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Staff Reporter ONE of the new initiatives in the education policy which will be introduced by the Popular Party if it wins the elections will be to start teaching English to children from the age of three, it was announced by Mariano Rajoy, the party's candidate for Prime Minister. But, this will not mean any great changes in the Balearics, according to Joana Rosselló, a director general at the local government's education department, who said that an initial programme to introduce a foreign language to the classroom was introduced in the Balearics in the year 2000. This, she said, made the Balearics a pioneer in this field. Rosselló explained that while the law on education encouraged introducing a foreign language in the last year of infant education, that is between the ages of five and six, smaller children in the Balearics have been learning a foreign language since the 2000/2001 school year, when the measure was introduced in an experimental form in 18 schools. Now, most of the schools, state and private, start teaching English in the first year of infant education, with three year olds. This initiative has been backed by the Balearic government through a teacher training plan which offers seminars in the five teachers' centres in the Balearics. It also awards grants worth 12'500 euros, so that teachers can spend a summer at Dublin University to improve their knowledge of the language and their teaching skills. At present, just under 30'000 children in the Balearics attend infants' school, 23'359 in Majorca, 3'499 in Minorca, 2'968 in Ibiza and 122 in Formentera. The teaching of Catalan was banned during the Franco dictatorship and although it was spoken in the home, very few people could read or write it. This gradually changed with the arrival of democracy, although at first with the advent of tourism and the high number of marriages between Majorcans and foreign nationals, many people preferred to study languages such as English, French or German. Now the pendulum has swung the other way, but the Popular Party, which governs the Balearics, is currently under fire for its Catalan-language policy. While the previous left-wing coalition government favoured Catalan over Spanish, and education was, in general, given in Catalan, the PP says that parents may now decide in which language their children receive their education. The Catalan-speakers themselves are divided over whether or not children should be taught standard-Catalan, as spoken in Catalonia, or the regional version spoken in Majorca. The electoral programme of the PP also announces that the teaching of art and music will be given a boost. Local teachers recently staged a protest at cutbacks in the number of hours dedicated to these two subjects. Rosselló said that from the 2004/05 school year, the Balearic government will increase art classes from 14 to 17 hours a week. She also pointed out that third and fourth year secondary students have three hours a week of music or the arts, plus another three hours a week of the subject of their own free choice.