Carmen Tovar Sánchez
Jorge Ángel Berné Espinosa
Verónica Díez Girado
National Institute for Education Evaluation
Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports

Language and Literacy

Spain is a country historically characterized by a rich cultural and linguistic diversity. This diversity is legally acknowledged in the Spanish Constitution of 1978 and in the Statutes of Autonomy of the 17 autonomous communities and the cities of Ceuta and Melilla, across which authority in Spain is territorially distributed and administered.1 Although the official language in Spain is Castilian Spanish, four other official languages are used in the different autonomous communities: Catalan, Galician, Valencian, and Basque. The language of instruction is Castilian except in communities with another official language, in which case schools use two official languages during instruction.

Castilian and Galician are spoken in Galicia, with Galician predominantly used in preprimary education and both languages used in primary and secondary education. In the Valencian community, Castilian or Valencian is used in schools, depending on family choice and the location of the school. There are different models of instructional organization, but most schools offer a bilingual program. In Catalonia and in the Balearic Islands, Catalan is the language of instruction in primary and secondary education. In Navarre and the Basque Country, Castilian and Basque are used with variations based on the linguistic model chosen by the parents and the schools: language of instruction in Castilian or Basque and the other official language as a subject, or an intermediate option, with different weight assigned to each language.2-7

As in other European countries, the number of schools in Spain that have adopted a Content and Language Integrated Learning curriculum, in which some of the curriculum subjects are taught in English, have grown considerably over the past decade. With the help of central authorities, schools in each of the communities are introducing these programs.8

Over the past decade, the Ministry of Education (Ministerio de Educación) and the autonomous education authorities have placed great emphasis on competencies, particularly in the area of reading literacy. Since the Organic Law of Education introduced key competencies to the curriculum in 2006 in accordance with recommendations from the European Union, the cross‑curricular nature of these competencies and the need for all subjects to contribute to their acquisition has been emphasized. Moreover, the Organic Law for the Improvement of Educational Quality (LOMCE) in 2013 reinforced the model based on competencies, and also made it mandatory to devote a daily period of time to reading activities in primary education. It also recommends that secondary schools continue to pay close attention to language activities.