- February 26, 2019
The report of “Macierz Szkolna”: The policy is directed to depletion of Polish education in Lithuania
In 2018/2019 the number of pupils in the first grade was 938, which represents 3.23% of the total number of pupils in the first grades in Lithuania, while the number of pupils in grades 1-12 equaled 11 114 or 3.43% of the total number of pupils in Lithuania.
The decreasing number of Polish schools and pupils in these schools fully reflects the trend of decreasing number of schools and pupils in schools in the state (which is the effect of emigration and demographic decline). This state of affairs is also confirmed by statistical data. In schools with the Lithuanian language of instruction the number of pupils in 2015 equaled 301 082, in 2016 – 297 333 (-1.25%), and in 2017 – 292 476 (-1.63%). Correspondingly in schools with Polish as the language of instruction in 2015 -11 418, in 2016 – 11 329 (-0.78%) and in 2017 – 11 210 (-1.05%).
Thus, the statement that an increasing number of Polish children go to schools with Lithuanian language of instruction is basically unfounded. In this situation, over the last 20 years, the most important indicator remains the percentage share of Polish schoolchildren in relation to the total number of students in the Republic, which remains unchanged and oscillates between 3.6-3.4 %.
In 2017/2018, 818 pupils took their secondary school leaving exams, of which 571 entered higher education, which is 69.8% (of which 10 percent study abroad).
In the magazine “Reitingai” in 2018, among the 50 best junior high schools in Lithuania (based on the results of state exams) there was eighteen with Polish as the language of instruction – which is half.
At the same time, we must stress, that over the last 20 years, significant steps have been taken to weaken the position of the mother tongue in schools with Polish as the language of instruction, as well as the whole process of teaching in the mother tongue.
There is a policy aimed at depleting Polish education. The beginning of these activities was to reduce the status of the Polish language in schools, as:
– 20 years ago, the Polish language was removed from the list of compulsory high school exams, and its assessment has no influence on the admission to higher education, mostly on the places financed by the state;
– examination materials from all subjects on the secondary school leaving certificate are not translated into Polish;
– starting from the initial classes, there is no translation of exercises and auxiliary materials into Polish;
– there is a lack of textbooks in Polish for classes 5-12 (as a result of insufficient funding, the textbooks from Lithuanian into Polish have not been translated for many years);
– there is a lack of textbooks and curriculum for teaching Polish language and Polish literature; Polish language and literature textbooks have not been published for at least 15 years, and they are morally and physically obsolete;
– the curriculum does not provide for lessons in Polish history and geography in Polish schools in Lithuania;
– the situation of Polish education in Lithuania was particularly worsened by the adoption of the Law on Education of 17 March 2011.
Ownership of Polish education in Lithuania in 2018/2019 school year:
From 2013, a unified secondary school-leaving exam in Lithuanian has been introduced for schools with Polish and Lithuanian as the language of instruction. In 2017, the Lithuanian language curriculum in the initial classes in Polish and Lithuanian schools were unified, regardless of the fact that the number of lessons was halved. We would like to mention that the first attempts to standardize the exam were already started in 2005. The official reason given for such actions was the need to improve the knowledge of the Lithuanian language in schools of national minorities. The Association “Macierz Szkolna” repeatedly pointed out the need to improve the quality of Lithuanian language teaching through the preparation of appropriate textbooks, teaching aids, preparation of appropriate teaching methodology and improvement of teachers’ qualifications. We also pointed out that the unification of the secondary school-leaving exam in Lithuanian non-native language and Lithuanian mother tongue will worsen the situation of secondary school graduates with Polish as the language of instruction and will make it more difficult for them to get to university, especially to state-funded places.
Today, we can clearly see that the unification of the examination persecuted the only goal – to limit the possibility for students from Polish schools to enter higher education, financed by the state, and this goal has been achieved.
With 2013, from the date of unification of the examination, the results of state exams in Lithuanian language worsened every year, e. g. in 2011 the exam was not passed by 6.4%, in 2012 6.2%, and after unification, in 2014 – 16.3%, 2015 – 16.1%, 2017 – 19.26%, in 2018 – 23%.
On the other hand, the average difference of the so-called “student basket” obtained by secondary school graduates with the Polish language of instruction to all secondary school graduates in Lithuania in the years 2010-2011-2012 was -12.26%. After the introduction of the unified secondary school-leaving exam in Lithuanian language this difference increased in the years 2013-2018 to 18.23%. What is most important, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania, as well as the Government of the Republic of Lithuania did not take any tangible actions in that period – they took this state of affairs for granted.
