Catalonia defends schools over discrimination charges

3rd February 2006, Comments 0 comments

3 February 2006, MADRID – The Catalan government claims its education system is "exemplary" and does not discriminate against the Spanish language.

3 February 2006

MADRID – The Catalan government claims its education system is "exemplary" and does not discriminate against the Spanish language.

The head of the Generalitat Pasqual Maragall and the regional education minister Marta Cid addressed Catalonia's assembly after the case of a seven-year-old who was refused Spanish lessons at school.

The parents of a pupil at Feliu Veguès de Badalona in Barcelona had asked the school if their child could have four hours of his lessons in Spanish, as the current law on education in Catalan-speaking areas sets down.

The school refused, arguing it gave all its lessons in Catalan in response to the demand from most parents.

That decision was upheld by the Generalitat when the parents asked it to intervene.

However, the Supreme Court of Justice in Catalonia ruled that both were wrong. It ordered the school to make provision to teach the pupil privately in Spanish for four hours.

Maragall and Cid both seemed unembarrassed by the recent court decision, insisting there would be no changes to education in the region.

"The law will be applied, as it has always been," said Maragall about the case. "Linguistic policy is a bogeyman that some people bring out every time that Catalonia has wanted to take a step further in self-government.

"The model of coexistence and respect for diversity which exists in Catalonia is exemplary and has been recognised as such in international arenas. The Catalan system has been upheld by all judicial petitions, including the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court and will not be changed with respect to the 1998 law."

However, the conservative spokesman Francesc Vendrell argued that the case of the seven-year-old was far from an isolated one.

"It's curious that in this society which is plural, those who defend the plural Espana, multicultural and multilingual, defend a single Catalonia of one language and one culture," he said.

"It's incomprehensible that in this plural Catalonia those who want their children to be taught in their mother tongue have to go to the court."

Vendrell added that it was also a shame that students who wanted university classes in Spanish had to go to court to have their right enforced.

Enrique LF, the father of the seven-year-old child in the recent case, told the news agency EFE he had decided to take the matter to the court because "my son is seven and until now, hasn't had a single class of Spanish".

He said he hoped his victory would encourage other parents to stand up for their children's rights, but added that it was a shame that his son would have to be taken out of classes with his classmates to learn Spanish.

"If they had carried out the enrolments as they are supposed to, asking parents in what language they want their children to learn, my son wouldn't be marginalised like he is now," he said.

In 2004-5, only four or five children studied in Spanish, according to the region's education department. The community ombudsman Enrique Mugica said in 2005, he received 50 complaints about the failure to offer Spanish at school.

He said he has recommended to the Generalitat that when primary school pupils are enrolled, their parents are asked what language they want their children to have their main classes in. He advised that they should also be informed of their right to have their children study in their usual language.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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