The controversial school reform- adopted in 2011- comes into force with some struggles. According to its assumptions students of Polish schools starting from 2013 will be taking an unified exam on Lithuanian, however unified syllabuses from this class are coming into force only in this school year (2016/17).
From the 1st of September this year students of some classes who are studying under the new unified syllabus of Lithuanian language and literature, started they lessons without course books. The reason is rather prosaic: despite the reform announced in 2011, those course books still have not been approved.
According to the new unified syllabus of Lithuanian language and literature in primary school, students of 5th, 7th, and 9th grade started their education. According to the new syllabus of Lithuanian in the 1st and 3rd grade only those schools can start the education process, that according to the Ministry of Education’s statement “are prepared to its realization”. From the 1st of September 2017 all grades from 1-10 will be able to start their education under the new unified syllabus.
New syllabuses which preparing took 3 years, came into force instead of until now ones: Lithuanian language syllabus (native) for Lithuanian schools and Lithuanian language syllabus (state) for national minorities’ schools.
Under assumptions of the amended Act on the Education, in June 2013, attended to submit the unified matura exam on Lithuanian language that was defined by teachers of Lithuanian as “a rapid jump into a cold water” because those two years that were given for preparing students to take the unified exam were too little to catch up with all the material. Everything was diverted- at the beginning students were forced to take the unified exam and just 3 years later unified syllabuses started to be introduced in schools.
– Currently the new syllabus in primary school came into force only in 5th, 7th, and 9th grade. From the next school year education according to the unified syllabus will be introduced in all grades. Each school decides whether or not start such education this year in those early grades. If there is a possibility- then in the 1st and 3rd grade students are learning also according to the unified syllabus- explains Lithuanian expert and methodologist Angėlė Jundo from Jan Śniadecki Junior High School in Soleczniki.
But work according to the new programme is difficult…
– We are trying to work according to the new syllabus in early grades but everyone knows that children from Polish families very often do not know Lithuanian at all and thus “unification” is very hard. There is no way that they will understand a text on the level of Lithuanian schools- says Lithuanian teacher Marina Matulaitienė from Józef Ignacy Krasicki Junior High School in Vilnius.
Students of Polish early grades come to school very often knowing just one or two words in Lithuanian. That is why in the 1st grade they are not able to express themselves fluently because they have to start from learning some basic vocabulary.
– The process of education in 1st grades depends on the fact whether or not a child learns a lot at home, do the parents help him/her, do they attend some extra classes, or have contact with their peers in Lithuanian. They must have an opportunity to get use to the foreign language, some children add Lithuanian endings to Polish words and think that it is already a Lithuanian word- marks Marina Matulaitienė.
As she says, what is happening right now is not correct, and that syllabus unification from the beginning is too difficult. There is more time needed to acquire Lithuanian that of course is a foreign language for Poles. A child is acquiring it only at school, at home speaks Polish, and Lithuanian television watches rarely due to the fact that there are no programmes that are good for children.
– The first topic from the course book is a room description. Children from Lithuanian schools are freely describing it in full sentences whereas in Polish school children have to learn single words, not even mentioning linking them into sentences or correct using of verbs. Those new requirements are unjustified, our children cannot use Lithuanian on the same level. I think that there should be more classes, work more with each child individually- states Marina Matulaitienė
Education process is also straitened by not having any course books. Of course they were already laid down on the basis of new syllabuses and published as study materials but some of them have not been approved yet by the Centre of Education Development.
The Centre of Education Development’s approval was given only to two titles: the course book for learning Lithuanian for the 1st grade “Taip!” and the course book for literature and Lithuanian language “Atrask” for the 5th grade. Course books for grades 3rd , 7th, and 9th are still awaiting for their approval.
New course books are assessed by teachers as quality and interesting ones but too difficult for the students from Polish schools for whom the state Lithuanian language is not their native one.
