The Class, the new documentary from El Punt Avui TV, follows the English lessons of a primary class in a Barcelona public school, allowing viewers a privileged glimpse into the inner-workings of Catalonia's education system.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 pm, El Punt Avui TV's English Hour features The Class. What was your involvement?
–Let me start by saying that the El Punt Avui group has become a pioneer in incorporating English programming into its schedule. It is the parent company of Catalonia Today, which for some time has been providing content in English for El Punt Avui's Sunday supplement, Presència. I have been involved with all of these projects since the beginning and now we are taking advantage of the opportunities provided by having a space on a television channel.
The Class was also your idea. How did it come about?
–The original idea was mine, but straight away I took steps to bring people from the audiovisual world into the fold, as well as taking advantage of the human resources in my own professional sphere. The initial idea was to put a camera in a primary classroom during English lessons in a public school in a Barcelona neighbourhood, placing the lens at the level of the children to observe or document the learning process – in this case, the English language – as well as the dynamics of a working classroom.
You are a lecturer at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra and president of APAC (Associació de Professors d'Anglès de Catalunya). What was their role?
–A decisive role in many ways. For a start, the audiovisual department of the UPF provided interns for the production, in collaboration with the production company Playtime, directed by Marta Andreu. The director of the masters programme in documentary creation in UPF, Jordi Balló, lent us his wisdom and experience in developing the concept. As well as that, APAC teachers offered their valuable perspectives on certain aspects of the production.
What was the attitude of the Departament d'Ensenyament to this ‘intrusion'?
–In my opinion, excellent, because it was not seen as an intrusion but rather as an opportunity to share with society what happens in a public school. The department was instrumental in facilitating access to the schools, while the management of the Splai school in Nou Barris, the parents of the pupils and the teacher, Oscar del Estal, have all shown extraordinary generosity. That is why I like to say that The Class presents English lessons in a primary class as a public and moral space from within the public education system.
The Class is accompanied by the programme Storytime. What is that?
–The series explores questions that go beyond learning English, but we wanted to complement it with more conventional materials that are nevertheless decisive when learning languages: stories and extended exposition in spoken language. For Storytime we have three native English teachers who act as narrators, each day telling a different story. For this we have the British Council in Barcelona to thank, and especially its Young Learners Centre.
What effect could this have on the field of learning English in Catalonia?
–I have no doubt that El Punt Avui Televisió is making linguistic history. And it is worth mentioning the rest of the programming in English, coordinated by Marcela Topor from Catalonia Today, which includes interviews, debates, and so on. I believe it represents an unprecedented explosion of the English language in our media. If schools, teachers and society sign up to it, we are potentially facing a genuine qualitative step forward. Perhaps now more than ever we can start to glimpse the possibility of a genuine trilingual society.