In Spain parents and the opposition are mobilizing against the reform of the education law, which has just overcome the most important obstacle in parliament – with a majority of one vote at first reading. Protests were held in 30 Spanish cities on Sunday. More than 1.5 million signatures have already been collected. When it comes to education, language and religion, old fronts open up in Spain and the country appears divided.
The left-wing coalition bill has now managed to unite the divided right-wing opposition. In parliament, MPs from the PP, Vox and Ciudadanos protested for minutes against the plan of the Socialist Education Minister Isabel Celaá, shouting “freedom, freedom”. The new law is “authoritarian” and “Stalinist”.
The ferocious criticism of the reform, with which the government wants to guarantee greater equal opportunities, is ignited in several places. Above all, however, it is the Spanish language, which, according to opponents of the law, risks losing its primacy in class. Just seven years ago, the conservative PP, with an absolute majority, made Spanish the most important “vehicular language” in schools, even in autonomous regions such as Catalonia, where Catalan is also recognized as an official regional language. In the future, it will be up to regional governments to decide what share each language will have.
In public schools in Catalonia, “Inmersión lingüística”, immersion in the Catalan language, is required by law. Virtually all subjects are taught in Catalan. There are only a few hours for Spanish language and literature lessons. In everyday life in Catalonia, over 50 percent speak Spanish, which nearly as many describe as their language of identity.
Should the separatists be appeased?
The law in force until now has not led to more Spanish teaching in Catalan schools. The separatist-led regional government ignored several rulings from the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court of Catalonia that gave Spanish parents the right for their children to receive at least a quarter of their education in Spanish. The opposition accuses the government of trying to persuade the Catalan separatist party ERC to vote for the new state budget by reforming the law on schools.
The second point of contention are the “Colegios Concertados”. These are private schools partially financed by the state. Most of them are Catholic. The government wants to give more support to state schools as the “backbone” of the education system because, in their view, private schools welcome too few students from socially disadvantaged and migrant families.
The church is also upset
For example, the “Colegios Concertados” should receive less public funding and no more free communal land for new construction. Schools with separate classes by gender should be completely cut off from state funding. A quarter of all Spanish students attend publicly subsidized private schools.
The Catholic Church is also upset that religious education is said to be losing importance. In the future, it will no longer count for the final grade and for applying for scholarships. Regional governments led by the PP threaten not to implement the reform.