Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Demonstration in Santiago

Supporters of the Galician language gathered in the Plaza de Obradoiro on Sunday to protest against the PP's proposed education changes. The Police estimated 20,000 were on the march while A Mesa pola Normalización Lingüística (Standardisation board) who organised the event, said the number was over 50,000.

Silvia Pontevedra, writing in El País, claims it is common knowledge that the square holds around 15,000 and that it was filled twice over. Whatever the case, the Galician president Feijóo claims language is not about numbers and reiterated that imposing a language carries risks.

PSdeG (the Galician branch of Spain's governing socialist party) claim that Feijóo and his new Xunta are the real threat to the Galician language.

Among the demonstators, according to El País, were defenders of the national "reunificão" of Galicia and Portugal, member of teaching and farming unions, student collectives, cultural groups and some political groups who counter-demonstrated against the march organised by Galicia Bilingüe in Santiago in February.

Gloria Lago, president of Galicia Bilingüe said that it is very sad that people want to demonstrate to curb the freedom of their fellow citizens and that this is a manifestation of linguistic intolerance.

What is Galicia Bilingüe?

According to the organisation it is a non-profit making organisation whose principal aim is to defend the rights of parents (or indeed students) to choose the language they are to be educated in, and generally to grant citizens the right to choose which of the two official languages (Spanish or Galician) the governmental bodies communicate with them in.

However, the organisation's detractors see Galicia Bilingüe as little more than a thinly veiled smokescreen created or backed by the new PP led Xunta in order to further marginalise the Galician language, and to re-establish or strengthen the role of Spanish as the main language in the education system and other walks of life.

Intolerance and Imposition

There is a lot of talk about linguistic intolerance and language imposition in Galicia at the moment. Some believe that it is Galician that is being imposed upon Spanish speakers, while others believe that Spanish is still the dominant language and that Galician needs to be defended and given more support. Whatever the case, it is clear that if the PP proposals to reduce compulsory Galician to only one third of teaching time materialise, then Spanish will be the predominant language in the classroom as the planning and knowhow is not in place to give English a significant role in a plurilingual education system.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Education Policy

The new PP administration has suggested reducing subjects taught in Galician to a third of the school syllabus with 66% being taught in Spanish and English and with parents having some input into the process. The 2007 decree legislated that (at least) 50% of subjects be taught in Galician.

The PP election manifesto stated that parents should be allowed to choose the language their children are taught in, but how that is to work in practice is anybody's guess. Since when were parents responsible for deciding education policy?Will provision be made for those parents who would prefer their children to have a Galician-based education? What part will English play in this and are students and teachers up to the task?

The whole issue provides more questions than answers at the moment.