Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Should We Blame PSOE For The TIL Fiasco?

Prior to the regional election in 2007, Francesc Antich, the leader of PSOE, was asked about trilingual teaching in the Balearics. Antich responded by saying that all schools should have access to teaching in Catalan, Castellano and English, but he added that his party would not be issuing any laws or decrees on the matter.

The question about trilingual teaching had cropped up because a pilot system was in operation. Introduced by the Partido Popular government of Jaume Matas from 2003 to 2007, there were a total of 26 schools, mostly private, which were undertaking teaching in the three languages. The Matas government had toyed with trilingualism but only to an extent that other regions of Spain had - Catalonia and Valencia, for example, where there had been limited experimental systems for some years. The only region in Spain at that time which had anything like an established system was the Basque Country; it had started experimentation back in the early 1990s.

It is important to understand that these systems were voluntary ones started in these regions. There had never been any mandated requirement for there to be trilingual teaching, either from the central government or from Europe (the latter has no competence for directing what language or languages should be used for teaching in schools in the European Union). Nevertheless, they were a reflection of a growing desire to improve and widen language skills across Europe and of multi-lingual teaching systems in certain parts of Europe, mostly of a limited nature rather than nationwide or fully formalised.

The Matas scheme had run up against a couple of significant obstacles. One was the lack of English ability among teachers. The other was the cold reception the idea got from the STEI teachers' union, one that had long been dominated by a nationalist element (nationalist in terms of Mallorcan nationalism and so with a distinctively pro-Catalan bias). STEI was certainly not open to an expansion of the Matas pilot scheme.

Under this pilot, the schools which had dabbled in trilingualism had divided teaching hours up so that education was 40% Castellano, 40% Catalan and 20% English. Had he won the election in 2007, Matas (or someone else in the PP once Matas ran into his problems with the courts) had planned to extend the scheme to all schools. He lost and so he never did and was also unable to implement a training programme for teachers (part of which would have involved language training in the UK).

Antich won the 2007 election. Or rather, his party won sufficient seats in parliament to be able to cobble together a coalition that was known both as the "pact" and as the "hexagon" of six nationalist and leftist parties.

Even had Antich been in a stronger position in 2007, would he have been inclined to have continued with trilingualism in some form or another? When he said in answer to that question just before the election that there would be no decree, he was referring to a decree that the Matas government had issued in 2006 which had paved the way for trilingualism to have been introduced (possibly) for the school year starting in September 2007. He was not minded to accept a decree issued by the PP, but that didn't appear to mean that he wasn't open to some form of trilingualism, if only as a continuation of the pilot.

What happened though was that, having formed his hexagonal government, Antich scrapped the Matas project. He said, famously and vaguely, that there would be "English for all but without reducing the presence of Catalan". In 2008 his government went further. It issued its decree by which Catalan would be the only language in Balearics schools.

It is easy to overlook what happened during the Matas and Antich administrations when considering the fiasco with trilingual teaching (TIL) under the Bauzá government. The TIL battlelines had been drawn in 2007 and made wider by that 2008 decree. When it came to the 2011 election, Bauzá, despite what he claims, did not expressly say that a PP government would introduce TIL (the manifesto doesn't mention it as such). Had he made his intentions clearer and had he adopted a style that was more inclined to dialogue than diktat, there might not be the mess there now is. Bauzá can and should be blamed for the fiasco, but Antich and PSOE should also share the blame, as must the teachers. They were fully aware of what Matas had introduced and had intended. Bauzá was equivocal, but there was always the likelihood that trilingualism would come back onto the agenda, and it did.

PSOE could have been more broadminded in 2007, but driven by a determination to undo the Matas experiment and with its coalition partners in mind, it wasn't. It missed an opportunity. And if PSOE form the next government, history will no doubt repeat itself.

Index for September 2014

Alcanada - 20 September 2014
Almonds - 21 September 2014
Catalonia independence - 22 September 2014
Cristòfol Soler - 11 September 2014
Dishonourable Balearic Government - 27 September 2014
Formula One in Mallorca - 5 September 2014
Holiday lets - 6 September 2014, 12 September 2014
Hollywood greats in Mallorca - 16 September 2014, 17 September 2014, 18 September 2014
La Beata procession politicisation - 9 September 2014
Loryc and early years of Mallorcan motoring - 24 September 2014
Magalluf and police corruption allegations - 3 September 2014, 15 September 2014
Magalluf drugs operation - 14 September 2014
Mallorca Day and Day of Virgin of Lluc - 7 September 2014
Mateo Isern versus President Bauzá - 8 September 2014
Mayors and electoral reform - 1 September 2014
Moors and Christians fiestas and Unesco - 25 September 2014
Oktoberfests in Mallorca - 28 September 2014
Playa de Palma/Magalluf obsession - 2 September 2014
Resort regeneration - 13 September 2014
Sewage plants Playa de Muro/Son Bauló - 4 September 2014
Storms - 10 September 2011
Tourism volume reduction - 23 September 2014
Tourist spend fall - 26 September 2014
Trilingual teaching - 30 September 2014
Vita Delta closure - 19 September 2014
Unstable government under Bauzá - 29 September 2014

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