- June 20, 2011
The Saturday conference resolutions
The current year is extremely hard for Polish education in Lithuania. Pickets, protests and appeals organized to withdraw the Act of Education or at least to mitigate it seem to never end. The participants of the XVI conference “Polish child – at Polish school” were also debating over this situation. In the conference’s summary are included three resolutions, their full text we enclose below.
Appeal of the XVI conference of Vilnius Regional Office ZLP “Polish child at Polish school” to the Polish parents
Summing up the XVI conference “Polish child at polish school” we state with content that the number of first-formers at regional Polish schools is constant. It should be noted that the sixteen years of hard work in this direction is now bearing fruit of success. Its basic and main factor has become work for the teachers, parents, regional civil servants and the whole regional Polish community.
In the present year to these regional council schools attended 9008 children from which 5096 was learning in Polish classes, this is 56,57% of children. 1432 children attended district schools (according to the data on the Internet). At regional schools there were learning 10440 children in total, at Polish schools 5096 what makes up 48,8% of a total and what makes up 80% of all Polish children in the region (in the region Poles made up 61% of all residents according to the census conducted in 2001). It means that out of 5 children of Polish families, 4 of them were attending Polish school.
Polish education in Lithuania have over 5-century tradition. It had some flowering moments, but also some hard times of prohibitions, restrictions and persecutions. After Second World War there were some attempts at abolishing the system of education in Polish language in Lithuania again. However, determined and active parents managed to make the Polish system of education lasting and to make it the fixed part of the system of education of the Republic.
In the late 80’s with the National Revival in Lithuania, Polish education caught a breath of fresh air. The myth of the lack of the perspectives for graduates of Polish schools finally collapsed, the number of Polish classes has significantly increased as well as their geography. Matura graduates of Polish schools attained an additional offer to study abroad. Alongside positive phenomena, there also occurred an increasing threat to the Polish education. The myth of supremacy and advantages for Poles learning at Russian schools was exchanged with a new one of the predominant assets of Lithuanian school. Such claim is insistently promoted in media, offices and national institutions.
The conference “Polish child – at Polish school” exhorts parents not to bow to the false and groundless agitation of the supporters of lithuanization of education of national minorities. Their arguments not only depart from facts and realities but also, they threaten the healthy intellectual development of a child.
1. Polish child who gets to the foreign language and culture environment is deprived of the possibility to form a logic, national conscience and as a result of it, the child is often stressed out. The practice shows that in the adult life the child often has complexes and is unable to find itself in the environment and culture of any national group – neither the one to which the child belongs to from the day of birth, nor the other in which language the child was learning.
2. Polish child who is not sufficiently familiar with Lithuanian language, loses the main part of its power and time in the first years of education to get to know and master the language. In this way the child is negligent in other subjects, and it is not possible to catch up with them in the future. There are even some situations where the teachers, who teach Polish children in Lithuanian classes, do not teach in accordance with the appropriate programme.
3. There are no grounds for claiming that only in the Lithuanian school students are able to master Lithuanian language. When the education of Lithuanian language begins in the first grade, the number of hours is augmented to 4-5 per week and the compulsory exams in 10-12 grades were introduced. While all institutions, government offices, shops, cultural and service places are speaking national language and while many radio stations as well as TV stations emit in national language there should be no doubt that even an average child would be able to master Lithuanian language easily – no matter to which school it attends.
The Matura graduates who started their education in Polish classes after 1990, sit their national language exams in the previous years. It was then, when the meaning and prestige of Lithuanian language was legally elevated to the national rank. Matura exams taken in Lithuanian language proved that the students of Polish schools mastered this language sufficiently. What is more, they did that even better than the students of Lithuanian schools in the Vilnius and Solecznicki district. In this way one of the myths that a child at Polish school is not able to master Lithuanian language was refuted in the end.
4. Now the Matura graduate from Polish school has even richer offer of a start in life than the Matura graduate from Lithuanian school. Not randomly, for several years in a row, the percentage of the Matura graduates from Polish schools who go to university is high and stable. i.e. last year among 1283 of Matura graduates of Polish schools, 921 what is 71,8% became students.
