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Education reform protects Spanish more than other official languages

Source: El Pais - Thu 6th Mar 2014
Education reform protects Spanish more than other official languages

The government's education reform, known popularly as the Wert Law after Minister José Ignacio Wert, affords the Spanish language a level of protection that other official languages do not get.

Specifically, the draft decree that is the backbone of the LOMCE - the new education law - forces regional governments to pay for private schooling in Spanish when this option is not available in public schools and parents demand it.

The measure was tailor-made to address problems raised in Catalonia, where all classes are taught in Catalan (Spanish is taught as a second language, on the same level as English or French). Several families went to court to demand the right to educate their children in Spanish, triggering favorable court rulings but a refusal to comply by Catalan authorities, who defend their "immersion" model.

The new legislation does not contemplate the need to protect the right to study in Catalan, Valencian, Galician or Basque because Madrid figures that "regional governments are already taking care of that."

Ministry sources said that the law is "trying to alleviate a problem affecting Castilian Spanish, which is not properly looked after in certain regions."

But there have been several recorded cases in the Valencia region involving parents who wanted to educate their children in Valencia but found there were no public options in their places of residence. Unlike Catalonia, the Valencia government offers parents a choice between mostly Spanish classes with a couple of courses taught in Valencian, or mostly Valencian with two classes in Spanish.

The parents of children in three Valencia grade schools took their case all the way to the Valencia regional High Court, which ruled in their favor and said their local schools should offer coursework in Valencian. The decision was three years coming, though, and by then one family from Xirivella decided to commute to the nearby town of Picassent, where there were public school vacancies offering mostly Valencian schooling.

On February 21, this family demanded the same rights as parents who want their children to be educated in Spanish, as per the new LOMCE. This would mean a right to take their children to a local private school offering coursework in Valencian and having the government reimburse their tuition fees. So far, there has been no official reply.

Asked about the issue by EL PAÍS, ministry sources said the matter "is being analyzed" and that the general attorney has been asked to provide a technical reply, "which will take a few days."

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