- February 5, 2013
The discussions on education
Audronė Pitrėnienė, the chairwoman of the Parliamentary Committee for Education, Science and Culture; members of parliament from the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, Rita Tamašunienė, Wanda Krawczonok, Michał Mackiewicz, Leonard Talmont, Zbigniew Jedziński, Józef Kwiatkowski; Jan Mincewicz, the deputy mayor of Vilnius district municipality; Edita Tamošiunaitė, the Deputy Minister of Education; members of the Vilnius district municipality council visited schools in Vilnius district municipality and in Šalčininkai district municipality on the 4th of February.
Parents gathered in front of the school “Malowany latawiec” in Wojdaty, junior high school in Pagiriai and the St. Ursula Ledóchowska Secondary School in Juodšiliai. They waited for the authorities with the placards: “All lessons in the native language”, “The native language, culture and traditions – a matter of honour”, “We say ‘no’ to the deprivation of our national identity!”.
The meeting at the school in Wojdaty was started by the deputy mayor, Jan Mincewicz, who stated that such meeting should have already taken place, in order to discuss increasing problems concerning education and to make decisions which aim to solve these issues. Parents’ protests were triggered by the Education Law introduced in March 2011. Polish school showed civil disobedience to make it possible for children to study in their native language.
The chairwoman of the education department in Vilnius district municipality, Lilia Andruszkiewicz, presented the statistics which show that Poles constitute 61,3 % of all citizens in this region, while Lithuanians constitute 22,4%. The students of Polish schools constitute 56,3%, while the students of Lithuanian schools – 40,3%. 46 schools are dependent on the local government; 7 schools depend on the Ministry of Education and Science. Every year, approximately 60% of students from Polish schools are admitted to university. Everyone treats the exam on Polish language, which is not an obligatory exam, as a matter of honour. The chairwoman also discussed the problems which are connected with commuting to school, creating grades for children and renovating the school. She also presented the problem of the unified exam on Lithuanian language which has been prepared improperly.
The Member of Parliament and the chairwoman of theElectoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, Rita Tamašunienė, criticized the new exam on Lithuanian language:
– The problem is very serious because the exam is more difficult now. In such a form as it is now, it is difficult to pass it. Even if a student is diligent enough, he or she will study so hard that it can cause health problems. It seem impossible to pass this exam. Children are the citizens of Lithuania and in this case, their rights are violated.
She proposed to use the previous form of the exam because it was possible for students to pass it. The unified exam will make it more difficult for students to be admitted to university or to study abroad.
– Is it the case? – asked Rita Tamašunienė.
The deputy minister, Edita Tamošiunaitė, also criticized the unified exam :
– It is impossible to read the works of 35 writers within two years. We want our students to speak Lithuanian fluently, but they do not have to be philologists. In addition, they have to study other school subjects, such as mathematics, information technology or history.
Parents presented their opinion:
– Our children are deprived of the possibility to be taught in Polish. Why is it so? If we had wanted them to be taught in Lithuanian, we would have sent them to Lithuanian schools.
One of the students also presented her opinion:
– We are not opposed to taking an exam on Lithuanian language, but we will not manage physically to do it because of a multitude of material to be learnt. We have neglected grammar in order to do required reading. In addition, we must study for other exams.
The teachers of Lithuanian language are also in a difficult position. The specialist of Lithuanian studies from Juodšiliai, M. Šileikienė, said:
– We worked according to one programme; now we have to use another programme, which makes everything more difficult. Good students will pass the exam, others less apt students – who constitute the majority – will not. The exam is really difficult. Its form should have been consulted with teachers. However, no one has asked us about anything. Everything depended on the ministry’s decision.
On the same day similar meetings took place in Baltoji Vokė in Šalčininkai district municipality. Three schools were the hosts of these meetings: the Eliza Orzeszkowa secondary school, “Šilo” secondary school and the nursery school. Regina Markiewicz, the chairwoman of the education department in Šalčininkai district municipality and Józef Rybak, deputy director of administration of the local government participated in the discussions. The guests were greeted by the headmasters, teachers and parents who wanted to discuss similar problems.
– The exam that has been introduced despite the protests of Polish community, received lots of criticism. Children from Polish and Lithuanian families grow up in different language environments. From the very beginning they are exposed to stress. The unified exam violates their rights – said parents. The attention was also put to the results of the mock exams on Lithuanian language which are still unknown. The only available information is that the results are bad, but no one knows what mistakes were the most frequently made and what the students should pay attention to when studying for the exam.
Laima, Narodowska, the history teacher, discussed the problem of teaching history of Lithuania in the 5th grade, which according to the new law will be taught in Lithuanian. It is more difficult for the students due to the fact that the subject is new for them and additionally they have to learn Lithuanian during history lessons. The problem of small village schools was also discussed at the meeting. These schools need the financial support from the government because of the low number of students.
Audronė Pitrėnienė showed her understanding for the problems, however, she stated that as a chairwoman of the education committee she cannot make decisions on her own. She said that the issue will be analysed further.
Edita Tamošiunaitė, the deputy minister of the new Lithuanian government, assured “Kurier Wileński” that:
– We will do everything to change the form of the exam. We are currently taking proper steps.
Tłumaczenie Katarzyna Kurowska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Katarzyna Kurowska the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.