Legal battle intensifies over use of Galician in schools

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Apr 8 16:06:18 UTC 2005


Legal battle intensifies over use of Galician in schools
Cangas 3/24/2005 , by Alexandre Girldez

The Galician NGO A Mesa pola Normalizacion Linguistica has announced that
it will demand the presence at Courts of all education inspectors to
explain the infringement of the Decree on Galician use at schools.
According to A Mesas data, two out of three schools and high-schools use
Galician less than they should. For the past year A Mesa and A Xunta (the
Galician government) have been engaged in a legal battle on the use of
Galician at schools.

Galician language and literature are compulsory subjects, just as Spanish
language and literature is. In order to avoid Galician being a foreign
language in its own country and to incorporate Galician as a regular
working language, in 1995 a Decree (247/95) ordered that Galician should
be used to teach other subjects. Therefore in schools and in high-schools,
besides language and literature, at least two more subjects must be taught
in Galician, that is, the 30% of the curriculum. Books and other resources
must also be written in Galician.

A Mesa, the chief Galician language association, blames A Xunta and its
inspectors for not making schools and high-schools respect this minimum
use. According to A Mesa, 68% of education centres infringe the law and
even some of them force students to buy books in Spanish, stated the Mesas
Secretary, Mara Xos Jamardo.

A Xunta itself does not agree with these figures. The Galician government
states that 96.66 % of schools and high-schools comply with the law.
However, this percentage does not include private schools, which 27 % of
Galician students attend.

Contacted by Eurolang, the Head of the Linguistic Policy Department, Xos
Pablo Gonzlez Moreiras, accused A Mesa of distorting the facts. The Decree
fixes which minimum subjects must be taught in Galician. If a teacher in
one of those specific subjects does not use Galician, A Mesa consider that
the school does not comply with the law, even if all the other teachers
use Galician, stated Moreiras. But he admitted not to having figures on
the global use of Galician by teachers, though it would be interesting.

And what happens when a teacher who should use Galician does not? Until
now s/he would receive a spoken request to change, but last year the
Education Department demanded a written request. All evidence shows that
this compromise is being carried out; if not, we would consider taking
disciplinary action, said Moreiras. This would be something new because
since the entry into force of the Decree in 1995 there has been no
disciplinary action.

Defenders of Galician and A Xunta have fought for years on the use of
Galician at schools. A year ago, teachers and students went on strike to
demand the complete fulfilment of the Decree. After that action A Mesa
decided to increase the pressure upon A Xunta by taking it to court.

Education is still the main domain where the Galician language loses
speakers: at the end of school and high-school there are many more Spanish
speakers than when children enter the education system, says A Mesas
president, Carlos Calln. Sociolinguistic data indicates that Galician is,
by far, less used by youngsters and this trend has increased in recent

Controversy continues over the 30 % use of Galician as a teaching medium.
Meanwhile the Plan of Linguistic Normalization, recently approved by the
Parliament, aims to achieve the use of Galician in at least 50% of
subjects. A Xunta has not still said when this modification is to be
implemented, but A Mesa has already announced that it will fight for a
quick implementation. The controversy over the use of Galician in
education is set to continue. (Eurolang  2005)

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