Photo: English being taught in Spain's schools
As Spaniards face high unemployment in their native country, many are looking abroad for work, but coming face-to-face with the issue of poor foreign-language skills.
Spain’s unemployment rate currently sits at 20 percent, which is double the total European average, and as Spaniards are finding it necessary to look for work elsewhere, language is becoming an issue.
Spain has to take seriously the need to reform its education, particularly in terms of teaching English,” said Emilio Cuatrecasas, chairman of one of Spain’s largest law firms,
To address the issue, some business leaders have called for drastic changes to the Spanish education system in hopes that the next generation will not have the same language restrictions. Students are now being taught by English-speaking teachers as part of their daily classes.
Adults are learning other languages as well, including German, as job offers have been coming from the fellow European country who boasts the continent’s largest economy.
In Madrid in particular, the changes to the education system have already begun, as the regional government has made one-third of schools bilingual, hoping that by 2015, that will increase to half.
Though children are being taught English in many schools now, there is still the issue of the unemployed adults still trying to learn the language as well. One language school owner stated that “the level of English is lower than 15 years ago,” which would indicate a decline in Spain’s education standards.
Even Spanish politicians do not speak English, as displayed in both Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the leader of the main opposition Popular party, Mariano Rajoy.
As for younger generations, while 30 to 50 percent of the bilingual schools’ class work is in English, Lucía Figar, who oversees the regional government’s education policy, said teachers could still improve their own English.
A British Council official said that raising English standards in Spain “isn’t an overnight happening,” but compared to Portugal and Italy, “Spain is considerably ahead in the introduction and development of solid subject-based teaching in English in the primary and secondary sectors.”
And progress can already be seen, as 90 percent of the primary school students in the bilingual program have passed their English tests from Cambridge University.