Monday, June 13, 2016

Effective Educational Evolution: Spain’s Application of Article 8 of the ECRML

by Cathy Swanson

Cathy Swanson is a Masters student in Accounting with a Minor in Spanish. She is planning on working full-time at Ernst & Young’s Financial Services in Chicago and is interested in traveling in the near future. She wrote this text as a student enrolled in 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe’ in the spring of 2015.

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It is impossible to summarize the progress made by Catalan, one of the regional minority languages of Spain, in the areas of culture, officialdom, and formal uses (Pons and Vila 2005). In fact, in many respects, Catalan might no longer considered a minority language in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, as it has become the predominant language of education from kindergarten to university and the local government in the autonomous region of Catalonia (Vila i Moreno 2008). The criteria used by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages to define regional or minority languages include historicity, territoriality, linguistic difference, and numerical inferiority in a State, but the wording also suggests that effective minority status “justifying the adoption of the various protective and promotional measures” also plays a role. In the case of Catalan, it can be argued that thanks to thoughtful acquisition planning and the 1978 Constitution that designated Castilian and Catalan co-official languages of Spain, Catalan might be considered less of a minority language today than three decades ago.

This progress is due in large part to the implementation of the Charter.

Regional/Minority Languages of Spain & Portugal [Image Source]
So what is this document, exactly? The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML) is a European treaty adopted in 1992 by the Council of Europe. Its primary objective is to protect and promote historical regional and minority languages in Europe. Spain, a country hosting a variety of minority languages such as Aragonese, Basque, Catalan, Valencian, and Galician, to name a few, ratified the Charter on April 1, 2001. Following the ratification, Spain issued a series of periodic reports documenting its progress in support of the Charter. The Committee of Experts acts as a monitoring mechanism to evaluate each State’s application of the Charter by publishing periodic evaluation reports. The Committee is comprised of one member from each State Party with an emphasis on independence.

Spain submitted its periodic reports in 2002, 2007, 2010, and 2014 in accordance with the Committee of Experts’ 1st – 4th monitoring cycles, respectively. In response, the Committee of Experts published its evaluation reports in 2005, 2008, and 2011 (the 4th cycle evaluation report has not yet been adopted). Within these reports, the Committee of Experts evaluated Spain’s fulfillment of specific criteria of the Charter, focusing on each regional or minority language spoken in Spain. Part III of the Charter discusses measures to promote the use of regional or minority languages in public life, with Article 8 specifically focusing on education.

Committee of Experts [Image Source]
According to the longitudinal evaluations of the Committee of Experts, Spain has shown continued progress in applying Part III Article 8 of the Charter. In the 2005 evaluation report, the Committee of Experts concludes that Spain has effectively fulfilled its undertakings; however, “not all the aspects of the educational system in use in Catalonia are entirely clear, especially as far as pre-school education is concerned” (Committee of Experts evaluation report 2005). Despite this lack of clarity, the Committee of Experts applauds Spain in its “impressive reversal” of the trend following Francisco Franco’s thirty-year dictatorship. Subsequent to this period of maximum submission for the Catalan language, Catalan has become the default language in the educational system in its territory and the language of instruction for the larger part of the last generation of young people who have been educated in Catalonia (Committee of Experts evaluation report 2005).

Aules d’acollida [Image Source]
The Committee of Expert’s 2008 evaluation report discusses Spain’s progress during the 2nd monitoring cycle. According to the report, Spain provides additional clarity by describing the bilingual or “linguistic conjunction” system, and the Committee of Experts understands that this is the system prevailing at all levels of education, including pre-school (Committee of Experts evaluation report 2008). Spain has described “linguistic conjunction” as an educational system that ensures teaching of the language, provides children with basic opportunities for socializing in Catalan and facilitates the integration of pupils outside Catalonia (2007 Spain Periodic Report). This model has proved to be critical for Catalan teaching and the social integration of increasing numbers of foreign pupils. The new transformation of the educational system includes aules d’acollida (welcoming classes) and plans d’entorn (environmental plans) that integrate immigrant children in their local environment and raise awareness in the community of the need to help newcomers to learn the local language (Vila i Moreno 2008).

Overall, Spain is making tremendous strides in applying Article 8 of the Charter within its borders, especially in the autonomous region of Catalonia. The application of the Charter across Europe will inevitably continue to evolve over time. That being said, it is the responsibility of Spain, as well as the other ratifying countries, to monitor and evaluate the programs and legislation currently in place in order to ensure the continuous promotion of protection of their regional or minority languages.

References:

http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/education/minlang/Report/default_en.asp#SpainSpain’s Periodic Reports & Committee of Experts’ Evaluation Reports

Pons, Eva and F. Xavier Vila i Moreno. 2005. Informe Sobre la Situaci6 de la Llengua Catalana (2003-2004). Barcelona: Observatori de la Llengua. http://www.observatoridelallengua.org/arxius_documents/informe6_ ok.pdf

Vila i Moreno, F. Xavier. 2008. “Catalan in Spain.” in Multilingual Europe: Facts and Policies edited by G. Extra and D. Gorter. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, p. 157-183.

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