• June 10, 2023
  • 177

EAPL-CFA deputies propose to lower the requirements for the number of students in schools of national minorities

Members of the Sejm, representing the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania-Christian Families Alliance (EAPL-CFA), propose to lower the bar for the number of students in schools of national minorities.

MPs Rita Tamašunienė and Czesław Olszewski registered in the Sejm a draft amendment to the Education Act, which assumes that the number of students in classes of national minorities schools is to constitute 50% of the minimum fixed number of students set by the government.

As Tamašunienė emphasizes, schools of national minorities take an important place in the Lithuanian education system, which is why it is a necessary to create conditions for their functioning, and the established criteria and requirements must be adequate to the current situation. The MP believes that all schools, especially in the regions, must be assessed individually and not just quantitatively.

“In my opinion, it is irresponsible to judge schools, gymnasiums on the basis of one shoemaker’s hoof, because it will determine the vitality of the region in the future. In each school year there will be such schools, such local governments, where there will be a shortage of, for example, 2-3 students and this will determine the future status of the school. When it comes to regional policy, the organization of educational services closer to the child, strict uniform criteria and requirements for all schools and financial sanctions cannot be imposed on local governments for failure to meet them. The general requirements for schools regarding the educational environment, educators, quality of education, non-formal education must remain, but more flexibility is needed regarding the number of pupils. For example, if from 2025, according to the plan, there will have to be 21 students in a lower secondary school class, it will be an insurmountable task for regional schools,” said Tamašunienė, commenting on the registered proposal.

She is not convinced by opinions that maintaining such schools costs a lot and is unprofitable. The MP is of the opinion that funding for education should be increased.

“It is necessary to raise the prestige of teachers’ work, pay them at least three times higher salaries, so that the best graduates choose pedagogical studies, instead of closing schools, because there are no teachers, because there is supposedly no quality. In the region, the school pursues its special, much broader mission, not only the education of children. The draft law prepared by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport assumes that the quality of education will depend on larger class sizes and school buses. I think it would be the worst decision, and for the regions it is a disaster,” Tamašunienė said.

The MP regrets that the special criteria foreseen in the Education Act do not apply to schools of national minorities. The Vilnius region, as she emphasizes, is distinguished by the national composition of the population, and in towns and rural towns there are 2-3 schools with different languages of instruction, so the requirements for classes must be at least half as much.

“There are 36 junior high schools in Lithuania with Polish as the language of instruction. Good practices in the education of national minorities in Europe show that the principles of positive discrimination applied i.a. different criteria for a smaller number of pupils work most effectively. There is even an individual assessment of the needs of a person. The right to education in the mother tongue is protected by the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, so the current situation cannot be worsened, let us improve quality, but let us not close schools. In Lithuania, in urban and rural areas where people belonging to national minorities live, school-age children are divided into two or three streams depending on the chosen school and language of instruction (Lithuanian or national minorities). Applying general criteria for schools in a specific area is an impossible mission. That is why we suggest to leave the possibility of forming classes in the law if the number of students is 50% of the minimum allowed number of students,” explains Tamašunienė.

EAPL-CFA deputies emphasize that after the adoption of the proposed amendment to the Act on Education, the network of schools of national minorities will be preserved, it will not affect the education of national minorities and the possibility of learning in their native language.

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

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