- February 4, 2013
Lithuanian in a blind alley
On March 17, 2011, the Parliament adopted an amendment to the Education Act. The decisions were preceded with numerous protests of the Polish community in Lithuania : over 60,000 signatures have been collected asking for the dismissal of hostile educational decisions for students, therefore the protest was organized. Contrary to Polish requests the act was amended : they declared the unification of the Lithuanian language exam for students from Lithuanian and minority schools as well as introduced the Lithuanian language for teaching history and geography. In case of such culture forming subjects like history and geography, the teachers showed class and applied principles of civil disobedience, it imposed a unified test case of the Lithuanian language which extended and it is still a very painful topic.
Lucja Mickiewicz-Ozarowska, a lithuanistic from the M. Balinskiego Secondary School in Jaszunach lectures her subject for 15 years, but despite considerable experience does not hide the concern for the fate of the graduates: – This year will be especially difficult, because we cannot master the imposed material in such short time. We are working speedily, cursorily. Students must take an exam of the knowledge of 36 author works, that is why we devote the time on reading, and the grammar is pushed aside. The new readings are not easy, to discuss them we need to spent a lot of time on it. The law was adopted too rashly, it follows from the fact that the schools where short on – elementary – textbooks which had to be ordered because of the waiting the teachers work was hampered.
Manuals and extracts from books where received late, not on September 1, but in November, it was difficult to divide the hours, teaching material spread out over time, so that even in the 12 class we tried to catch up on the material for 11 class. We are working speedily – says lithuanistic – because the program is not only the 36 positions – but there is also textual analysis, historical context, grammar, spelling, etc. Two years are definitely not enough, the students are not ready yet with writing, they need a good couple of years of accurate education.
How does she mark the students’ chances of graduating from high school?
– From 11 high school graduates students I am only calm for 3 of them, and the rest needs to work a lot. Let’s face it, not every child can have a profound knowledge of literature and imaginative thought.
This year graduates are still going to be in the 11th grade in spring they assembled a scale in the Republic mock exam of the Lithuanian language prepared by the National Examination Centre. Students at the time of the exam submission managed to learn a few imposed authors, most of the subjects were still not mastered. The works were sent to the Examination Centre where nobody knows the exam results, because the answer sheets where received in October in a disguised form so that no one knows what these results really are. – They received a chart, which no one can read. Judging from these charts our school gained a minimum of 2 points , maximum of 60 – what does that mean, remains a mystery. Are these two points a percentage, after which the exam can be considered as complex, whether it is to 2 points with hundreds – no one knows anything. We did not see the students work, or evaluation, or do not know on what basis this work were evaluated and the basis on which these charts were drawn up – says lithuanistic.
Lithuanistic from Secondary School M. Balińskiego in Jaszunach Jelena Sinkiewicz says:
“ This is really a problem, since children do not have appropriate handbooks neither exercise books adjusted to the education program. I believe that the change must start from first class, and not changing the program two years before the examination and then chasing it. This is really an absurd. “First of all it is a pity for children.”
As a consolation before the beginning of the school year 2011/2012 school graduates received a letter (written in Polish!) From the Minister of Education Gintaras Steponavičius, which provides the “creation of equal opportunities to gain career and life plans to compensate for lack of knowledge of the Lithuanian language”. The letter ensured that the test will last a hour longer, and that students in their essays can rely on examples from native literature and use dictionaries for correction. The mock exam disclosed most common errors and based on them reliefs where introduced.
Parents are outraged. One of the mothers of the graduates from Secondary School M. Balińskiego in Jaszunach says: This letter sounds like a jock. It is a disaster, you cannot learn the material in 2 years, which is foreseen for 12 years. What equal opportunities are mentioned? Already from the start the children came to school with different levels of knowledge of the Lithuanian language and cannot be placed on the same level as students from Lithuanian school and Polish school. I do not understand why do students need such knowledge of Lithuanian language, why do we need two mother languages. After all the previous teaching program was good, students could freely speak and could assemble the exam in the Lithuanian language. They got into universities where they managed really well. It was good, we do not need to force them to be happy?
Alina Sobolewska one of the mothers on the graduate students from the Secondary School H. Sienkiewicza in Landwarowie, with bitterness says that this year’s students became experimental rabbits. Students are strongly affected by a similar relation with officiers.
– As a mother, I have to say that my son resigned out of the Lithuanian language. Of course he will attend to the exam, with the same closing the path to higher education in Lithuania, but he is doing this purposely, he says he does not see his future in this country.
He already has filed an international test of English language and will be looking for his luck abroad. He is not left alone among his peers there is a lot of such declarations like “ If you do not want us here, does not matter, we are going to look for a place where we are needed”. It should be added when the school graduate resigns from the exam, it is not because he is an excelled student, but it is a mature decision of an adult man.
— I believe that this is an error — until the last moment we expected that something like this will and it will not change to a unified exam, unfortunately, it turned out that neither the protests nor the new change of power has not helped us, I think it’s going to be a big problem, that students will fill the exam wrong.
They are not keeping up with the program – for example my child has Lithuanian 8 hours a week and only 2 hours of English – the impression can be that the school is preparing philologists of the Lithuanian language. We all understand that knowledge of a language is needed, but definitely not up to that level. What for do they need to learn that amount of information which is never going to be useful? I also have a son in first class, so learning from scratch has some logic, some justification, but impose unrealistic demands graduates – is a crime. Part of this year’s graduates just leave the country – says Alina Sobolewska.
The parents are determined to fight for canceling the unified exam. Parent’s forum of Polish Schools In Lithuanian with branches in Vilnius, Salcininkai and Trakai announced more strikes, because they are convinced, “that neither from the point of view of pedagogy, nor unifying common sense is possible”. Lithuanian language for people of Lithuanian nationality is a native language, but for the rest it is the state language , it is different from the students environment, teaching is carried out by different programs and on different textbooks. According to lithuanistics, the preparation of students for the new exam in such conditions, what we have now, is impossible, because reforming should start not from the older classes, but since kindergarten”.
Tłumaczenie Katarzyna Dąbrowska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Katarzyna Dąbrowska the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.