As Žydronė Žukauskaitė-Kasparienė, head of the General Education Department in Ministry of Education informed “Kurier”, currently in course book database course books for the 3rd grade are good to be used also according to the new syllabus of Lithuanian language. New course books for teaching Lithuanian language and literature for the 9th grade are now being assessed, for the 7th grade- are being laid down. “We are paying attention to the fact that teachers can use those course books that they already have and also those study materials that were made in order to prepare children to the new syllabus (…). Course book really is not the only source of teaching. In schools they are not compulsory at all, in the majority of countries course books are not the most crucial source of teaching. We have a proposition for schools that involves a lot of different sources and materials”.
– In the 5th grade we use new course books for learning literature and language “Atrask”. It is too difficult for our students- states Łucja Mickiewicz-Ozarowska, teacher from Michał Baliński Junior High School.- I have to choose the topics, adapt them, adjust exercises to students’ abilities. With or without a course book one must put a lot effort into preparing a lesson.
As she says, the selection of literature is really big in the course book, but it is impossible to do everything because children must be first acquainted with the basic grammar rules and they also need to catch up with the programme.
– Grammar course book for the 5th grade in Lithuanian schools is really great and one needs to mind the fact that because of previous differences in syllabus, this year’s students of the 5th grade from Polish schools are not yet know all that their peers from Lithuanian schools do. For instance to conjugate, to use verb in different tenses, they do not know parts of a sentence. That is why I have to prepare additional exercises in order to catch up with the material- says Łucja Mickiewicz- Ozarowska.
– In 5th and 7th I teach already according to the new syllabus. Of course it is hard. The course books for the fifth grade were given to us on the beginning of October. Foe the seventh grade we still do not have any course books. We are learning from so called educational materials- said Angėlė Jundo.
Also course books for the 9th grade are not present in schools yet.
– There were still no new course books bought in our school because they are not yet approved by the Centre of Education Development. We are studying without any course books since three months. It is very hard because the new syllabus is shocking, really complicated, students manage to learn with difficulties- says Ina Staikūnienė, teacher of Lithuanian from Władysław Syrokomla Secondary School in Vilnius.
– Especially hard topics are in the ninth grade. There is a chapter concerning the topic of nationality: who is Lithuanian, what does it mean to be Lithuanian, the topic of a homeland as opposed to a man. From texts that are modernistic and ironic students are expected to deduce what does it mean to be a Lithuanian. I think that such content and point of view are directed to a very intelligent student, decent one is not yet mature enough to read and understand such texts. As a result we can see worse essays, worse marks at the end of a semester, just because the content of a syllabus is different- more difficult. And in the tenth grade there is a hard exam, so the effort is enormous. The syllabus is complicated even for those students who use Lithuanian as their mother tongue- explains Ina Staikūnien.
– I doubt that we will manage to do everything. There is more or less just one hour in the ninth grade for learning grammar but this is way too little. According to the new programme, some topics are already intended to be the revision ones but we still have not even started to do them- explains Angėlė Jundo.
Lithuanian teacher has lessons also in the eleventh grade where she has already started to prepare students for the matura exam.
– We have got a lot of literature in our syllabus, that is why we devote it more time. Sic out of seven lessons is on literature- she explains.
Lithuanian language seems to be a very difficult issue to deal with even for those to whom it is a mother tongue. This year every 10th student failed the state exam on Lithuanian language. Teachers of Lithuanian claim that the bar is set too high.
As s Angėlė Jundo says, such form of an exam that is present now, does not allow to reflect actual abilities and creativity of students because while writing an exam essay they have to stick to the given rules, obey the structure, give appropriate arguments. Also grading tests is very subjective.
– I was grading exams for few years and I remember one that had to be assessed by the special commission because one teacher gave it ten points and the other one gave two points for its content. The commission decided that it should be given five points. It is really hard to asses objectively the content of an exam paper- thinks Angėlė Jundo.
– If one wants to take an exam on English, you need to score sixteen points out of a hundred, whereas on the Lithuanian exam- thirty is needed.
Thirty percent of a paper guarantees scoring barely the lowest point of a grade! I think that this is not fair, especially that for Polish students Lithuanian is as foreign language as English. It is as if one was learning two foreign languages but one of them taking on a native level. It is an obvious nonsense- adds Łucja Mickiewicz- Ozarowska.
Tłumaczenie by Agnieszka Bladowska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Agnieszka Bladowska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.