Fighting talk as law reopens old wounds

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Catalonia is already fighting a war with Madrid over controversial education reform which would require separate classes for students who want to be taught in Spanish, and undo decades of efforts to preserve the Catalan language.

Premir Mariano Rajoy denied on Friday that his plan threatens languages such as Catalan or Basque, but said he was determined to overhaul Spain’s education system, which has the highest drop-out rate in Europe.

Thousands of people marched throughout Spain earlier this month in protest over the proposed reform, dubbed the Wert Law after education minister Jose Ignacio Wert. The law also proposes mandatory college-admissions tests and allowing gender-segregated schools to receive state subsidies.

The biggest demonstrations were in Catalonia, where language has always been a sensitive topic. Catalan was banned during the 18th century by Philip V and again for almost 40 years during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, who died in 1975.