“It would be worse, than last year”. Lithuanian language examination today

BFL/Andrius Ufartas

This year the state Lithuanian tongue matriculation exam are taking more than 22 206 candidates from the whole Lithuania, including students of Polish schools. For the second year it is a standardized exam – the same for graduates of Lithuanian schools and schools of national minorities. “This examination then there is a failure of the education system” , ” There is no need to expect good results” – said interlocutors.

During the exam school graduates have only one task – to write an essay. There are four topics to choose from: two on the essay and two on the literary essay. Students must write at least 500 words (points will be reduced if there is less than 470). They also have to choose one of three authors, because essays must be based on examples of their works. In case of the literary essay students should base their works on two authors: one of the list and one arbitrarily select from the school program. It can be a Polish author as well.

Last year, taking into account the difference of hours in school program, privileges were provided. Graduates of schools of national minorities could write less words, had bigger choice of authors and were able to make more mistakes. However, the decision on immunities was appealed in a court, which claimed that The Ministry of Education and Science had not been able to demonstrate that  these additional privileges (except already provided) are necessary, and therefore does not violate the principle of equality.

“This year the fear is much bigger than ever before. You cannot expect good results of the Lithuanian language exam. After abolishing the privileges results will be even worse. Everything depends on students, on their mood. It is hard to guess whether intensive work that accompanied them for the last three years, will bring tangible effect “, said the director of the Vilnius A. Mickiewicz Gymnasium Czesław Dawidowicz. In his school, 52 students from 72 have chosen the state exam. Last year, the number of students willing to take the exam was much smaller.

“This is a disturbing trend. It can be explained by the fact that lots of graduates have gone to study in Poland, some of them are going to study abroad and the results of the Lithuanian language exam are invalid. One more reason is the fear of students. They are afraid of the results so much that choose not to take the exam at all. Because it can badly affect their total score as it is taken into account when entering any studies in Lithuania,”, said the director.

Vice-minister of Education, Edita Tamošiūnaitė, reassures that the difference in evaluating of works is preserved. For example, students from Polish schools can make more mistakes and even use dictionaries during the exam. Vice-minister, representing the government of The Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania(EAPL; lit: Lietuvos lenkų rinkimų akcija or LLRA;pl: Akcja Wyborcza Polaków na Litwie or AWPL) is definitely against the standardization of the test.

“EAPL insists on making two different exams and will keep doing this until it succeeds. Students, who are learning Lithuanian as the state language should be able to comply the requirements. That is what we are taking care of, “, emphasized E. Tamošiūnaitė.

Words, which are kept repeated in every discussion on the exam are simple and boring to death: according to the Law on Education (2001), last year students were sitting the same examination for the first time. The difference of hours in school program of Lithuanian and Polish schools was harmonized three years ago. As a result, last year’s high school graduates had less than 700 hours of Lithuanian tongue than their peers at Lithuanian schools. The difference is being reduced every year so that students will have the same chances at the exam. But it would take years to get used.

“Leaving aside the complete unpreparedness of the educational authorities to such radical changes as well as the political overtones of these changes, we believe that it is impossible to compare the native language with the learned one.No formal “privileges” in the evaluation of the exam can compensate the difference in the perception of foreign language and mother tongue, in which students formulate their thoughts. The proof of this are the results of the first standardized examination of Lithuanian language in 2013.Members of the Forum of Polish Schools’ Parents in Lithuania conducted a study of examination results, which was published by the National Examination Centre (pl.Narodowe Centrum Egzaminacyjne; lit. Nacionalinis egzaminų centras). This study clearly show that the results of students from schools of national minorities are much worse since the changes were implemented, despite their “privileges”. The results of this compulsory examination deteriorated the average scores of our students, putting them on much worse starting position to enroll at the universities, “, this is the official position of the members  of the Forum of Polish Schools’ Parents in Lithuania, who have been fighting against the amendment to the Law on Education and for eliminating it for a few years. The parents initiated collecting signatures against the law- finally more than 60 thousand were collected. They were also members of the working groups aimed to reach an agreement on the law. But they got nowhere.

While adults are discussing the problem, students have no choice and are getting used to present conditions. The fact that  matriculation session began during the school year does not help.

“The end of the school year in our gymnasium was made earlier this year. And during the last week students and teachers of Lithuanian tongue were working hard for 4 hours per day in order to make up for what they can. It seemed to succeed partly, but such work cannot compensate for the 12 years of studying this language at Lithuanian schools, “, said  Czesław Dawidowicz.

“Alumni are studying, doing everything they can at a cost of other subjects and their health. Apparently there is something wrong in the system of education, because instead of supporting our students, encouraging them, we are just making it more and more difficult,”, says critically vice-minister  Edita Tamošiūnaitė. She admitted that achieving these significant for national minorities demands is really difficult, actually, but hopes that the politicians will take into account the arguments.

Parents expect the constructive discussion as well.

“The Forum of Polish Schools’ Parents in Lithuania continues to request the educational authorities and the government of Lithuanian to return to the previous version of the Lithuanian language exam as the mother and the state tongue. The Forum demands for the beginning of a real dialog with the representatives of Polish schools in Lithuania in order to elaborate a long-term and comprehensive plan of developing the education in schools with Polish language teaching  in Lithuania, including the question of learning Lithuanian tongue as a state,”, said the representative of The Forum.

Quotes:

1. You cannot expect good results of the Lithuanian language exam this year.

2. No formal “privileges” in the evaluation of the exam can compensate the difference in the perception of foreign language and mother tongue, in which students formulate their thoughts.

3. During the last week students and teachers of Lithuanian tongue were working hard for 4 hours per day in order to make up for what they can.

Source: http://zw.lt/wilno-wilenszczyzna/egzamin-z-litewskiego/

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

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