• July 20, 2017
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We still do not have any idea about polish education system in Lithuania

Lithuanian University of Educational Science will not form faculty of polish studies this year. This information suddenly appeared on Monday (17th July). Plans on stoping of enrollment have been discussed for months.

Polish teachers have mentioned it already in May during discussion at Polish Discussion Club. Polish studies faculty was formed in 1961 and since then it has been educating teachers for polish schools in Lithuania. It used to have good and tough times, but it is hard to imagine Lithuanian education without polish studies. University and educational department are blaming each other for the decision.

‘Enrollment has been stoped by the University’ – says Deputy Minister of Education and Science Giedrius Viliūnas. This year the faculty has not been financed. Ministry has set low threshold of students enrolled for the studies (15 places), but there were only two volunteers to study at the faculty – says the University. Of course, this is not an excuse to stop the enrollment just few days before its’ end, but maybe until 19th of July there would be some new volunteers. Especially when Poland has been helping students of the faculty financially for years who are not being financed by Lithuanian Government. Can the faculty that trains teachers for many polish schools in Lithuania can have same requirements about number of students as faculties training teachers for all schools in Lithuania. It is hard to imagine polish studies to simply disappear from lithuanian universities, but the situation where there are yearly only 5-6 students on the faculty is impossible to handle. ‘Who can tell, why during Soviet times there was demand for polish studies, but not anymore?’ Asked rhetorically, Zbigniew Siemienowicz. The answer is simple: times have changed.

First of all, during those times it was hard to enroll to any other faculty than polish studies. To be accepted on some other faculty you needed very high grades from maturity exam, not only knowledge of lithuanian and russian (which was not a standard) and very often connections, because there were not many places (for example on law, economy or in medical school). After regaining independence the situation has changed, there were many new schools, there was a chance to study abroad and during past 27 years lithuanian Poles have made a big step forward when it comes to number of people with higher education. Big civilization step. It is not surprising that polish studies are not as popular in 2017 as they were in 1987.

Second of all, at those times being a teacher was way more prestigious than it is now. Especially among Poles. Currently this faculty is chosen by people who really are passionate about it, or unfortunately – losers. Our educational system is bureaucratic, formalized and not effective. We spend so much money for the education, as Israel, Australia or Estonia (about 5.5% GDP per year), we have similar number of teachers and in terms of results we are at the very bottom of civilized world. And it is getting worse. Teachers, especially those who have just finished studies earn little amount of money. Priority of politicians is to keep as many school building and places of work as they can, not the quality of educating or amount of earnings. It is hard to dream of enrolling on polish studies, if it is not changed.

Somebody might tell that current problems of the faculty – are results of general problems of lithuanian education, never ending reforms. They are right.

Somebody else will blame universities, university presidents, polish teachers that they have not improved the situation when there still was time. This is also true.

Others will tell that it is Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, Association of Poles in Lithuania who for years stayed silent, ignored the problem, did not offer support to any initiatives of the government. Only yesterday Mackiewicz and Kwiatkowski showed their dissatisfaction.

It seems to me, that we all have messed up, polish society in Lithuania. Our ‘call card’ is believing that problems can be solved on their own. But when it actually is too late we begin to organize protests by embassies of USA and Germany, we send letters and petitions. But we still do not have any idea what to do with polish educational system in Lithuania.

One activist Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania when being asked if he has any plan B, he replied:

‘Of course! We are going to organize a protest!’

I would rather come up with some other, better plan…

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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