Use of the Spanish language remains compulsory in Catalonia schools

by Lorraine Williamson
Spanish Catalonia

CATALONIA – The Supreme Court has ruled that Catalan schools must continue to teach at least 25% of classes in Spanish. The district council of Catalonia had appealed against this rule from 2014, but that appeal has now been definitively rejected. 

This has made it legally impossible for schools to fully immerse students in the Catalan language. The court decision was announced yesterday by Catalan ministers Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray of education and Natalia Garriga of culture. Minister Gonzàlez-Cambray called the verdict “another frontal attack by the judges on the Catalan education system that does not take into account sociolinguistic realities”. 

At the same time, the minister asked the schools to keep their ‘calm’ and to continue on the same footing as they are doing now, referring to the currently chosen language of instruction in the lessons. Gonzàlez-Cambray also said it is not for a judge to determine how many hours it takes to learn a language, calling the judgment an “expression of contempt by all education professionals.” 

Judicial battle 

The immersion model in the Catalan language in education has been under discussion for years. In 2014, the Spanish Supreme Court ruled at least 25% of classes in Catalonia must be taught in Spanish. This happened after several courts repeatedly urged the Catalan district council that the Spanish language should not disappear from education. 

Only Spanish if parents ask 

Since 2014, this rule has only been applied by schools if parents of pupils explicitly request it. However, in 2020, the court ruled even if parents do not do so, all educational institutions must give at least 25% of the lessons in Spanish. The Catalan district council appealed against that decision, which has now been rejected by the highest court. 

Cogesa Expats

According to the Minister of Education, since 2005, less than 80 parents asked the school to teach Spanish in addition to Catalan. According to Gonzàlez-Cambray, this low number indicates there is no linguistic debate of any kind within the Catalan education system. 

Social cohesion and equal opportunities 

Catalonia’s regional president Pere Aragonès called the Supreme Court’s verdict “a serious attack and lack of respect for all teachers”. The immersion model in Catalan, Aragonès says, is precisely a guarantee of social cohesion and equal opportunities throughout Spain. He considers the exclusive use of Catalan in education to be of fundamental importance. And, furthermore, will “take all necessary paths” to achieve this. 

Students speak Spanish with each other 

According to the minister, this is necessary because fewer and fewer young people speak Catalan to each other. Data from the Plataforma de la Llengua shows that only 14% of secondary school students and 35% of primary school students communicate with each other in Catalan. 

Also read: Catalan government wants to eliminate Spanish language on public television.

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