For the legal protection of language immersion

The new wording of the state education law may provide some breathing space for Catalan

In the midst of the ocean of bad news about the pandemic, this Tuesday there was a positive one, at least for the Catalan language. The PSOE, Unidos Podemos and ERC are negotiating in Congress an amendment to the new education law that minister Isabel Celaá is preparing. It would changing the wording of the previous law, which established that Spanish also was a vehicular language in the classrooms. Specifically, what is being negotiated is replacing this section with one that establishes that the aim of the educational system must be the knowledge of Spanish and of the corresponding co-official language, if it is the case. In other words, the law's focus would shift from the method (which language is to be used in the classroom) to the goal (that children become proficient in both languages).

This correction would provide a break for the Catalan school model, known as linguistic immersion, which has been under threat since the Constitutional Court's ruling against the Statute of Autonomy and the approval of the previous education law. We must remember that there have already been several rulings establishing that classes in Catalonia must be at least 25% in Spanish. Yet whether it should be 25%, 30% or 15% should not be decided by judges but by specialists, depending on the linguistic and educational project of each centre and its context.

The system has to be efficient, that is to say, it has to guarantee the knowledge of both languages, and therefore it has to be able to adapt to the sociolinguistic reality of each territory. For this reason, in some cases it may be necessary to increase the hours of Spanish or, conversely, to reinforce Catalan as much as possible. But it must be made clear that there is no right to be taught in a particular language, as the ex education minister José Ignacio Wert wanted: he went so far as to allocate thousands of euros to finance private schooling in Spanish for anyone who asked for it. Fortunately, the demand was so small that the initiative failed.

But if one thing is proven by the interference of justice in the educational model is that more legal protection is needed. That is why the amendment being negotiated in Madrid is a good sign and a step in the right direction. And above all it represents a step forward by the PSOE in demonstrating its commitment to the multilingual reality of the State. Because this reform should have an effect not only in Catalonia, but also in the Valencia region and the Balearic Islands, where the right wing is very hostile to education in Catalan, and also in Galicia, the Basque Country and Navarre.

In Catalonia, the biggest party in Parliament, Ciutadans, was clearly born with the desire to strain the model of coexistence, and put the school in its sights. Fortunately, after three years of being the first force in Parliament, its project is going down and has not been consolidated. Catalan continues to be the language of social cohesion in Catalonia. But this is not enough. We must fight to obtain the same legal status that existed, at least, until the ruling on the Statute, and to have the necessary tools to guarantee the future of the language.

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