In Spain are mobilizing parents and opposition to the reform of the school law, which has just cleared the most important hurdle in parliament – with a majority of one vote in the first reading. Protests are called for on Sunday in 30 Spanish cities. More than one and a half million signatures have already been collected. When it comes to education, language and religion, old fronts are breaking open in Spain and the country is divided.
The left-wing coalition’s bill has now managed to unite the divided right-wing opposition. In parliament, MPs from PP, Vox and Ciudadanos protested for minutes against the plan of socialist education minister Isabel Celaá, shouting “freedom, freedom”. The new law is “authoritarian” and “Stalinist”.
The fierce criticism of the reform, with which the government wants to ensure more equal opportunities, is sparked on several points. Above all, however, it is about the Spanish language, which, according to opponents of the law, threatens to lose its primacy in teaching. Only seven years ago the conservative PP had made Spanish the most important “vehicle language” in schools with an absolute majority – also in autonomous regions such as Catalonia, where Catalan is also recognized as an official regional language. In future, it should be left to the regional governments to decide what part which language will play.
In the state schools in Catalonia, the “Inmersión lingüística”, immersion in the Catalan language, is required by law. Practically all subjects are taught in Catalan. There are only a few hours for teaching Spanish language and literature. In everyday life in Catalonia, more than 50 percent speak Spanish, which almost as many call their identity language.
Should the separatists be appeased?
The previous law did not result in more Spanish being taught in Catalan schools. The separatist-led regional government ignored several rulings by the Catalan Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court that gave Spanish parents the right to have their children have at least a quarter of all classes in Spanish. The opposition accuses the government of trying to get the separatist Catalan ERC party to vote for the new state budget by reforming the school law.
The second point of contention is the “Colegios Concertados”. These are private schools that are partly financed by the state. The majority of them are in Catholic ownership. The government wants to promote the state schools as the “backbone” of the education system more, because in their opinion the private schools accept too few students from socially disadvantaged families and migrants.
The church is also upset
The “Colegios Concertados” are to receive less public funding and no more free municipal land for new buildings. In schools with gender segregation in the classrooms, state funding is to be completely cut. A quarter of all Spanish students go to publicly subsidized private schools.
The Catholic Church is also upset that religious education should lose its importance. In future, it will no longer count towards the final grade and when applying for scholarships. The regional governments led by the PP are threatening not to implement the reform.