All universities in the Republic open the door to graduates from Polish schools. Simultaneously, those graduates from Polish schools, who mastered Polish language, are granted a chance to get to the prestige university in Poland. Those studying at Lithuanian universities are eligible for grants from the Semper Polonia Foundation. The number of such grants in 2010 has reached over 800. However, among Matura graduates from Lithuanian schools there was a small percentage of graduates who were admitted to the overseas universities. After Lithuania joined the European Union, the whole Europe became open to the graduates from Polish schools. The branch of the University in Bialystok, with Polish language as the language of instruction, has been operating since 2007. There are such prestige courses as: computer science and economics After 19 years one of the basic demand of Polish community in Lithuania for education in Polish language from kindergarten to university was satisfied.
In the previous years the number of Matura graduates admitting to the universities in the district of Vilnius has increased: If in 2002 49% of the graduates from district schools were admitted to the universities, then in 2010 – 68,5%. Some of Polish schools in the district have reached extremely high results: Gymnasium of the K. Parczewski in Niemenczyn – 81,8%, Secondary School of the saint Jan Bosko in Egliszki – 83,3%, Secondary School in Awiżenia – 81,3 % etc.
It is not hard to deduce from the above that Polish education in Lithuania provides a wide range of opportunities for continuing study, it has many advantages which Lithuania school does not have.
We appeal to you dear Polish parents, to send your children to Polish schools. Let the slogan of the conference “Polish child at Polish school” accompany you during your actions. It will allow you to bring up your children, without any stress, as Poles – worthy citizens of Lithuania Thanks to that they will never have any grudge against you for the decision you have made when they were not mature enough to decide on their own.
Vilnius, June 18, 2011
About the threats to Polish education in Lithuania. XVI conference “Polish child – at Polish school” resolutions
Recently in our country, against our will, the actions were undertaken to limit the status and existence of Polish education in Lithuania. The Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania enacted a bill on March 3, 2011 about the new Act of Education, which orders to compulsory bilingual teaching (Act 3.2.2) making it impossible for the students of Polish schools to be taught all subjects in their mother tongue. It is brutal violation of the Polish-Lithuanian Treaty which was ratified by the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania and which is in force. The Article XV of the Treaty states that “The Parties shall ensure suitable conditions for the teaching of the language of the national minority and for receiving education in that language in kindergartens, primary schools and secondary schools”.
Whereas the Article 30.8 of the new Act of Education introduces surprising discrimination of the students of Polish schools presupposing that in the case of the lack of the required number of students in rural areas, Polish schools must be closed down but Lithuanian schools (even with the smaller number of students) must be preserved. It introduces national discrimination which was not present in civilized countries for a long time.
A sudden regulation of standardization of the requirements in the Matura exam from Lithuanian language in 2013 for non-Lithuanian people as well as for Lithuanian people, against conducted scientific research, elementary logic and common sense is the next step of discrimination of the students of Polish schools which is pointed at the complete assimilation and deprivation of their national identity.
Further orders of discrimination are enclosed to statutory Acts especially the one enacted on March 3, 2011. The Government Resolution nr 352 (edits anew the resolution nr 746 from June 16, 2004). This Act has even got rid of these existing, until now, facilitations (about 2 students less) in the norms of forming classes for children 1-10 years old in primary schools. The same norms as in the whole Lithuania were established but they did not take into consideration that the children of the citizens of Vilnius are going to different schools and they are not able to meet the requirements established for monolingual districts in Lithuania.
The participants of the conference are firmly protesting against the launched anti-Polish witch-hunt pointed at Polish education in Lithuania.
XVI conference “Polish child – at Polish school” postulates and demands:
1. Discontinuation of creating artificial obstacles and attempts at limiting the functioning of Polish schools in Lithuania.
2. An immediate canceling of the discriminatory establishments of the new Act of Education and also of the new Government Resolutions and orders of the Minister pointed at deterioration of teaching in mother tongue.
3. A renunciation of standardization of Matura exam from Lithuanian language for Polish and Lithuanian schools due to the objective difference in ability of a student to master the national language and mother tongue as well as the difference in the syllabuses, the number of lesson periods, inadequacy of textbooks .
4. Switching to concrete actions to provide the identical conditions of the way of financing national minorities’ schools by: – covering the difference in handbook expenses from the national budget; – increasing the financial allowance of the basket of the student for Polish schools: rural to 50% and urban – 30%, making an example of the neighbouring Poland which has similar GDP indicator (Gross Domestic Product) per one citizen.
