On March 15, the Navarrese government’s Department of Education approved a groundbreaking scheme to pool public school resources in the neighboring towns of Luzaide (Valcarlos in Spanish), Hegoalde, and Arnegi (Arnéguy in French) in Iparralde, during the 2016-2017 school year.

This plan has been on the table since since September 2015 and responds not only to educational, cultural, and linguistic demands, but also to a demographic deficit in this rural mountain area. Barely two miles separate the towns and next fall, if fully approved by all interested parties, there will be a regular exchange of pupils between its two public school systems.

640px-Potloden_in_bekers

This new educational initiative seeks to encourage cultural and linguistic exchanges of all colors. Photo by Onderwijsgek. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

According to the draft agreement, preschoolers from both towns will attend the public school in Luzaide every morning and study primarily in Basque. Then on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons, the same joint groups will attend school in Arnegi and study primarily in French. Meanwhile, elementary school students from Luzaide will study French in the public school in Arnegi on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons.

As well as being a necessary educational initiative, it is also hoped that joint schooling will help social ties between Luzaide and Arnegi, as well as fomenting the trilingual nature of this particular geographical area straddling the “two” Navarres, and serving as the basis for the future development of the area.

While the plan has still not be officially rubber-stamped by the respective authorities on both sides of the border, all relevant parties (including parents) have expressed their approval, and it is just a matter of time before it this becomes a reality. In many ways, then, this little (and often overlooked) rural corner of the Basque Country will be at the vanguard of multi-lingual and multicultural education at a European and even global level.

See a report on the scheme at the Noticias de Navarra site (in Spanish) here and at Mediabask (in French) here.

Equality, Equity, and Diversity: Educational Solutions in the Basque Country, edited by Alfonso Unceta and Concepción Medrano, is a collection of different articles on various aspects of the Basque educational system, with a special emphasis on efforts to emphasize equality in the classroom and the challenges faced by a multilingual society.