The holiday period is a time when we would like to write and talk only about positive things, to transmit only good news. Unfortunately, news often come in pairs and good news is almost always accompanied by bad news. An opinion-forming Lithuanian magazine “Reitingai” has just announced a ranking of high schools in Lithuania.
In each category in the top fifty there were at least a few Polish schools: among 50 schools where Lithuanian language is taught best, there are three Polish schools (St. Casimir’s High School in Medininkai – 13th place, Junior High School in Rukainių – 19th place and J. Słowacki’s Junior High School in Bezdonys. Among 50 schools with the highest level of English proficiency are two Polish schools (John Paul II’s Junior High School and the “Syrokomlówka”).
When it comes to history, on the list of 50 schools that well-prepared their students for the exam, there is only one Polish school – J. Lelewel’s High School in Vilnius. Five Polish schools were listed among schools with the best results in mathematics (“Lelewel”, John Paul II’s Junior High School, J. Obrembski’s Junior High School in Maišiagala, J.I. Kraszewski’s Junior High School and the “Syrokomlówka”). Among schools with the best results in computer science St. U. Ledóchowska’s Junior High School is on the 5-6th place, and John Paul II’s Junior High School in Vilnius – on the 22th place. This counting game can be continued for a long time. Actually, taking into account the number of Polish schools in Vilnius – two or three in the top fifty is definitely not enough (“traditionally” we are leaders only among schools which had the best results of the state examination in Russian language – 16 Polish-language schools in the top fifty). However, the trend is positive, generally speaking. Unfortunately, the general level of teaching in high schools in Lithuania has been falling since a few years. A few days ago OECD announced the results of the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) – an international study which aims at providing comparable data on skills in science (biology, geography, physics, chemistry) and mathematics and reading comprehension of students (≥15 years old) in 2015. The results for Lithuania are greatly disappointing.
Among 70 countries participating in the study Lithuania took 36th place just behind Latvia (31) and Russia (32), far behind Poland (22) and light years from Estonia (3rd place in the world and 1st among countries of the European Union). Average of EU students with poor general skills is 12.3%. Lithuania is below average – 15% of Lithuanian students have poor general skills. In particular segments the differences are even greater: assessing skills in science, ¼ of Lithuanian students have poor skills, while the EU average is 17.8%. Incidentally, in the previous PISA (2012) the percentage of such students in Lithuania was -much smaller – only 15%. The percentage of students with the lowest skills in reading comprehension has grown significantly (by almost 4%) – in Lithuania they constitute more than 15% of 15-year-olds, while the EU average is about 20%. Lithuanian students are not leaders in the field of mathematics as well – 25.4% of them are among the weakest in the field, while the EU average is 22.2%.
We should appreciate the fact that Polish schools are doing better and better in Lithuanian rankings. However, in reality we do not know whether it is because of their level has grown or because the level of Lithuanian schools has decreased. Currently, presented results of the PISA survey are only a preliminary report. The final report will be published in March 2017. This is when a more detailed analysis, including particular schools and languages, will be published and we will be able to assess whether quality of teaching, and therefore attractiveness of Polish schools in Lithuania, is growing (as predicted in rankings), or maybe remains at a similar level or becoming worse (which may be indirectly shown in the 2015 PISA study).
Today, however, we can state that in the field of education Lithuania is slowly, but inevitably falling down. 25 years ago, while Lithuania was leaving the Soviet Union with Estonia, both countries had the same starting position. Estonians progressed extremely quickly, while we – with all our endless education reforms – were just treading water. And it seems that we will be treading water for a long time, because all of our ideas on education come down only to the defense of empty school buildings, workplaces of average teachers and sewing folk costumes for students, rather than improving the quality of teaching.
Tłumaczenie by Agnieszka Drabik w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Agnieszka Drabik within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.