Monday, November 29

The use of Catalan in the classrooms in Catalonia is sinking among students

Catalan in the classrooms is in decline, despite the fact that the Catalan education law establishes this language as the mandatory language in schools and institutes. Beyond the controversy that usually goes hand in hand with the immersion model, with numerous judgments against it, at this time reality reflects that students are increasingly interacting less in Catalan with each other. A trend that, in a lighter way, is also observed among teachers.

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After more than a decade with the Catalan school language system in the political and media focus, for the first time the Generalitat has presented data on the actual use of Catalan in its schools. It has done so not from linguistic projects, which tend to include this language as a vehicle with some specific hours of English or Spanish, but from a survey of the Higher Assessment Council of fourth-year ESO students that was carried out in 2021 and also in 2013 and 2006.

From the report, presented jointly by the Education and Culture departments, it appears that the widespread use of Catalan among schoolchildren in the classroom has collapsed. If 67.8% used it “always or almost always” fifteen years ago, now they represent 21.4%. But not only that, the percentage of students who use it today “never”, “almost never” or “rarely” adds up to 49%.

This last trend, detected especially in the period from 2006 to 2013 and not so much in the current one, is the one that shows a greater distance between the reality of what happens in the thousands of Catalan educational centers and what the law stipulates, approved in 2010, on the obligatory nature of Catalan. If the focus is placed on the use of this language by students to address the teacher, those who use it always or almost always go from 56% to 39.4% (if we add those who do so “often” , drops from 64% to 60.8%).

Regarding the language used by teachers, a first glance at the graphs also shows a clear decrease in the use of Catalan. But it is rather that its use as a language of permanent use has diminished. In other words, it has basically relaxed, something that is known in all the centers, which for years have introduced some classes in Spanish and especially in English as vehicular languages.

In this way, the teachers who spoke it have always gone from 67.3% to 46.8%, but in turn those who say they use it often have increased, going from having a weight of 10.2% to 24% . And those who never use it are reduced from 10.5% to 3.1%.

According to those responsible for Education and Culture, who defend that Catalan should continue to be the vehicular language, the data is worrying but not alarming. “We found an infrequent use of Catalan in interactions between students and a tendency on the part of fourth year ESO teachers to change languages,” said Josep González Cambray, Minister of Education. “Until now we had perceptions, today we begin to specify it with data,” he commented.

Cambray and the Minister of Culture, Natàlia Garriga, have accompanied the presentation of the survey with what they have called a plan to promote the use of Catalan in the classroom, with training for teachers and promoting groups within the centers that promote the use of Catalan. Catalan in school spaces and also during recess or extracurricular activities. The idea is to start with 200 educational centers, in which indicators are already being developed, and give them autonomy to specify action plans.

“We recognize that not enough has been done in recent years in promoting Catalan,” Cambray intoned, a statement that comes just three years after the school language project for Catalonia was approved in 2018. In it, no reference was made to this problem, almost on the contrary, it was found that the educational reality is complex and that, without renouncing Catalan as a language of normal use, new vehicular languages ​​could be incorporated if the centers saw it necessary.

This new strategy of the Generalitat also comes when the immersion is more touched than ever at the judicial level. The Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) has already ruled that Spanish must also be a vehicular language, at least in 25% of the classes. The Generalitat appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, partly trusting that the new education law – the LOMLOE – would shield its model, but the courts said in March 2021 that it would not.

To all this, policy makers and linguistic experts must now also answer what have been the causes that have caused this progressive decrease in the use of Catalan in schools, all despite the fact that the norm has always been the same. In general, what has been observed is that the linguistic dynamics of the street, outside the school environment, where Spanish is the majority in many areas, have been penetrating the centers.

Beyond a possible relaxation of teachers when it comes to strictly complying with the immersion model, Xavier Vila, Secretary for Language Policy of the Generalitat, pointed to two causes. One of them is the increase in the use of participatory methodologies in class, with group work and other types of interactive activities. If before the teacher was the only issuer, and therefore controlled much more the language that was used with his master classes, now this has changed. “With this step, which is commendable, we have not taken into account that the rules of use that entered the school were those of the street,” said Vila.

The other reason is also logical from the social point of view: immigration. The arrival of new students who do not start from Kindergarten, and who assume Spanish as their first language of learning, would have often caused teachers and also their classmates to progressively opt for that language.

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