By Humphrey Carter
BALEARIC leader Jaume Matas yesterday hit back at the critics of his government's decision to let parents decide whether they want their children to be taught in either Catalan or Spanish. The previous left-wing coalition government's policy of enforcing Catalan in schools is to be phased out when the new school year starts and despite threats of industrial action from teachers, Matas said yesterday that parents should have the “right to decide, not government.” Matas also pointed out that its education policy was included in its campaign manifesto which received majority support in the Balearics.
Matas urged opponents to “respect” the rights of parents to decide in which language their children learn to read and write. “As a government we plan to comply with our promise to defend the Catalan language, but we're not going to force it upon people,” Matas added. “What would be ideal is that pupils, when they complete their secondary school education, are able to read and write in both languages, but we want to protect and preserve the Catalan language through choice,” Matas said yesterday during the San Sebastian festivities. The criticism has been fierce and former deputy leader of the Balearics, parliamentary spokesperson for the PSM Majorcan nationalist party, Pere Sampol, has accused Matas of wanting to “get rid of Catalan” as a language “in Spain we only speak Spanish,” he added. Sampol said that the education system over the past few years has worked and that by giving parents the choice, there will be a greater level of segregation in schools and the number of practical problems for students will be increased. Sampol also said that the government is giving immigrants the impression that “if they don't want to, it's not necessary to learn the Balearics' language.” The Majorcan nationalist accused Matas's conservative government of adopting policies more characteristic of Franco's dictatorship which shunned the use of Catalan. With the general elections looming, Matas has also been accused by the UGT General Workers Union of deliberately trying to create political tension.

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