María Jesús Cañizares, 15 September 2022
Secondary school pupils entering the school / EP
A young man applying for a scholarship to study at a British university clashes with the conflict of competence between the Catalan government and the Spanish education department, and the comparative grievances between Spanish and Catalan.
It is both understandable and logical that the protagonist of this story, a high school student with good marks on his CV, should decide to apply for a scholarship to study at a British university. What is unusual is the ordeal suffered by this young Catalan to prove his fluency in Spanish.
The Generalitat and the Ministry of Education refused to issue this accreditation, thus uncovering the conflict of competences, the comparative grievances between Catalán and Spanish and the legal limbo faced by any young person who wishes to complete his or her studies abroad and requires this documentation.
This young man’s story had a happy ending because he used his own resources to obtain the documentation, but not all students have the means to do so.
Automatic accreditation of Catalan
At present, students who finish ESO and have passed the subject of Catalan can automatically obtain a certificate of proficiency in the language, the so-called C1 level. This automatic system could change in the coming months, as one of the 50 proposals presented by the Consell Lingüístic Assessor to the Catalan Councilor of Education, Josep González-Cambray, to “promote the use of the Catalan language in schools” includes the creation of a test to gain access to this accreditation.
“In the last year of ESO, schools will offer the possibility of obtaining, by means of a specific test, an official certificate accrediting linguistic competence in Catalan (or Occitan, in the case of Aran) in accordance with the levels of the CEFR (Marco Común Europeo de Referencia para las Lenguas) « , the initiative states.
But none of this has been established in the case of Spanish certificates. The young baccalaureate student turned to the Generalitat in the first instance, but was unable to obtain this accreditation. He then turned to the Ministry of Education, which did not help him either, claiming that the competences had been devolved to the Catalan government. Sources at the Ministry of Education have explained that this department “does not issue certificates of Spanish language level”.
“We know of many cases of people whose rights are limited by legislation that does not go into what citizens need,” explains Elda Mata, president of the Catalan Civil Society (SCC), who is familiar with the case of this young man, who was finally admitted to the prestigious university. “He had his own resources and the university accepted his certificate, but what happens to all the other students who need to ask for it? Will they have to go to the Catalan department of Education and then to the Spanish ministry, which is empty of content? Does this person renounce the best education because political interests are put before citizens? These are the nuances that we civil entities have to bring to the political parties,” she adds.
“Regulating these competences corresponds to the Ministry of Education, but it leaves it in the hands of the autonomous communities to implement them”, explains the president of Impulso Ciudadano, José Domingo, to Crónica Global.
The Organic Law of Education 2/2006 organises special regime language teaching into three levels: basic, elementary and intermediate, while Royal Decree 1629/2006 determines the nature of the basic, intermediate and advanced levels of the official language schools. “The competences of these schools are also transferred to the Generalitat; its Secretariat of Linguistic Policy updates the diplomas and certificates equivalent to the certificates of knowledge of Catalan. But this Catalan regulation, which has no equivalent in other autonomous communities, says nothing about accreditations in Spanish,” Domingo adds.
In addition to the official language schools, another possible way to obtain accreditation is to study at the Instituto Cervantes. Sources at this institution explain to this newspaper that “the Instituto Cervantes issues DELE diplomas, which certify – once the exam has been passed – the candidate’s level of Spanish (from A1 to C2). But each academic institution, given that it is an English university, decides which diplomas or certificates are valid for admission”.
According to Carlos Conde, Professor of History in the Department of Humanities at Northumbria University (Newcastle), “indeed, the autonomous communities do not issue certificates of Spanish. Neither Catalonia nor any other. Nor does the ministry. The only way to obtain a qualification in the Common European Framework is through the Instituto Cervantes. Of course, the Cervantes exams cannot be taken à la carte. If you miss the last official call, you may not be able to obtain the certificate before the deadline for enrolment and/or scholarships at your host university. It also happens that there is not an Instituto Cervantes everywhere. In Barcelona, for example, there is no delegation.