• September 2, 2019
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New school year in Lithuania: more first-graders in Polish schools

On the 2nd of September, teaching began in most schools across the country. ‘Macierz Szkolna’ approaches the beginning of the school year with moderate optimism. Compared to last year, the number of first-graders increased from 936 to 1 089. In total, it is estimated that approximately 12 thousand students will attend Polish schools, but the exact number will be known by the end of September.

– This is a considerable increase. One would like to believe that this trend will continue in the following years. ‘Macierz Szkolna’, like every parent, looks at the new school year with moderate optimism. – We hope that experimentations will finally be over and that the best interest of children will the most important – said Krystyna Dzierżyńska, the vice president of the Association of Polish School Teachers in Lithuania ‘Macierz Szkolna’ to ‘Kurier Wileński’.

The president of the Association Józef Kwiatkowski took part in the assembly in Szumsk, where the school celebrates its 80th anniversary.

– The building was put into use in 1939, but the Polish school had been operating here since the end of the 18th century. Ideas that came to life centuries ago are still alive and growing. Surely this year will be another proof that the traditions of Polish education in Lithuania are profound – Kwiatkowski underlined in an interview with ‘Kurier Wileński’.

The president of ‘Macierz [Szkolna]’ is pleased that the Polish language and literature textbooks for grades 4-9 will be coming to Polish schools in the near future.

– These are new textbooks published in Poland. Each school has placed an order and is supposed to proceed with the payment within five days. The textbooks will most likely arrive in schools in the second half of September. It is worth emphasizing that textbooks in Poland are cheaper than in Lithuania – explained Kwiatkowski. Additionally, a modified textbook for Polish schools, which was created as part of the inter-ministerial arrangements of Poland and Lithuania, will soon reach the first grades.

According to the representatives of ‘Macierz Szkolna’, a major achievement of Polish education in Lithuania was the granting of an ‘extended gymnasium’ status to the Szymon Konarski Secondary School.

– It took a long time for the school to obtain the status of a ‘long secondary school’. However, I think that this is a positive sign for the entire Polish community in Lithuania – emphasized Dzierżyńska.

During a solemn assembly, the principal of the new secondary school Walery Jagliński announced to those present that the school would be able to “independently educate two older classes of secondary school and proudly print certificates with the name of our school”. “We decided that we could rebuild. We haven’t given up and I’m sure we won’t rest on our laurels,” the principal added.

Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius and deputy mayor of Vilnius Edyta Tamošiūnaitė also attended the ceremony. “I congratulate the school on obtaining the status of extended secondary school”. This is a positive assessment of your work. On the other hand, it can be described as a new obligation to educate young people well. I want to wish you all the best in life and at school!” – emphasized the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Further achievements of Polish education in Lithuania include the designation of Jolanta Urbanowicz, who previously held the position of social adviser to Minister Algirdas Monkevičiusas, as the deputy minister of education. Urbanowicz is an international expert in the field of education, she worked in the Netherlands, Great Britain, Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, and the European Parliament. She conducted a lot of research in the field of education together with Polish, British, and American scientists.

Earlier, she worked on the preparation of examination tasks, assessment of exams, [she worked] as a teacher at the Polish National Examination Center, in the local education department and in [other] educational institutions. Most recently, she worked as the deputy dean at the Faculty of Public Administration at the University of Michał Romer in Vilnius.
In total, 322,000 students will attend schools in Lithuania this year, i.e. 1,500 less than last year. There are over 29,000 first-graders.
On Monday, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda visited the Jonas Basanavičius Secondary School, which his daughters had previously attended.
“For me, school is a holy place. And this school even more,” said the president during his meeting with students.

Nausėda compared the knowledge gained at school to a car. “If you’re lazy, you don’t learn anything, it means that you will choose a bad car that can’t even be started because the engine won’t work” – he noted.
“However, if you learn and acquire knowledge, then you will receive a Porsche or Ferrari,” added the president.
The head of the Lithuanian state appealed to the government and the parliament to increase the salaries of teachers.
“We have been saying for a long time that the teaching profession should be a prestigious one. Unfortunately, today we have not done enough to accomplish this and this profession has in fact become something prestigious [sic],” the president told reporters.
“I would like us to talk not only about where to find the money, because I see that current funds are not used effectively by the Ministry of Education,”  added Nausėda.

Antoni Radczenko
Phot. Marian Paluszkiewicz

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

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