• February 21, 2018
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Jarosław Narkiewicz: We will not only monitor, but also react

On Tuesday February 20, I once again met with the Minister of Education Jurgita Petrauskienė and her adviser Arminas Varanauskas. The main purpose of today’s meeting was to discuss the implementation of findings of previous meetings regarding the problems of education of national minorities.

During our 1.5h conversation we discussed the current issues regarding:

– the Polish language exam and Polish textbooks

– the Lithuanian exam and teaching in Lithuanian language

– financing educational institutions with national minority language teaching

– the matter of the department of Polish studies at the already non-existent Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences.

Regarding the textbooks, we have decided that an expert committee will be established immediately to choose Polish textbooks that are also used by students in Poland. I presented the people delegated to the commission: Krystyna Dzierżyńska – vice-president of the Association of Polish School Teachers in Lithuania “Macierz Szkolna”, Danuta Korkus – Polonist in the Władysław Syrokomla Gymnasium in Vilnius and Marzena Grydź – primary school teacher in the “Szaltinelis” school/kindergarten in Vilnius. The Commission will start its work very shortly.

Regarding the Polish language exam, which in our opinion is to be obligatory and its results are to be taken into account while applying for universities, we were considering that exam results would be treated as a foreign language exam. At this stage, we agreed that the above issue will be further analyzed from a legal point of view and we will return to it in the near future.

We devoted a reasonable amount of time to discuss the problem of teaching Lithuanian. The previous finding was as follows – in order to consider the possibility of changing the Lithuanian language teaching program, taking into account the specificity of the non-native linguistic environment, an expert group should be established that would include Lithuanists and primary school teachers, working in schools with Polish language of instruction. This time the minister emphasized the need to focus more on the training of teaching staff, the adaptation of textbooks and methodological resources, and to increase funding for teaching Lithuanian language, rather than preparing various curricula. However, after a long exchange of arguments, we came to the conclusion that the actions proposed by the minister are necessary but not sufficient. The present situation should be also taken into account – students have serious problems in dealing with a unified Lithuanian language curriculum, so such program should be verified. It was proposed that after the announcement of the nationwide results of the program evaluation, we will again reconsider the differences in programs in April. However, the minister accepted the proposal to meet with the representatives of the Lithuanists and primary school teachers in schools with Polish language of instruction in order to discuss already known problems resulting from the current state of teaching Lithuanian.

Regarding the financing of educational institutions, it was once again proposed to conduct a discussion while taking into consideration the specificity of transferring funding from “the student’s basket” to “the class basket”. I indicated that this discussion has been delayed for too long and should be factual.

The preservation of Polish studies is particularly problematic and results from joining of Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences to Vytautas Magnus University (VMU). Because we already had many arrangements with VMU, which is not only prepared to keep the department of Polish studies in Vilnius, but also to extend it to educate teachers of other specializations, we think that Polish studies can successively operate in Vilnius at VMU. However, the minister’s current position is in line with the opinion of Prime Minister Skvernelis – they do not consent to the existence of any branch of VMU in Vilnius. In spite of the extensive discussion concerning this issue, we have not come to any agreement and unfortunately the fate of Polish studies is worrying.

The content of the meeting was discussed with the president of “Macierz szkolna” and with the chairman of the Education Committee of E. Jovaiš, with whom we agreed that by strengthening parliamentary control over the implementation of the arrangements, the planned meetings should be carried out at the parliamentary level.

Despite the fact that today’s conversation in the Ministry of Education took place in a factual and friendly atmosphere, it should be highlighted that there are certain differences in the approach of implementing the previous arrangements. In this regard, I have again confirmed that such meetings must be not only continuous but also effective, hence we will not only monitor but also react so that the discussions would transform into reality and result in positive decisions.

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

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