Saturday, September 07, 2013

Another Fine Mess: Balearics' trilingualism

The Balearics High Court did indeed move swiftly in responding to the call from unions to suspend the introduction of TIL ("tratamiento integrado de lenguas") and so prevent it from being applied from the start of the new school year. The court agreed with the unions, who had argued that the Balearic Government had not consulted in the way that it should have done in finalising the legislation that enacted the implementation of TIL (trilingualism) in June this year. The court considered that the appendix to the bill which set out the schedule for implementation amounted to a "fraud" in that relevant educational bodies were not involved in the scheduling decision.

The court's decision was made around midday yesterday. By late afternoon, the government announced that an extraordinary meeting of the government's council had ratified an amendment which annulled the offending appendix. The minister for education, Joana Maria Camps, explained that the problem had all been one of a procedural error but that it was one which had no political consequences as it was the type of slip-up any government administration could make.

Yes, she really did say this. Now, having realised that there had been a cock-up and having been told that there had been by the high court, the government has merely removed the appendix from the bill, said that consultation didn't matter anyway and that, as the court had only said that the scheduling was wrong, will still go full speed ahead with implementation minus any scheduling apart from that which will involve TIL being brought in at the start of the school year. The court did not consider that the principle of TIL was at fault, just the procedure.

If you are lost by the legal logic of all this, then you are not the only one. But regardless of this logic or absence of logic, the children of the Balearics will, as from 13 September (and then 16 September, which is when the school year really gets underway) be taught in three languages - Catalan, Castellano and English; those children to whom TIL applies, as it doesn't apply at all levels.

Whether this teaching does in fact start on time will depend on the unions, of which there is more than one, in addition to the assembly of teachers on the Balearics. It overwhelmingly called for strike action against the introduction of TIL. There has been some union movement to hold back on strikes because of a question raised as to its legality (a question mainly asked by the right-wing Balearics Institute for Family Policy), but this in itself has raised accusations that the government is acting in a "dictatorial" fashion in applying legal interpretations that wouldn't normally be applied to the notification of strike action.

One of the unions, STEI-i, believes that there has been "dictatorial" behaviour by the government in the way in which it has circumvented the High Court's decision, and all unions and the opposition PSOE party are in agreement that the government has acted in a unilateral fashion in not having come out and engaged in a full and proper debate over the past few months.

PSOE has called for all the leading politicians at the education ministry to resign or to be dismissed, which of course won't happen, and for President Bauzá to come and front up in public about the whole affair. Not untypically for political leaders in Spain (think Rajoy for example), Bauzá just melts into the background when the heat is on. Instead, he leaves the spin and the explanations to the unfortunate Joana María Camps; unfortunate because she is clearly out of her depth. It should be remembered that she only became education minister a few months ago when the previous minister, Rafael Bosch, lost his job in a cabinet re-shuffle. Bosch lost his job because he was not a fanatical proponent of linguistic policy that might undermine Catalan (and the fuss about TIL has less to do with English being brought in than with Catalan being downgraded). Camps was parachuted in because she would do she was told, even if she has little idea what she is doing.

The chances are that the new school year will witness total chaos and that the chaos will last. Who in all of this is most to blame? Both government and teachers. The government because of its mismanagement of its own policy and the teachers, who are just too obstinate to accept a system which might actually be of educational value.

It is a total mess, and the underperforming public education system in the Balearics is about to become more underperforming. It can't be anything else if the teachers are on strike.

Any comments to please.

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