Renata Cytacka: We draw in Lithuanian

© L24

`Renata Cytacka: We draw in Lithuanian

Our view has not changed since 2011. We still demand the withdrawal of the Law on Education of March 17, 2011, which is a blatant threat to the level of education of Lithuanian national minorities. We demand the resignation of standardization of matriculation examination’s requirements of the Lithuanian tongue, which is taught according to different curricula- as a mother tongue in schools with Lithuanian language of instruction, and as an official language, foreign to many, in schools with Polish language of instruction.

Despite curricular differences in teaching of the official language, which are confirmed by Ministry of Education and Science in its letter, currently there is a separate curriculum concerning teaching the official language for minority  schools from grades 1 to 10, and in grades 11 and 12 our teenagers are supposed to catch up 800 hours, as well as to take in program’s suggestions on  Lithuanian literature and language, and they are expected to do it on the same basis as their Lithuanian peers. That’s absurd! How can they catch up such an enormous difference in two years only? Our children are made to catch up their language skills anyway, from the moment they start to talk until they start to attend the first grade.

Lithuanian is the official language for the Poles living there, but it is a foreign language, not their mother tongue. Psychiatrists have stated that there can be only one mother tongue. Despite that fact, starting from the first grade, the Ministry of Education and Science does nothing to improve the process of teaching. There are five textbooks available for primary education, however they are written for Lithuanian schools, not for national minority ones. According to the Lithuanian language experts from Polish schools the only noteworthy textbook is “Kalba mane augina” written for grades 1 and 2, but it is not widely accessible. However, the substantive content of this book is sufficient for one semester only. The Lithuanian language experts emphasize that there is serious lack of recordings of good quality. This is especially important for children from minority families who do not have daily contact with correct Lithuanian language.

Law on Education has been applied for three years now. However, these years are wasted. To make matters worse, it is the most crucial period in students’ education an in primary school well prepared teaching curriculum is essential for expanding knowledge of a given subject. Repeatedly on Forum’s meeting I heard opinions of certain schools of our region that third-graders boycott Lithuanian lessons. After consulting educators and a psychologist it has been stated that the 1 and 2 grade is a period when a child tries to learn, but after two years of no visible progress they starts to protest. A child that cannot openly say that some topics are unclear to them and they also would like to see the progress, which doesn’t occur and won’t occur as textbooks and teaching curriculum is unsuitable for them.  I will mention one anecdote told me by one of the Lithuanian language expert. A husband comes back home and asks: ‘well, what did you draw in Lithuanian today?’. This is how primary education in official language can be described.

Teachers lack detailed curricula of official language teaching. Presently there is no curriculum as such, but rather suggestions how to teach, which more or less say that children should be taught how to write and read, but firstly they should be taught to understand what they write and read. This is another evidence that this curriculum “is written for children, who are fluent in Lithuanian language”, and these are not our kids. In response to our question the Ministry declared that the detailed teaching curriculum will be ready at the beginning of 2015. That means that for four years our children have been educated without any framework thanks to school’s good will, especially of Lithuanian language experts, who have to bend over backwards to teach with accordance of curriculum, which in fact does not exist, without any teaching aids. Moreover, most pupils who start the first grade have minimal or no knowledge at all of the Lithuanian language. There is not any methodological support instructing teachers how to teach when the level of skills is uneven. Lithuanian language experts are working on their own original teaching programs and with their effort and commitment they attempt to educate our children. If the state came up with standardization and reforms, it is state’s responsibility to prepare supporting laws and educational curricula. Textbooks and teaching aids have to be ready in the exact day of law’s adoption, not in the indefinite future.

Our Lithuanian language experts did not want to talk about training courses for educators at all. They claim it is a waste of time and the meetings do not even cover appropriate topics. Nobody can clarify how the teachers are supposed to work in this situation. The training courses are not led by experts, but by lecturers who repeat the same what they were taught during their studies.

There is lack of educational and psychological framework of official language for minority school pupils, such as textbooks and curricula of English language teaching. The material and methods of teaching should be adjusted to children’s development. I myself have noticed the difference in teaching Lithuanian and English of my daughters. When they learn English, they do not need any help. But they cannot cope with Lithuanian. Of course they don’t. Let me give some examples; what is the point of teaching a first-grader the difference between ‘žvejys’ and ‘meškeriotojas’; probably not every adult can immediately provide the meaning of ‘edžios’, or recently the child had to learn ‘speigas’ instead of commonly used ‘šaltis’. Indeed, we have to expand our vocabulary, but it should be done logically and began with those most useful. Therefore, the question arises: do our authorities really care about our teenagers mastering the official language?

We have more questions than answers. The Ministry’s response to our every letter is that everything is in the process of preparation. Therefore, my question is when and in which grade a pupil form minority school will reach the same level of the official language as a pupil from Lithuanian school?

Next, the pupils are taught based on different curricula for grade 10, just so they can switch to the standardized one in grade 11 and then in two years catch up 800 hours of curricula differences.

The result of this law is narrower knowledge of the official language of those children who came from national minority families. It is also proven by the standardized exam, which gives the results of hard work of pupils and effort of the teachers. In total, 88,09 per cent of graduates have passed the exam, 88,4 per cent from Lithuanian schools, and 83,7 per cent of graduates from minority schools. The only facilitation for national minorities students this year was the possibility of making slightly more mistakes in their essay. Pupils have passed the exam much worse than they did two years ago. Who has conducted the research on the grogginess and mental state of the teenagers who were made to catch up on the official language?

The Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania for years has been attempting to diminish the position of Polish language in Polish schools of the Vilnius Region. It this way, with no logical explanation, the obligatory matriculation exam of Polish tongue has been canceled, and Polish language is being replaced with Lithuanian as a language of instruction of certain school subjects, and as parents we cannot agree on that. If a pupil is taught a particular subject we should create conditions for the knowledge to be examined on the matriculation exam, which should be compulsory and be taken into account while applying for university studies.

The Forum of Parents from Polish schools in Šalčininkai District Municipality is still working and will be working for normalization of situation of education. It is all about our children’s well-being. We don’t want them to become the victims of political games. The constitution and its acts grant the right to education and prohibit discrimination. We are going to do our best to defend it. We are not afraid of accusations that we complain and besmirch the good name of the country beyond it. Even before the adoption of the law we requested its retraction in our petition signed by 60 000 people – despite all that, our efforts were vain. The request was ignored. After the law was adopted we repeatedly expressed our dissatisfaction and demanded its withdrawal on number of rallies and manifestations. The warning strike brought no results but we will continue taking every step possible. We have made contact with association ‘Parents in Education’. We are considering the possibility of joining The European Parents Association to reveal what kind of experiments are conducted on our children by democratic country, the member of UE and NATO.

The chairwoman of The Forum of Parents from Polish schools in Šalčininkai District Municipality Renata Cytacka


Tłumaczenie by Alicja Kępińska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, Translated by Alicja Kępińska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights,

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