5. Setting a minimal number of children at rural schools while completing classes for children 5-10 years old to 5 students while in classes for children 11-12 years old to 10 students and cancelling the Government Resolutions which were not negotiated with the community.
6. Restoration of the exam from the Polish language as a mother tongue on the list of compulsory Matura exams and of the test from mother tongue in 10th grade of primary school.
7. Bringing in the radical amendments to the currently enacted strategy of the educational development of Polish minority in Lithuania and development of the new plan of its realization, which will provide stability in the development of Polish education in Lithuania.
8. An immediate cancelling of the discriminatory system of twofold way of subordinating Polish schools (council) and Lithuanian (ministerial) which was aimed at unfair treatment and financing schools with regard to nationality of their students.
The conference declares that it will be still defending interests of Polish community in creating adequate conditions for educating and bringing up children and teenagers in mother tongue at all levels from kindergarten through secondary school and until university on a European solutions scale in XXI century.
The conference “Polish child – at Polish school” appeals to the highest authorities in Lithuania, Poland, European Union as well as to all the goodwill people to defend Polish education in Vilnius which possess the centuries-old traditions.
Vilnius, June 18 2011
Resolution of discriminatory Act of Education from March 17, 2011
Since July 1, 2011 new regulation to the legal system of education has come into force. In some ways it complicates and does not create appropriate conditions of learning in mother tongue for the students of national minorities schools. It also does not provide the right to education, guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and some of its points discriminate, in an explicit way, national minorities:
1. In the 8th part of the Act XXX of the new enacted Act of Education it is assumed that in the regional offices and in the residential areas where a few schools of education operate in national language and in language of national minorities or where one school educating in mother tongue and the language of the national minorities in which there is a full complement of classes of children in 11th grade with different educating languages, the institution, which performs its duties and rights of its founder, should provide syllabus in at least one school (in at least one class), which would be realized in national language (except for mother tongue).
In agreement with these establishments of the Act, in this case of the necessity of closing down the school or reducing the complements of classes in regional offices and in residential areas, which are traditionally occupied by national minorities, the priority will have the schools with national language of education. For this reason, there will be mainly schools with the national language of education which will be closed down or there will be reduction of the complements of classes which conduct the education in national minorities language. In this way these establishments of the Act may have a direct influence on the fact that some of national minorities schools might be closed down and their educational activity suspended.
Such legal regulation violates the equal rights and opportunities for education of the children who belong to national minorities and does not guarantee the constitutional right to education and the right to education in their own language, which was mentioned above. It is rightly considered as discriminatory against national minorities.
2. In the 2nd part of the Article III “coming into force, application, and duration of the Act” of the Act of the change of the Act of Education it is assumed that at national minorities schools Lithuanian language subject is a part of a complex syllabus and for its teaching there is the same time span left as for the teaching mother tongue; in such schools syllabuses of the initial education, elementary and secondary are realized by bilingual education: in language of national minorities as well as in Lithuanian language. Education of Lithuanian language at the level of initial education is conducted within the integral programme and at the level of elementary and secondary education – in these lessons when the syllabus of geographic and historical topics on Lithuania, knowledge of the world, the basics of education of national identity is realized. It means that at national minorities schools where until now all subjects were taught in the language of national minorities, now history and geography of Lithuania, knowledge of the world and the basics of national identity will be taught in Lithuanian language.
Lithuanian language for students of national minorities schools is foreign but is not their mother tongue. The topics of the subjects, which are taught from the first grade in the foreign and insufficiently understood language, are more tough to be mastered and in this way the education is hampered for national minorities schools. National Lithuanian language as well as foreign languages should be taught during lessons especially prepared for this.
This amendment to the Act, in the same case as in the one mentioned above, causes also different problems meaning the lack of the adequate textbooks, other teaching aids and the lack of qualified staff. The problems with the organization of work as well as psychological problems will arise – it will be hard to work with diverse abilities; there will be an increase in the amount of the teaching material for the students, increase in the amount of the preparatory work done for the lesson because the students will have to learn both language and the other subject which is taught.
