The Catalan government has decided to estimate and inform the Superior Court of Justice (TSJC) of Catalonia about the steps it is taking to respond to the decision that requires at least 25% of teaching hours in Spanish is needed. Yesterday, the Generalitat’s Department of Education sent a document to the court stating that ongoing legislative changes—specifically, reforms to the language policy law announced this week—will guarantee adequate attendance of Spanish at school. The executive of Pere Aragonès – who says it is based on studies on linguistic uses in the classroom – however, avoids setting percentages. The great unknown is whether, despite the avoidance of the reference to 25%, the arguments would be sufficient to convince the magistrates that their resolution has been complied with.
The government’s strategy to convince the TSJC that it is not necessary to set a minimum percentage of Spanish has been in the works for weeks. Yesterday, with the end of the period set for voluntarily executing the sentence, the Generalitat took a step forward. Given the certain perspective that institutions for bilingualism would ask the court for the forced execution of the sentence, the Government de Aragones has drawn up a battery of arguments to avoid the 25%.
The Catalan executive announced that the ongoing reform of the Language Policy Act, which dates from 1998, normalized the use of Castilian. And he said that Education has initiated procedures to elaborate a decree on the linguistic governance of the educational system, for which it has initiated prior consultation. With these actions, “Catalan and Spanish will be included in the Centre’s linguistic projects to achieve their full domains,” Education said yesterday.
However, these introduced legislative reforms do not envisage officially recognizing Spanish as a vehicular language (teaching language), despite the fact that successive decisions by the TSJC, the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court have ruled. Told that it should be.
The government has also strengthened the academic front: it has commissioned the University of Barcelona to conduct a study on the use of language in the classroom and will provide a recent report by the cindic de grés (Catalan ombudsman), Rafael Ribo, which underlines That the actual use of Spanish in schools (including playgrounds) is already more than 25%.
In December 2020, the TSJC issued a ruling on Spanish, which was particularly relevant as it increased the obligation to teach in that official language to at least 25% of the entire educational system, and which shakes up the current language immersion system in Catalonia. Have given. The Generalitat provided the court at that time only a sample of the average number of Spanish hours in the centres: 18% in primary, 19% in secondary and 26% in high school.
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The court deemed the percentage unacceptable, in a ruling that is very clear in its terms: the Generalitat must ensure that at least 25% of teaching hours are taught in Spanish. With an addition: In addition to the Spanish language class, at least one other “basic” subject must be taught in that language. This is a “minimum” percentage, below which it is possible to speak of only “symbolic” or “residual” use. Less than 25%, the ruling indicates, is an attempt against the legal system and the Constitution. Based on this data, the court allows the administration “or educational centres” to distribute the hours according to the place of residence according to the linguistic “condition of normalization” and also, “inclusion of third languages”.
Since last November the Supreme Court confirmed the TSJC’s decision, and in January this court declared it final, the Catalan government tried to fight for linguistic immersion, but without risking potential disobedience. The reform of the 1998 language policy law – an agreement between Junts, ERC, PSC and Commons closed this Thursday, though it is now faltering – represents another step in that direction. Neither that lesson nor the education decree would set the percentage for Spanish.
Unlike the one written in 1998, the new text indicates that, despite the fact that Catalan is the language of vehicles, “Spanish is also used”. Use will be determined by each center’s linguistic projects, with one premise: that both languages must “guarantee adequate attendance in the curriculum and in each center’s educational projects”. These projects should be adapted according to the “sociological situation” of each centre.
The 2020 decision urged the Generalitat to “adopt the necessary measures to guarantee the use of common vehicles of the two official languages in the Catalan educational system”. This idea is in line with Generalitat’s approach. But it is also true that the sentencing, in line with jurisprudence, entailed marking a threshold below which the Generalitat’s action would be outside the law: 25%.
A few days ago, the Cindic de Greggs published a report according to which no language is “residual”: Catalan is used during 66% of school days, and Spanish, during the remaining 33%. But the report—which is based on a survey of more than 52,000 elementary and ESO students—also includes the use of languages outside the classroom (for example, in the playground).
Once the period of voluntary execution of a sentence has expired, the parties present in the judicial proceeding may request its forced execution. The state attorney’s office, which acts on behalf of the Ministry of Education in the judicial process, may do so. But Pedro Sanchez’s government has not yet clarified its decision. The law, in any case, provides that any “affected person” (whether natural or legal) may take steps to claim forcible execution whenever the court thinks they have the legality to do so . Associations that defend the use of Spanish in schools, such as the Assembly for a Bilingual School (AEB), have already announced that they will request the execution of the sentence.
If Section Fifth of the TSJC – which issued the motion – believes this or other entities are legitimate, it will initiate an enforcement process. After that I will ask the education department to find out what action it has taken to comply with the sentence. This has already been answered. Entities can seek execution in any case and it will be for the court to decide whether it is satisfied or not. Experts in the controversial-administrative field, consulted by this newspaper, point out that a sentence like 25% Spanish would be difficult to implement, as it would carefully monitor the situation in the classrooms. “The court can forcefully impose fines if necessary, but everything is very complicated. Even if they tell you that they apply 25%, how can you be sure that they do?” asks a controversial magistrate.
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