Friday, June 26, 2015

Mono-lingual Catalan education in Catalonia

Here’s a good article summarizing why it sucks to be a student from a Spanish speaking family in Catalonia. Not only are the parents isolated from being involved in the school (100% of communications are in Catalan), but children are even being given bad grades for speaking Spanish on the playground. Adjusting for socio-economic status, kids from Spanish speaking family do significantly worse in school than their Catalan speaking peers.

Even for kids from Catalan families, their level of Spanish is so pathetically bad that they are basically unemployable anywhere else in Spain. Don’t even get me started on “oh but they learn Spanish from watching TV”.


Juan said...

I wasn't aware of all these Unesco research. Interesting, but it looks oriented more towards the education via a foreign elite language, nothing used in society

But there is the risk of negative effects whereby children fail to become linguistically competent members of their families and communities and lose the ability to connect with their cultural heritage.

This is hardly the case in Catalonia, where the gross of population is more or less bilingual. Most kids speak both tongues just by being in the kindergarden.
On the other side, there are plenty of research that claims development advantages in being bilingual from a young age.

No, I don't have an explanation for why the catalan speaker students do better. But being the whole Spain a system of insiders/outsiders, I wouldn't be surprised there was some positive discrimination in society at many different levels.

The above is aside of all the political indoctrination (from all sides that can do it) and the international handicap of using Catalan.

Anonymous said...

Well, for some reason Catalan students consistently score better at Spanish language "selectividad" exam than the average in the rest of Spain... Spanish learing in Catalonia must not be so bad after all.

This debate is really tiring. Finnish schools teach mostly in Finnish, Hungarian schools do so in Hungarian and Dutch schools basically teach in... Dutch. So in Catalonia schools teach mostly in Catalan. I could say the target is to ensure the survival of teh language, etc., but it's actually simplier: the target is to do as normal countries do. And if the counter-argument is "oh, but Catalonia is part of Spain", instead of reminding that Geneva is in Switzerland and Montreal in Canada, I'll say there goes yet another reason to win our independence.

Being Catalan and needing to constantly justify ourselves is really tiring... but I guess it only takes a Catalan to know that.


santcugat said...

The selectividad is defined by the government of Catalonia (and each autonomous community separately) and isn't consistent across Spain, so saying that Catalan students do better makes no sense.

The PISA results are also pretty meaningless as a measure of Spanish since those are done in Catalan as well, and students that don't speak it well enough are excluded from the exams.

And yeah, I'm not planning on moving to any other insignificant European country where they force my kids to learn their cute, but useless language.

Juan said...

So then there is no good data to determine whether the typical bilingual kid in Catalonia would improve their grades if they studied in the tongue of their parents.

I wouldn't move to a small-own-language country for a few years (or at least I would consider it as a big cost). But I would prefer my kid to learn Spanish and Catalan than Spanish, even if we were in Catalonia for a few years only:

Now.. if your kids already speak English, I'm not sure how much they'd benefit ;-)

Anonymous said...

Having mulled this issue over and over again, my take on it is that the more languages a child can master, be they Catalan, Thai or Neapolitan, the more flexible their mind is. I can easily understand 7 languages, including Catalan by the way, and I have no doubt that it has boosted my brain's ability to process data fast.

santcugat said...

Multi-lingual is great! I don't have anything against that. The problem is that the education system in Catalonia is entirely focused on Catalan at the cost of both English and Spanish.

For example, there are very few native English speaking teachers, since in order to be certified as a teacher (even in foreign languages), you need to have a Catalan proficiency certificate. This even applies to university positions.

For Spanish, the standard excuse is that kids will just learn Spanish from TV, so there's no need to teach it in school.