Diary for the Newcomers' Programme is the title of a documentary that presents the reception process that students of compulsory education age who are new to Catalonia undergo in the territory's secondary schools. It takes an in-depth look at reception classrooms, where children of immigrant origin who have recently arrived in Catalonia and are unfamiliar with Catalan acquire a basic knowledge of the language so that they can participate fully in ordinary classes as soon as possible.
Diary for the Newcomers' Programme is intended for a wide audience, not all of whom are necessarily experts on education. People who have occasional contact with schools in a professional capacity (e.g. those who work for cultural or leisure organisations, or the media) may find it useful, as may students' parents and, generally speaking, anyone interested in the education arena, be it in relation to teaching and learning or to diversity and social cohesion.
The original version of the documentary is in Catalan (its title is El diari de l'aula d'acollida). Versions with subtitles in English and Spanish have also been produced, with a view to reaching a larger audience.
The LIC website, a resource (in Catalan) on language, literature, interculturalism and social cohesion in education for students new to Catalonia.
The Language Immersion and Use Service of the Government of Catalonia's Ministry of Education (both websites in Catalan).
A substantial number of immigrants have made their homes in Catalonia since the mid-1990s, resulting in the Catalan education system receiving a major influx of foreign students.
The Government of Catalonia's Ministry of Education established a Subdirectorate-General for Languages and Society in 2004, in response to the new challenges posed by organising the reception and integration into the education system of students of immigrant origin. Its aims in doing so were to promote equal opportunities and social cohesion through quality education for all, and to consolidate the Catalan language's status as the element underpinning a policy of multilingual, intercultural education.
The Subdirectorate-General for Languages and Society initiated Catalonia's Language and Social Cohesion Plan. One of the main measures envisaged in the plan was the creation of reception classrooms in primary and secondary schools attended by recently arrived students.
Faced with a surge in the number of students of immigrant origin in the education system, Catalonia's authorities took firm action to guarantee equal opportunities for all students, as well as to ensure that Catalan would be the lingua franca in which classes were taught in the territory's schools and act as a source of social cohesion.
While reception classrooms are undoubtedly the most specific resource for the integration of students new to Catalonia, they are actually just one aspect of much wider-ranging planning encompassing all the teaching staff of schools with such facilities, as well as various other professionals.
In the light of the quantitative and qualitative importance of the measures taken to aid the integration of students of immigrant origin, the Subdirectorate-General for Languages and Society decided to produce an audiovisual documentary explaining how reception classrooms work, as well as their role in nurturing diversity and their place in the Language and Social Cohesion Plan.
Diary for the Newcomers' Programme is a 23-minute documentary. It explains the integration process that students new to Catalonia undergo in the territory's secondary schools and traces the various steps they usually take between their arrival and attending school.
The documentary is presented in the form of a fictitious student's personal diary, beginning with them leaving their country of origin and ending with them participating fully in a Catalan school's activities. To explain the process in question, the documentary sets out what appears to be a single case study, but is actually a composition based on the experiences of three state-run secondary schools in the Catalan province of Barcelona (Olorda Secondary School in Sant Feliu de Llobregat, Pius Font i Quer Secondary School in Manresa and Santa Eulàlia Secondary School in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat) and input from a range of people who work with students of immigrant origin (including members of governing bodies, reception classroom tutors and advisors). Such students' progressive adaptation to their new situation is depicted metaphorically by a tree whose foliage thickens with the addition of new leaves formed from pages of the diary.
Diary for the Newcomers' Programme is divided into the following chapters:
1. Initial reception
2. Starting out at school and in the reception classroom
3. Reception classroom organisation
4. Tutor training
5. Relationship with parents
7. After the reception classroom
The documentary aims to provide an insight into what reception classrooms are like and, in general, to explain the nature of all the different resources used to help students of immigrant origin to adapt.
Reception classrooms are intended for students who have been in Catalonia for under two years. Their basic purposes are to make such students feel welcome and to help them learn Catalan as quickly as possible. All teaching is conducted in Catalan in Catalonia's schools, so the sooner a student is able to use the language competently, the sooner they can follow the school's standard curriculum (with a minimum of assistance) as part of an ordinary class. As the documentary shows, reception classroom students are also taught subjects other than Catalan, if they need such instruction due to a lack of prior schooling or for other reasons.
The reception programme for students new to Catalonia encompasses much more than simply working in a specific classroom under the supervision of a specialised tutor. As the documentary explains, the programme certainly revolves around the reception classroom, but actually consists of a range of organisational and methodological measures involving everyone with professional ties to a given school. It should be noted that students taking part in the reception programme are assigned to an ordinary class when they begin to attend school. Thus, from the outset, they spend some of the school day in the reception classroom and the rest working with the other members of their class in an ordinary classroom.
The documentary points out the flexible nature of the reception programme. Students new to Catalonia may enrol at a school and begin receiving tuition in a reception classroom at any time during the academic year. Similarly, they can stop taking part in reception classroom activities as soon as they are deemed sufficiently proficient in Catalan to be able to communicate effectively in an ordinary classroom.
Various people with professional functions directly related to students of immigrant origin appear in the documentary, including:
· Members of governing bodies.
· Reception classroom tutors.
· Ordinary class tutors.
· Teachers who teach subjects other than languages.
· Language, interculturalism and social cohesion coordinators.
· Language and social cohesion advisors.
· Translators/interpreters, who assist in initial communication with students' families.
A number of activities not directly geared to recently arrived students but nonetheless related to their reception process also appear in the documentary. The activities in question include meetings and workshops designed to help the parents of such students integrate into the school community, and training sessions for new reception classroom tutors on specific aspects of their job.
Diary for the Newcomers' Programme provides a straightforward, non-specialised explanation of how Catalonia's secondary schools deal with students new to the territory. The documentary is intended to be both an informative resource and a means of raising awareness.
The need for Catalonia's secondary schools to adapt to a type of student that has only very recently emerged in the territory has entailed problems and uncertainty. In many cases, however, it has also led to significant changes for the better for those who have enthusiastically risen to the challenge, and has, in turn, brought about changes in schools and their teaching staff in general. The arrival of students of immigrant origin should thus be viewed as an opportunity for improvements and progress in schools. Nurturing such a perception can help to counter negative stereotypes that exist both in and outside schools in relation to immigrants.
As stated in the documentary, Catalonia seems to have developed a satisfactory approach to integrating students new to the territory into its education system. The challenge currently facing the system is to ensure that, once they have acquired the necessary language skills, such students are able to follow the standard curriculum with equality and equal opportunities guaranteed.
Setting up a reception classroom in a school entails employing a reception classroom tutor and equipping the facility with hardware, software and teaching resources specifically geared to students of immigrant origin.
There has been a steady rise in the number of reception classrooms in Catalonia (649 in the academic year 2004-2005, 938 in 2005-2006, 1,081 in 2006-2007 and 1,162 in 2007-2008).
Diary for the Newcomers' Programme is one of the resources used by Catalonia's language and social cohesion advisors, and is also available in the territory's Teaching Resource Centres. Anyone with an interest in education and members of the public in general can view it online via the Edu3.Cat education portal.