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Segregation in schools: myth or relic?

segregation in schools of Catalonia

During the last couple of years, many Catalonian municipalities have faced a real challenge: due to the abrupt increase of immigrant inflow, the number of foreign students began to exceed the number of local students. For this reason, the parents of local students decided to transfer their children to more “favorable” schools.

The “shade of segregation” covered hundreds of Catalonian schools, and Olot municipality was not an exception. Thus, with the number of immigrants of Gambian origin increasing, the situation in the local schools significantly deteriorated. The municipality administration made a politically complex solution: all schools would require a certain share of the students coming from the families of immigrants, as well as students with learning disabilities.

For two decades already, Olot remains an example to follow when it comes to fighting against segregation in schools. Hence, every educational establishment accepts a significant percentage of students with special learning needs. This category includes children with disabilities, behavioral disorders, serious economic problems, and those who haven’t mastered the language of the country yet.

Montse Ryera, the Director of the Municipal Institute of Education and Youth of Olot (IMEJO), claims the student redistribution plan that allows equality to increase in schools is both ambitious and fragile. The reason is because it is based on several required conditions, including political consensus, work with the families, private school involvement in the process of redistribution, and additional financing.

As for other municipalities of Catalonia, it’s worth mentioning that Mataró and Banyoles managed to succeed in solving the segregation problem. In contrast, in municipalities like Terrassa, Sabadell, and Badalona, equalization of the ratios students from immigrant families and students with special educational needs still requires extra measures on behalf of local educational authorities.


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