María Jesús Cañizares, 12 May 2022
The President of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, and the ‘conseller’ of Education, Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray / EUROPA PRESS
This body, which reports to the Presidency, indicates that the reform of the Law on Linguistic Policy must recognise the use of the Spanish language in the classroom and guarantee flexible regulation.
A report by the Institute for Self-Government Studies (IEA), an advisory body of the Generalitat which reports to the counsellor of the Presidency, supports that the reform of the Law of Language Policy must recognise the possibility of Spanish being used as a language of education and guarantee a flexible regulation that allows schools to adapt to linguistic realities. This document considers that these changes are appropriate in order to respond to the ruling of the High Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) which requires at least 25% of teaching time to be taught in Spanish.
The 35-page study was written by the director of the IEA, Joan Ridao, and Gerard Martin, professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Barcelona. Its title is very clear:: “The amendment of the regulations governing language in education in response to the ruling of the TSJC of 16 December 2020”. In other words, while the great agreement reached by ERC, Junts per Catalunya, En Comú Podem and PSC, which contemplates the reform of the Law on Linguistic Policy as a means of resolution – it should be processed through the urgent procedure – and continues to be blocked by the resistance of the neo-convergencia people, has stalled, the jurists shed light on how these changes should be made so that they have legal rigour.
In its pleadings to reject the forced execution of the 2020 ruling, the counsellor of Education alluded to this legal reform, which is unlikely to be in force before the 15-day deadline given by the TSJC to the Generalitat to ensure that these minimum quotas of Spanish are met in the classroom.
The IEA report supports this approach, since “a modification of the Law on Linguistic Policy, which is configured as a law of basic development of the Statute, would give a greater degree of solemnity to the approved regulation, given that, on the one hand, it is a law of extraordinary relevance, which reflects the essential consensus of the Catalan political forces and of society itself in the linguistic sphere and which, on the other, has only been modified twice in specific aspects since its approval in 1998”.
In other words,” it adds, “a modification of the Linguistic Policy Act would consolidate and demonstrate a new and significant political consensus on one of the fundamental aspects of Catalan society, namely the language regime”.
A second option would be to amend the Catalan Education Act, an alternative proposed in a joint report by the Directorate General for Litigation and the Directorate General for Constitutional Rights and Affairs of the Generalitat’s Legal Office, dated 3 August 2021, to implement the TSJC ruling. “This option could be justified by the more specific nature of this law regulating the education system in Catalonia, but it would lack the institutional relevance enjoyed, as has been said, by the Law on Linguistic Policy”, say Ridao and Martin, who insist on the need for the new law to have a broad consensus, and to meet the dual criteria of simplicity and precision.
Both warn that “the possibiity of using Spanish in education is not a matter for the Catalan Parliament to decide, but rather, according to the interpretation made by the courts, it is a necessary use that derives directly from the rules that make up the block of constitutionality. Therefore, the legislative amendment has recognised this possibility of use”.
The experts also maintain that the wording of the law “must incorporate flexible regulation in the system for the use of languages” because “linguistic realities are not homogeneous throughout Catalonia and, of course, in all schools”. These differentiated solutions “should aim to ensure that pupils, on completing their studies, have a perfect knowledge of Catalan and Spanish”. For this reason, they believe that the education administration should be proactive and give maximum support to schools when it comes to setting the rules for the use of languages.
Schools are the ones that best know the linguistic reality of their pupils, so the new regulation could give them a decisive role in setting the rules for the use of languages in their educational activities, within the framework of their educational and linguistic projects”. The report also advocates a regulation that takes into account Aranese as an official language of Catalonia and adjusts its use in the education system. In reality, both the agreement reached by ERC, JxCat, En Comú Podem and PSC and the IEA’s opinion are not very different from the document “The linguistic model of the educational system of Catalonia: the learning and use of languages in a multilingual and multicultural educational context”, approved when Josep Bargalló was regional Minister of Education. The document highlighted the need to make immersion more flexible in order to adapt it to the sociolinguistic reality.