Lithuanian as a second language for Polish students

Marian Paluszkiewicz

Matura exam is comming. On Monday, 2nd June, the school graduates will take the exam in national language. Unfortunately, for the students of minority schools it will be a tough time.

Lithuanian language is one of the obligatory Matura exams, but students have the right to choose whether they want to take the school exam or the state one. Students are required to pass the state exam in order to get to the universities. In addition, students are obliged to choose the second state exam. It can be: Mathematics, Biology, History, Geography, Chemistry, Physics, Information Technology, foreign language, Musicology, Technology and Fine Arts. One student is allowed to take up to six, or possibly seven exams.

For the second time, students from the schools for national minorities in Lithuania will take the Lithuanian Matura exam on the basis of the new law. In March 2011, politicians amended the Act on the Education System. They standardized the Lithuanian language exam and they decided that Polish, Russian and other students  will have to take the exam in Lithuanian language as their second native language, two years after the amendment. This time is considered as sufficient to compensate the differences in teaching Lithuanian language in schools of national minorities, as well as in Lithuanian language schools.

The decision of the Ministry of Education caused not only the huge disappointment as a result of many ignored protests of Polish societies in Lithuania, but also the shock and stress among teachers and students, who are afraid that they will not manage to compensate the differences in school programmes in such a short time. One or two years are in their opinion not sufficient to learn the new material, which is too much different in Lithuanian schools and in schools for national minorities. Although Polish school students had about 800 hours less than their friends from Lithuanian schools, they had to learn the same programme and take the same exam. Fortunately, they students of schools for national minorities could make more mistakes and write 100 words shorter essay. The  succeeding  year after the standardizing the exam did not change a lot. There are still lacks in the programme which introduces the gradual teaching of Lithuanian language starting from the first grade. Moreover, there are not properly prepared textbooks and still students have no time to compensate the differences in material, despite their strong willingness.

– The worst of all is that we did not have enough time to learn everything what we have been asked to, even if the lessons were always conducted in a hurry- says Angėlė Jundo, the Lithuanian methodologist from the Jan Śniadecki’s Gimnazjum in Soleczniki.- The cirruculum requirements are too wide. We did not manage to discuss deeply all writers. We could only get to know some of the positions.

Similar situation takes place in other schools- students and teachers are not able to fulfill all the requirements in such short time that are, in their opinion, too wide.

– Our Lithuanian teacher was always warning us that we will not manage to discuss all the programme requirements, so we decided to do it with the most probable pieces of writing that were possible to appear in the exam- says Anna Vostruchovaitė, the student from the Adam Mickiewicz’s Gimnazjum in Vilnius.- We have not have enough time to discuss all the basic recommended works. Maybe we would manage, if we learned very superficially, however, our teacher said that it is better to learn less but more precisely, than more but less precisely.

The school graduate is calm when it comes to exam results. She admits that she had many mock exams with very good results, so she does not have to be nervous.

-I am only afraid that there will appear hard topics and writers I do not know- sais Anna.

She is taking three exams: Lithuanian language, because it is obligatory, Polish language, as it is her native language, and English language. Besides, she has already get to Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, where she will study painting. She admits that she could take the school exam in Lithuanian, but  she does not want to worsen her results.

However, not everyone is as calm as Anna is when it comes to exam results.

– Maybe it will not be as easy for us as for Lithuanians- says Magda Kabelis from Adam Mickiewicz’s Gimnazjum – My mock exam’s result was not very high, but I hope that I will manage to learn as much as it is possible. I am only afraid of works that I know only to some extent. And there is also a grammar! I have to try hard, because this year the evaluation will be more rigorous than last year.

 And there is a lot to do.

– Our Lithuanian teacher is very demanding. She pays attention mainly to flawless essays- their structure, linguistic correctness, our knowledge about authors and books- says Anna Vostruchovaitė.

Even if students will handle with the literature topics, they may have problems with linguistics correctness. It is impossible to learn it in a short time, because the national language is something that people learn, not something that they unintentionally acquire, like the native one.

– Students from polish schools make more grammar, stylistic and spelling mistakes- says Angėlė Jundo , the Lithuanian teacher- they think in Polish, translates their thoughts from their native language, and that is why their utterances are not correct.

Students who take an exam in Lithuanian this year, will have the chance to choose one of four suggested topics: two opinion essays and one story. During the exam, they can use only the Modern Lithuanian Dictionary. The exam will last four hours. The state story have to have at least 500 words, the school one- at least 400. In the opinion essay, students have to base their reflections on the works of one of the three given authors. In the story, students have to analyze the topic using works of two authors: one of them they are asked to choose from the three of them given, and they are free to choose the second one.

Among the authors given in the programme, there are: M. Mažvydas, M. Daukša, J. Radvanas, M. K. Sarbievijus, K. Donelaitis, A. Mickevičius, A. Baranauskas, V. Kudirka, Maironis, J. Biliūnas, J. Tumas-Vaižgantas, V. Krėvė, V. Mykolaitis-Putinas, J. Savickis, J. Aistis, H. Radauskas, S. Nėris and many more.

Students pass the exam when they get at least 30% of points given for writing the story.

Jarosław Narkiewicz, the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament and the chairman of Parliamentary Committee of Education claims that all the amendments concerning problems of national minorities will appear on the agenda of the spring plenary session this year.

-When will the problems be discussed specifically? Our coalition partners claim that before the next elections they will surely not raise that issue- says Jarosław Narkiewicz, Member of Parliament on behalf of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania- The declarations are that the proper time for that will be after the elections. We submit our suggestions, but they are not included in meetings. We are trying to make amendments to Law on Education System considered by other MP’s, because if they will be rejected, we would reconsider them only for six months. Unfortunately, the time is running out and this issue is still postponed.

Saulė Vingelienė, the director of the National Examination Center, informed the Kurier that this year there will be different assessment of the exam in Lithuanian language for ‘students with Lithuanian language of teaching and national minorities, that will concern the linguistic correctness, expressiveness and formal uniformity of the text’. She noted that project of assessment of exam works in Lithuanian language in years: 2016, 2018 and 2020, is aimed to standardize the assessment of all the students who take an exam in Lithuanian language.

Source: http://kurierwilenski.lt/2014/05/16/maturzysci-z-polskich-szkol-zloza-litewski-jako-drugi-ojczysty/

Tłumaczenie by Irmina Myśliwiec w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Irmina Myśliwiec within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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