- February 28, 2023
The new chairwoman of Educational Society: the Polish language is worth learning not only in the Vilnius region
Last Friday, the 9th reporting-electoral conference of the Association of Teachers of Polish Schools in Lithuania “Educational Society” was held at the Polish Cultural Centre. Krystyna Dzierżyńska, the previous vice-president, became the new head. A new 21-member management was also elected. LRT.lt talks to the new chairwoman of the Association.
I would like to congratulate you on your election to such an important position. How do you feel about your role as chairwoman?
It is difficult to say how I feel, because I do not think anything has changed cardinally. I like this job, I have been doing it for more than 30 years. Of course, a chairwoman is a chairwoman, but one would like to continue the traditions that we developed when the Educational Society was just being founded. Of course, we will start some new things. In the course of time, one will join up with the other.
Do you have any new ideas?
We want to get young people involved, to encourage them to take part in exploration and history projects. This is also needed because we do not have Polish history lessons as a separate subject at school, we can only do after-school activities. Polish and Lithuanian history is very interesting. So you can encourage young people to research, describe, discover new interesting things. This will help to create the history of our small motherlands.
Young people are really interested in the subject. For many years, the School Mother has been organising Olympiads on Polish history, famous historical personalities. Students willingly take part in them and achieve excellent results.
We are very happy that our competitions are well appreciated by schools. “Do I know Poland’s history?” was the beginning of Historiada, announced by the Foundation “Helping Poles in the East”. These are valuable initiatives and we will continue them. One would like to see more opportunities for young people to go, especially if they are winners of competitions. Many of our plans have been ruined by the pandemic.
Due to the war in Ukraine, the Russian language is becoming a thing of the past. An opportunity has arisen, therefore, to promote the Polish language in schools. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Education, Science and Sport have spoken about this. How will the Polish Educational Society get involved?
I think that the promotion of the Polish language is definitely worth getting involved in. However, I would be more careful about introducing Polish in schools only in the Vilnius region. The Minister expressed an opinion that, first of all, such an initiative could be introduced here. I would like the Polish language to be widely introduced in Lithuanian schools – first of all in Samogitia and Šiauliai. It is not worth closing the idea only in the Vilnius region, but introduce it more widely.
The Polish language certainly has a reason to exist. Poland would certainly support us with didactic literature. Polish can be taught as a foreign language, so our Polish language teachers would have an addition to their full-time job, if it is not full. However, it is difficult to make it possible for a teacher working here to go to a completely different region of Lithuania at the same time. So we need to prepare new teachers who would be ready to teach Polish as a foreign language.
Perhaps there will be more students of Polish philology?
In any case, it is worth encouraging young people to study, which both our universities where Polish studies are taught do well. We therefore have an opportunity to develop the field. However, we need to do this with a certain degree of caution.
Another problem with Polish is the state exam in this subject. When will it be official?
We have an official announcement that there will be a state exam in Polish from 2024. Already this year, students in today’s grade 11 will have a test, the outcome of which is 40 per cent of the entire Polish Matura grade. All are obliged to take this test.
Polish language at the Matura exam level can be chosen or not by high school graduates. Our Association believes that the mother tongue must have the same chances as Lithuanian. Since the Lithuanian language exam can be taken at the extended and basic level, it means that theoretically our secondary school graduates could also take it in this form. In such a case, the grade in this subject would be taken into account when recruiting for higher education. Finally, Lithuanian is the native language for Lithuanians and Polish for Poles. I do not think that this is even an impossible task.
After all, children learn their mother language for 12 years.
Our students can certainly manage the exam. Polish language teachers are also doing their best. We are happy that back in the last term of government, an agreement was signed to import coursebooks from European Union countries. We did everything so that we could get coursebooks from Poland. The teachers, by a majority vote, chose the necessary textbooks that are closest to the curriculum in our schools.
Of course, the teacher should take into account our regionalisms, develop the local context, but the coursebooks they use are supposed to be current, not from the last 10-15 years. The new coursebooks, on the other hand, are colourful, contain contemporary texts and include a teacher’s guide with scenarios for each lesson.
If we have struggled for the last 25 years to pass the Polish state exam and pass it for patriotic reasons, young people will now feel even more motivated. If everything works out according to the plans of the education ministry, everything will be fine. All that is missing are the basic and extended levels. Then our schools will be satisfied.
The election of a new chairperson also means the creation of a new management. Who forms it?
The 21-member management consists of the chairperson, the honorary chairperson (Jozef Kwiatkowski – as we call him, the ‘Minister of Polish Education in Lithuania’), and the chairperson of the Senior Teacher’s Club and representatives of regional schools. A management meeting will be organised after 20 March, at which I will be expecting proposals, plans and visions for future work.
I will be very happy if it is possible to continue to develop Polish schools fully, with teaching of all subjects in the mother language, of course, with good quality teaching of the necessary state language. Let’s remember that young people like multimedia, and that teachers, even at an elderly age, are perfectly able to manage online teaching.
Translated by Emilia Mamajek within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.