The regulations which comes into force when the education of history and geography of Lithuania, knowledge of the world and the basics of national identity in Lithuanian language is introduced, it contradicts the 2nd part of the Article XIV of the , violates the rights of the students of National minorities schools to education in their mother tongue and to children of National minorities, it does not provide in an appropriate way the right to education which is guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.
3. In the 4th part of the Article XXXVIII of the renewed Act of Education coming into force on July 1, 2011, it is stated that all schools of general education provide the education of Lithuanian language according to the general syllabus (test of the achievements of elementary education and Matura exams) approved by the Minister of Education. The institution of these establishments causes unification of the exam tasks from Lithuanian language for Matura students of Lithuanian schools as well as for national minorities since 2013.
We definitely do not agree with this amendment to the Act of Education and we feel that through such establishments our rights and justified interests of our children as the students of national minorities schools are breached for below mentioned reasons.
At first, these establishments of this Act violate rights and freedoms of children of non-Lithuanian nationality living in Lithuania as a national minority. The Article XXXVII of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania states that the citizens who belong to national community have the right to take care of their own language.
The protection of rights and freedoms of national minorities is not only provided by the national legal Acts but also by different other international documents – the Declaration of United Nations ” on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities” (1992) and the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms came into force on March 1, 1998. Enacted in 1992 by the European Council The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and finally Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities which was ratified in Lithuania without any exceptions on February 12, 2000 by the Act Nr VIII-1548 (further called Convention).
Lithuania by joining to the most important international documents devoted to the protection of national minorities committed itself to obey and realize these norms of the protection of human rights.
The preamble to the ratified Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in Lithuania states that its aim is to ensure that the effective protection for national minorities and people who belong there is provided. The Convention presented below, Act 14th of 2nd part clearly and explicitly approve the right of people, who belong to national minorities, as well as the duty of e State which joined the Convention, to provide people in the widest possible range with the equal opportunities to be educated in language of minorities.
The establishments of this Convention are important due to their aim at ensuring that national minorities know, protect and take further care of their mother tongue. It is the language which is the most valuable treasure of the nation. Language is also a tool of national identity, culture, development of literature. It belongs to the nation which takes care of it. Children who start to learn a language, at first start to speak in the language of their parents and their national language. It is exactly this language which becomes their mother tongue and any other language cannot compare to it. Learning of other languages, understanding and point of view differ from learning of mother tongue and is way more complicated. Language which is not a mother tongue is studied, harder and longer absorbed.
Thus it is obvious that the students of national minorities schools during the Matura exam from Lithuanian language, in an objective way, cannot compete with the students of Lithuanian schools when the used criteria and norms of marking are the same. The most important and at the same time basic cause is the fact that Lithuanian language is foreign to the students of national minorities schools and to the students of Lithuanian schools – mother tongue. For this reason, the regulation, according to which the Matura graduates of Lithuanian and national minorities schools have identical tasks in the Matura exam from Lithuanian language, should be considered as discriminatory regarding the students of national minorities schools.
Thus, as mentioned above, the students of national minorities schools differ from students of Lithuanian schools because their Lithuanian language is not their mother tongue and it is harder to learn it as a foreign language as well as its absorption is far more complicated. Because of this type of the objective differences, the students of national minorities schools should take not unified Matura exam from the national language which functions through 21 year of the Lithuanian independence, similarly to western democratic countries (i.e. Sweden).
Children who started to attend to national minority school had justified expectations that the education will be provided in mother tongue and that the Matura exam from Lithuanian language (national) will be different and the required level of knowledge will differ from the one required in the Matura exam from Lithuanian language (mother tongue). The State should itself through the agreed legal regulation meet these agreed expectations of the students of national minorities schools and this is why it should now fulfill its obligations. Standardization of the Matura exam from the Lithuanian language violates justified expectations of the students of national minorities schools against the rules of reliability and legal stability.
In agreement with the above, we request you to take necessary steps in order to fix the violations mentioned above, while realizing particular establishments of the Act of a change of the Act of Education in the Republic of Lithuania (March 17, 2011, Nr XI-1218), which has come into force on July 1, 2011.
Vilnius, June 18 2011
Based on Own information.
Tłumaczenie Joanna Jatczyk w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Joanna Jatczyk within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.