Culture, Heritage and Diversity


Spain implements a practical approach to managing diversity!


Spain implements a "practical philosophy" to managing diversity. It is an approach which allows Spain to gain a "time advantage" over other European countries. It is guided by anticipation. It allows the country to predict future problems and reflect upon its own challenges to orientate future policies. In the article "Managing Diversity in Spanish Society: A Practical Approach" published on 4 August 2010, Ricard Zapata-Barrero argues that national legal or institutional aspects act like a wall. They block every attempt to bring about innovation and change to the countryís diversity management policies.


Spain is facing new challenges in managing its diverse population. Historically the countryís population comprised people from different linguistic, religious and international groups. Immigration flows constitute the new element of diversity in the local population.


The country is facing challenges in the education realm. A decentralised education system means that diversity is left to individual educational establishments rather than being regulated by national standards.


Various policy initiatives have been introduced to deal with diversity in the educational sector. The state administration has launched a new course called "Education for Citizenship". It aims at introducing intercultural educational material. However, in Catalonia, this is mainly understood as an attitudinal change amongst teachers who are entrusted to promote it among alumni. It also serves as a key instrument for cultural diversity problem solving through peaceful negotiation and dialogue. The focus of "Education for Citizenship" should be on legislating the limits of cultural diversity in the public sphere.


In 2007 the Catalonian Educational department introduced the language and social cohesion plan. It was created to reflect the increasingly diverse population found in the local region. It aims at generating an educational oriented environment around schools to aid pupils from all backgrounds succeed in their schooling and avoid marginalization.


Many schools have a specialist teacher or "cultural mediator". Their role is to help foreign children and parents socially to integrate into the local educational system. This is achieved primarily through resolving conflicts related to language difficulties or cultural differences. However teaching immigrant children in their mother tongue language is not part of the national school curriculum, nor is it considered a priority.


Combating discrimination at the workplace, ensuring equal opportunities is a future challenge facing Spainís policy makers and stakeholders alike. This behaviour found in the labour market and at the level of various organizations strongly influences social discrimination found in other areas of society.


From 2005 to 2008 the Catalan government introduced the "Citizenship and Immigration Plan". It has developed several reception initiatives which promote equal treatment and opportunities for immigrant workers. For instance it provides the possibility for foreign workers to learn the official languages (both Spanish and Catalan). It also offers courses on the country, its labour market and workers' rights.


The Spanish forum for social integration of immigrants has broadened its consultative and participatory capacity. The forum aids in promoting and elaborating upon studies and initiatives related to social integration of immigrants. It can also produce reports on proposals, plans and programmes related to immigration. The forum can do this on its own initiative as well when the national government requires it to do so. The 2007 strategic plan for citizenship and integration is an example of the contribution of immigration associations to the forum. The plan aims at laying down the ground work for future policy initiatives in the areas of education, admission, employment, social cohesion as promoting both equal opportunities, rights and duties.


It is a much more problem driven policy and practical answer oriented methodology that guides Spainís diversity management approach. It is in fact managing the time advantage and managing it with a pragmatic attitude, predicting future problems by looking at solutions adopted by other European states. Spain is currently evaluating and building upon its diversity policy to guide future programmes. The country has introduced various schemes in the areas of education, employment and governance to improve its approach to managing a diverse population.


For more information on Ricard Zapata-Barrero and his articles please visit:


By Thomas Pavan-Woolfe


Photo: Ricard Zapata-Barrero