• July 12, 2017
  • 558

Radczenko: Positive discrimination of national minorities is essential

National Examination Center published results on lithuanian language and literature exam. The results are worse than in previous years in lithuanian as well as in national minority schools.

At schools with lithuanian as a main language, 90% of students passed the exam, at national minorities schools – 80%. Only 0.7% of examined students from lithuanian schools and 0.2% from polish and russian schools got best possible grade – 100 points. Basic exam on lithuanian language and literature is obligatory for students who want to study at university, financed by the country, that is about 20% students being national minority, especially Poles and Russians, will not be admitted to universities. Polish national minorities take second to last place among national groups living in Lithuania when it comes to people with higher education. Robert Mickiewisz noticed: ‘(…) we need to be aware that news about bad exam results will spread all over Vilnius. It is a key criteria when choosing between polish and lithuanian schools by many parents of future first grade students’. We do not have any official or detailed analysis of this year’s situation, but I think there are two basic reasons for what has happened.

First of all, standardizing maturity exam on lithuanian language at lithuanian and national minority schools in a way that breaches constitution does not work. Simplifications, implemented under pressure of protesting parents and students do not equal chances of students from russian and polish schools. Besides this, this year – for the first time since 2012 – these simplifications have been reduced. Few months ago I wrote about need for positive discrimination of national minorities in Lithuania – it has only brought condescending smiles. We need longer interim, more simplifications and additional points for speaking national minority languages when enrolling to universities.

There is a problem in all countries with bigger amount of national minorities: What should be done to get equal chances in getting higher education as the rest of society? It is very common that ethnic minorities have less people with higher education. Positive discrimination is a solution to this problem. For example guaranteeing number of places at universities regardless of exam results. Higher number of ethnic minorities students will succeed and they will become a role model for the rest of their society. Another asset of positive discrimination – thanks to ethnic variety, students representing different cultures become friends and that results in higher tolerance in the society. Without these actions, standardizing maturity exam on lithuanian language is a Pyrrhic victory – it only isolates national minorities.

Second of all, higher teaching level of lithuanian language is only written ‘on a paper’. National minority schools still need money, teachers or books. It is not a common subject in Lithuania, but in 2015 Estonian Minister of Education Jewgienij Osinowski admitted that strict educational reform held in Estonia that introduced schools of national minorities to model called ’60/40′ (that is 60% of subjects are in estonian, 40% in national minority language) did not work out. Research has shown that the knowledge of estonian language did not improve, but got even worse in some cases.

Quality of educating undoubtedly has influence on exam results. For example in Vilnius Adam Mickiewicz and Jan Paweł II middle schools state exam has been passed by over 90% students, which is over national average and over average of schools with lithuanian language as a main language. Comprehensive schools might lower the average of polish schools. In Šalčininkai District 30% of students did not pass maturity exam and none got 100 points. Repeating mantra ‘Polish school is the best’ or sending students from polish schools to touristic congresses of Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (it is a priority of schools in Vilnius Region stated by Waldemar Tomaszewski) might not be enough.

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

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