• July 4, 2016
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Kuzborska: The purpose of minority education is to maintain its identity

We forget that the key to integration is the education of minorities that allows to avoid their isolation and builds cohesive and strong society – said dr Elżbieta Kuzborska, the author of the book ’’Legal situation of national minorities in Lithuania”, Scientific Secretary of The Association of Polish Academics in Lithuania, in the interview for zw.lt

Ewelina Mokrzecka, zw.lt: What are the new tendencies of minority education in Europe?

Elżbieta Kuzborska: The main goal of national minority education in European countries is still the maintenance and development of the identity of minorities, as well as effective integration of minorities within civil society by, among others, their good knowledge of state language. Particular countries has chosen different models of minority education – starting from teaching all subjects in native language (with separate subject of state language), through bilingual education (with a half of subjects in native language and the other half in state language), to full education in state language with the possibility of learning native language as a separate subject or in Sunday schools.

Which of these models is the most effective? What is the most important in minority education?

The most important in minority education in a quality – of books, a good level of preparation of teachers. The model of education has however secondary importance. It is significant that it is being established in a consultation with the interested ones themselves.

Thus, in minority education, it is the respect for minority’s will that is so important, not just the confrontation of imposed model with the its representatives’ expectations. It means that every reform of minority education should be prepared with a specific sensitivity, proper transitional period and with effective dialogue with minorities. Opposite approach can only cause resistance, lack of trust and a conflict, in general.

When it comes to my point of view, teaching should be performed in native language of minority as much as it is possible. The research, conducted by UNESCO, has shown that children acquire knowledge best when studying in their native language. Put brief, by offering education in minority’s language, we will receive well educated citizens who will contribute to country’s political and economic development. On the contrary – defective system of minority education will mean negative social phenomena, such as alienation and exclusion, but also burden on the budget in the form of i.e. benefits.

Some time ago, you have participated in a round table discussion organized in the office of the OSCE’s High Commissioner on National Minorities that was dedicated to this matter. What were its participants debating about?

The discussion was organized on the occasion of twenty years of Hague Recommendations dedicated to educational rights of national minorities. The significant role of minority education in terms of keeping peace and propagating tolerance was being stressed. Since the marginalized minorities may be the source of conflict, a special emphasis was put on matters regarding quality of teaching in minorities’ schools ( bilingual education), proper financing of such education, problem of politicizing the subject of minority education, inclusive approach while conducting reforms of minorities education ( taking into consideration opinions of parents, students and minorities representatives).

So are the national and international challenges that had led to adopting the Hague Recommendations in 1966 remaining unchanged?

The circumstances both in particular countries and European international arena has evolved. However, the challenges regarding, let’s call it briefly: „management of diversity” are currently no less vital than at the end of 20th century. The main problem in 90s was to stop and prevent conflicts of nationalities, especially in former communist bloc countries. Nowadays, Europe has faced the challenge of influx of refugees that results in arising intolerance and xenophobia, budget cuts due to finance crisis, armed conflict in Ukraine, where violating of Russian minority’s rights was the reason for the Russian armed intervention.

This leads to even bigger than a couple of years ago negative politicizing of the minorities issues. We forget that the key to integration is the education of minorities that allows to avoid their isolation and builds cohesive and strong society. Moreover, it is a bidirectional path – minorities can freely receive education in their own language and in native language. On the other side, they have an opportunity to master the state language.

What are the most significant challenges of minority education in the region?

In Europe, we have gained sufficient knowledge and developed lots of mechanisms, models and recommendations regarding effective minority education, which guarantees both maintaining minorities’ consciousness and their integration. Currently, some governments lack in courage – courage to use those mechanism and to embody them in politics of the states, courage of full and effective dialogue with minorities.

The article is a part of the project „Dialogue among nations”, which is co-financed by Fund for Press, Radio and Television Support.



Translated by Aleksandra Nowakowska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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