Unresolved problems persist:
– Lithuanian language programmes and textbooks do not correspond to the abilities of pupils in the early years;
– there is a lack of methodical support material, including video and audio;
– teachers do not have a suitable methodology for teaching non-native languages;
– promises and assurances made that every year in the period of November research will be carried out and the results of the state secondary school leaving exams in Lithuanian from the previous year will be analysed, and on this basis compensatory classes will be developed and the criteria for the assessment of the secondary school leaving exam for the following year have not been fulfilled even once;
– funding for textbooks remains insufficient – the difference between a school with Polish as the language of instruction and a school with Lithuanian as the language of instruction equals 13.74% (EUR 23.51 per school with Polish as the language of instruction and EUR 20.67 for a school with Lithuanian as the language of instruction), while the costs of translations and less widely published textbooks are higher by 50-60%. This is the main reason for not translating the textbooks from Lithuanian into Polish. In fact, in the last 20 years, due to the lack of sufficient financial resources allocated to schools with Polish as the language of instruction, no textbook from these resources has been translated. Thanks to the funds of the Polish Senate and the efforts of “Macierz Szkolna”, the textbooks are translated and published in print in the mother tongue, but this does not fully cover the demand.
– for 25 years there has been no preparation of teaching staff in Polish for kindergartens;
– there is a shortage of teachers in the initial classes and various subjects, because such teachers are not educated in their mother tongue.
Aiming to solve the pressing problems of Polish education in Lithuania, we consider it necessary:
I. As regards the teaching of Lithuanian language and the organisation of the secondary school-leaving exams in this subject:
- The Ministry of Education and Science of Lithuania should develop separate curriculum for this subject from grade 1-4 by May 2019, taking into account the abilities and skills of pupils in the early years, as well as the significant difference in teaching hours.
- There is a need to correct curriculum also in older classes, due to the differences in the expertise of the Lithuanian language already at the level of the initial school with the Polish and Lithuanian language of instruction.
- Appropriate textbooks, teaching aids and audio-visual aids shall be prepared.
- The teaching staff should be equipped with appropriate methodology of teaching Lithuanian as a non-native language.
- To make appropriate adjustments to the remuneration system for teachers and kindergarten teachers so that Lithuanian language can be taught by specialists.
- Each year, in November, to conduct a pilot examination, analyse the results of the state secondary school leaving exams in Lithuanian from the previous year and, on this basis, to determine the criteria for the assessment of the secondary school leaving exam for the following year and the application of the reductions provided for in the secondary school leaving exam.
II. In terms of teaching Polish language:
- We demand that the Polish language is reinstated on the list of compulsory secondary school leaving exams.
- We emphasize the need to establish for high school graduates who have passed the secondary school-leaving exam in Polish, an appropriate grading coefficient to be passed when entering higher education, in particular for places financed by the state.
- We emphasize the need to adapt Polish language and literature textbooks published in Poland for classes 1-12, striving for such textbooks to reach our schools from the beginning of September 1, 2019.
- We apply for full funding for the preparation and publication of textbooks and scientific aids for learning Polish language and literature in grades 1-12 from the state budget.
III. On the subject textbooks:
We are applying for an increase in funding from EUR 23.51 to EUR 30 per pupil, which will allow for the gradual translation and publication of textbooks in Polish.
IV. In terms of teaching staff:
A significant threat to Polish education in Lithuania is the lack of opportunities to train teachers in Polish, their reskilling, as well as practice.
A study carried out by “Macierz Szkolna” in 2016 showed that in the next 3 years there will be a shortage of 27 teachers in the initial classes, and after 8 years – additionally 15; Polish language teachers – 6 and 16; Lithuanian language – 11 and 18; mathematics – 21 and 28; physics – 24 and 17. In total we will experience a shortage of 175 teachers in the next 3 years, and after 8 years these shortages will increase by a further 192 teachers.
– while maintaining the Polish language course at the former University of Educational Sciences, to create conditions for the training of teachers of primary classes, kindergarten educators, as well as teachers of various subjects, including specialists in 2-3 subjects;
– to create conditions for the reskilling and practice training of teachers. The survey of “Macierz Szkolna” from 2017 indicated that teachers of primary education – 60 people in Poland and 154 in Lithuania – have declared their willingness to improve their qualifications; school management – 24 and 42 people respectively; pre-school education teachers – 19 and 77 people; Polish immigrants – 38 and 61 people, etc. The survey also showed that teachers of pre-school education were willing to improve their qualifications.
V. In order to ensure equal opportunities at the secondary school leaving exams, as well as to increase the importance of teaching in Polish and the development of student motivation, the Examination Centre should be obliged to prepare all examination materials at the secondary school leaving exam in the mother tongue.
VI. We are applying for the introduction to schools of teaching Polish history and geography as well as elements of ethnocultural studies, allocating additional funds for these lessons.
VII. We are applying for an increase in funding for national minorities’ schools by 10%.
Chairman of the Association
Of Polish School Teachers in Lithuania
Translated by Dominika Kownacka within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.