that it is its responsibility to “straighten out the current situation contrary to law”. The reason, they add, is that “the Generalitat has not exercised its competence by issuing the regulations, instructions or acts of application that are necessary for the purposes of determining the vehicular use of languages ​​in teaching, nor has it carried out any activity susceptible to avoid the aforementioned situation”.

The Vicepresident of the Generalitat acting as president, Pere Aragonès, has assured that “in Catalonia there is a broad consensus in favor of linguistic immersion because pedagogically it is the best system”, and he added: “They have wanted to get rid of it for a long time through judicial rulings, but we will defend it everywhere as one people”. The PSC MCP Esther Niubó recalled that “the legal situation may be different in a matter of days” with the Law Celaá,, and she added that “what is relevant is the full command of official languages ​​at the end of compulsory education, applying criteria of flexibility and compensation, as introduced for the first time by Lomloe”.

For her part, the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, aligned herself with the Generalitat. “From Barcelona we have always defended the linguistic immersion model to guarantee bilingualism and that has worked so well for decades”. Her words were underwritten by the Minister of Consumption, Alberto Garzón, with whom she shared a press conference.

Very different was the approach of Pablo Casado. “It is Pedro Sánchez, the Minister of Education and the High Inspection who have to ensure that the sentence is carried out immediately”, said the leader of the PP. Carlos Carrizosa, Citizens’ candidate to the Generalitat, celebrated the ruling and recalled that, unlike other rulings, this one is of a general nature and does not focus exclusively on specific families who ask that their children receive instruction in Spanish.

“The Statute strictly prevents segregation”

The same appeal of the Ministry also challenged before the courts three resolutions of the Generalitat on the rules of pre-enrollment in school courses, considering that the use of Spanish was restricted in the first year of early childhood education, when the student’s learning began. The court rejects it and says that the resolutions “cannot be considered illegal by not incorporating a system of vehicular language option” at the beginning of teaching, because that possibility does not exist since the Law of Education of Catalonia was promulgated in 2009. “The Statute of Autonomy strictly prevents the segregation of students by groups or classrooms depending on the language”, recalls the Higher Court of Catalonia in its ruling, written in Catalan. The judges understand that “the normal vehicular use of the two languages ​​does not necessarily have to be symmetrical” and that it is reasonable “a superior use of Catalan to normalize this language”. However, they warn that this “should not be understood as a monolingual teaching mandate” or “the exclusion of Spanish as a co-vehicular language or its reduction to a residual presence”.



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