• July 26, 2018
  • 365

Radczenko: Lithuanian nationalists give a helping hand to EAPL

When a few months ago I was criticising the Latvian education reform and forecasting that in short time similar initiatives will appear also in Lithuania – many considered me to be a stubborn sceptic, since the Latvian reform will only strike Russians and it does not concern Polish schools.

Unfortunately, I was right and it was confirmed by proposed on Tuesday (24 July) by the members of Seimas Audroniusa Ažubalisa, Agnė Bilotaitė and Laurynasa Kasčiūnasa, amendments to the Law on Education. The three members of the Seimas, representing the so-called Christian Democratic and in fact nationalistic, wing of the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, are proposing to have 60 percent of the subject in national minorities schools taught in Lithuanian language, starting from year 2023. Of course, traditionally, everything is done “for the well-being  of the children”. “Good knowledge of a state language is the key for successful social and occupational life” – states Agnė Bilotaitė. Yes, of course! I doubt that in Lithuania there is even one Pole or Russian who thinks differently. We all want to know Lithuanian language the best we can, and we do. More and more often we even use it much better than our native language! Yes, the project creators rightly pay attention to the fact that the results of the unified state language exam of the recent secondary-school graduates from Lithuanian schools and national minorities schools differ. The results of Poles and Russians are slightly worse than Lithuanians but it is not because not enough of subjects in national minorities schools are taught in Lithuanian but due to the fact that unified secondary school-leaving examination from Lithuanian language was introduced without sufficient preparatory period! There is a lack of textbooks, lack of teachers, lack of teaching methods. Besides, not until the previous school year, the teaching of Lithuanian language in early classes in Lithuanian and national minorities schools was unified,  and it means that only in 12 years, in year 2030, we will be able to tell whether the current Lithuanian language teaching system in national minorities schools is doing its job or whether it needs changes. So what do the conservatives want?

The explanations of e.g. Laurynas Kasčiūnas sound peculiarly.

“While there exist some gaps in teaching of the state language in the country, some neighbouring countries , e.g. Poland, are applying benefits in recruitment to colleges for people of Polish origin. By doing that, learners from national minorities schools, who possibly during twenty years have not reached a suitable knowledge level of  Lithuanian language, are using the favourable chance of going to college in Poland , thus increasing the emigration” –  states former comrade of Mindaugas Murzy.

Firstly, the same benefits at recruitment to colleges in Lithuanian universities for people of Lithuanian origin living beyond Lithuanian boundaries are used by the Republic of Lithuania. It is the result of concern for its diaspora. Secondly, many of people who are studying abroad, including Poles, are yet returning to Lithuania, ignoring the fact that it is governed by people like Kasčiūnas. Thirdly, graduates are choosing to study in Poland not because they do not know Lithuanian language but because the level of teaching in Poland is higher. It is enough to compare the places of Polish and Lithuanian colleges in world university rankings.

What is more – it might be a discovery for Audronius Ažubalis, Agnė Bilotaitė i Laurynas Kasčiūnas – more and more graduates of not only Polish or Russian but also Lithuanian schools are choosing to study at universities in England, Scotland and USA. Maybe it would be worth considering the idea of forbidding in Lithuanian schools teaching of English as well?

Estonian not always means good

I will repeat what I have written many times – there exists a direct relation between academic achievements of learners and the language in which they are learning. Many researches carried out by UNESCO, ONZ or even National Bank show that the best way for children to gain knowledge is by being taught in their mother tongue, especially during first 6-8 years of education. The results of these researches show that such teaching increases self-confidence, the feeling of self-esteem, decreases the possibility of leaving school, gives better results in learning and – how ever strange it sounds – child taught in mother tongue more easily and better learns a state language, as its second language.

In year 2011 a report of Danish research institute AKF (Anvendt Kommunalforskning) was published, on the subject of teaching of bilingual learners in Sweden and Denmark. In Denmark the stress in schools was put on teaching Danish language and Danish culture, in Sweden – along  Swedish language teaching, children of migrants could learn their mother tongue and some of the subjects in native language. It turned out that results of learners from migrant families in Sweden (together with results from Swedish language and mathematics) were statistically much better than results of children from migrant families from Denmark. When teaching is not conducted in native language  – the results of learners are statistically worse by 1/3 than learners who do learn in native language!

By the way, several years ago Estonians – on whom, according to Ažubalis, the conservatives project is being modelled – admitted that 60/40 model in Estonia did not do its job. The results of learners from national minorities schools (including the results of Estonian language exam) after  the introduction of teaching of 60 percent of subjects in Estonian language – got worsen.

It is not about the children, it is about the votes

So, Audronius Ažubalisow, Agnė Bilotaitė and Laurynas Kasčiūnasow do not really want the well-being of children. They want the votes. Election is coming near and traditionally unofficial alliance of Lithuanian and Polish nationalists is reborn. I doubt that it is a coincidence that the project of Ažubalis, Bilotaitė and Kasčiūnas appeared just now. When EAPL –CFA is in deep crisis as a result of financial scandal of the chairman of the Polish Union in Lithuania Michał Mackiewicz and warming of the Polish – Lithuanian relations, and its voter is hesitating whether it is still worth it to vote for the Waldemar Tomaszewski party – Lithuanian nationalists are giving a helping hand. Currently, in Russian schools in Lithuanian there are 14 thousand learners, in Polish schools – nearly 12 thousand. Their parents are a quite large electorate mobilised for EAPL –CFA by three conservatives. It is justifiable to suppose that Polish “colleagues” will also repay them in some way.

It is happening before every election. At first there appears someone on the Lithuanian side, calling under cover of fight with hybrid threat to next crusade against national minorities, to next historical victory against Poles, stirring up the proverbial hornets’ nest by the means of some idiotic reform and immediately mobilises politicians and voters of EAPL –CFA to fight. Whereas, on the Polish side immediately voice arise e.g. “Vilnius always Polish” – and it mobilises fundamentalist conservatives. Yet again to the councils of self-government, Seimas, European Parliament come beneficiaries of national background quarrels – kasčiūnasows, ažubalisows, tomaszewskis, cytackis… I do not know whether these alliances of Lithuanian and Polish radicals, whose aim is to spread quarrels and feed conflicts between our nations, are coordinated by Kremlin, or are a result of the so-called useful idiocy of its creators but that it suits Kremlin – I do not have a slightest doubt.

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

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