Joaquim Coll, 30 March 2022
Pupils in a primary school class / EUROPA PRESS
Those of us who tend towards optimism wellcome the bill presented last week by PSC, ERC, Junts and Communs to modify the law on linguistic policy as a way of complying with the ruling of the TSJC, of obeying without saying so, which is, on the other hand, a quite usual way of proceeding in nationalism.
It is true that the minimum percentage of 25% is not included, but what is really substantive is that Castilian is once again the language of instruction and learning, although the responsibility for applying it in educational centres is removed. By obeying half-heartedly, the Generalitat is only going to gain time, nothing more.
Junts’ withdrawal a few hours later, the CUP’s harsh communiqué, the anger of both Òmnium Cultural and the ANC, the manifesto against it signed by 90 names of the most radical separatism (Torra, Ponsatí, Llach, etc.) or the demonstration called by USTEC for 2 April, are examples that confirm the optimistic thesis: we are at the beginning of the end of a monolingual education model.
However, both ERC and the Commons have loudly reiterated that this modification does not seek to comply with the ruling, but rather the opposite, that it is a way of circumventing it, of “shielding immersion”, because without a resolution from the Regional Ministry of Education imposing this minimum in Castilian on schools, the management teams will be able to turn a deaf ear to the legislative change, especially if there are no complaints from families.
In this sense, what the court says about the explanations that the regional minister Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray sent last Friday about how he is going to enforce the sentence, accompanied by the manipulated report of the Síndic de Greuges (Catalan Ombudsman) so that the Spanish spoken in the dining room and playground also counts in that 25%, will be key.
At the same time, we must not forget the complaint filed with the Public Prosecutor’s Office by Ciudadanos for prevarication against the Catalan education authorities, or the demand by platforms such as Escuela para Todos for the TSJC to set the deadlines, the means and the body to enforce the ruling without further delay.
Therefore, the court’s reaction will be decisive, although it is unlikely to act immediately. It will probably have to wait another month for the parties’ arguments to be resolved. Thus, the 2021-2022 school year will end without the ruling having been applied. Now, let us imagine a scenario in which the TSJC is satisfied with the Generalitat’s explanations or does not order anything very specific. What would happen then? How could this change in legislation affect it? Would it really be as innocuous as the most militant defenders of bilingüism denounce, or as dramatic as the supporters of (only) Catalan-language schools fear?
There are big questions here. I believe that in the medium term we would be heading towards an atomised linguistic school model. Some schools, especially quite a few upper-middle-income charter schools, would introduce the vehicularity of Spanish in their offer, perhaps even more than 25%, as the law does not set percentages. There would be more trilingual schools. And in quite a few metropolitan public schools, the clandestine use of Castilian would be normalised, since the law of the Parliament allows it.
In other schools, on the other hand, it would continue to be done as it is now: no Spanish at all, except for the subject of language and literature. The linguistic Taliban of the management teams would maintain the immersion model and celebrate the fact that they have overturned the 25% ruling. As the change in the law is ambiguous in its application, a heterogeneity of situations would be created.
However, the TSJC does not like to be mocked, especially after the explanations given by two of the signatories of the agreement, ERC and Comunes, boasting that it is a cosmetic change and reproaching Junts for dissociating itself from a move that allows “shielding immersion”. It is very difficult for the court to remain impassive and not coercively force the Generalitat to execute the sentence, or even require by letter to all schools the minimum of 25% in Spanish for the 2022-2023 school year.
Finally, there is a confusion that the PSC has skilfully played with. It has managed to impose on ERC its thesis of “making immersion more flexible” (with the help of Irene Rigau), but flexible immersion is a contradictory concept, an oxymoron. Because one of two things is possible: either we have a monolingual school model or a model of linguistic conjunction (Catalan/Spanish with varying percentages depending on each sociolinguistic reality). But it can’t be both at the same time: immersion or conjunction.
Catalan society is in a mess. When asked in the street about immersion, people understand different things. It is a concept of chewing gum, like the right to decide years ago. It is often confused with not separating pupils by language, with linguistic desegregation, although that is precisely what may end up happening if the TSJC does not take action again to enforce its mandate in the education system that is fed by public funds. In the meantime, the elites, including the pro-sovereignty ones, will continue to send their offspring to totally private schools where the whole language issue is not raised and where trilingual education is carried out as a matter of fact. That’s all.