• January 30, 2024
  • 79

Minister Jakštas: ‘A different situation in Russian and Polish schools’

The Minister of Education, Knowledge, and Sports, Gintautas Jakštas, who considers a gradual shift away from teaching in Russian, says, that there is no reason to doubt the future of educational institutions of the Polish national minority. According to him, the quality of education in those schools is higher than in Russian educational institutions, and after graduating, kids find it easier to navigate life in European countries.

‘I believe the situation in Polish and Russian schools is completely different. From the initial data, it is evident that getting into higher education, employment in positions requiring higher education, and taking the national high school exit exam do not differ so much from the situation of those who study in Lithuanian’ – says Minister Jakštas for the ELTA agency when asked about the situation in Polish schools.

‘There are absolutely no problems when it comes to education, I don’t see any’ said the minister. According to him, in Polish schools there is a younger team of teachers compared to Russian-speaking ones, they can also employ teachers from Poland. Opportunities for qualification improvement are being created.

The Minister also emphasized, that there is a branch of the University of Białystok in Lithuania, where one can study in Polish.

According to Gintautas Jakštas, graduates from Polish schools integrate more easily into the European Union than the Russian national minority. ‘Because it is the language of the EU, of European institutions, all legal acts are available in all EU languages. It’s a completely different presence in the EU when you know the language,’ he argues.

We would like to remind you that at the beginning of January, Minister Jakštas stated, that he was seeking legal ways to gradually phase out educational institutions for the Russian national minority. ‘We are currently assessing and consulting with the team on whether there is any path for us to gradually eliminate schools for the Russian minority. We are evaluating the legal framework to see if it will be possible at all,’ he said.

Such a stance has met with sharp opposition from many politicians and representatives of national minorities. The Association of Teachers of Polish Schools in Lithuania ‘School Board’ and the Union of Poles in Lithuania issued a joint statement, appealing to Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė and Vilnius Mayor Valdas Benkunskas to stop the unlawful persecution of schools that belong to national minorities.

‘According to universally recognized international norms, including the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities ratified by Lithuania as far back as the year 2000, in a European country, every traditional national minority has the right to protection and cultivation of identity, native language, culture and traditions, and education is most effective when conducted in the native language’ argued Polish activists.

According to Raimumdas Lopata, the chair of the parliamentary Future Affairs Committee, schools with Russian-language instruction should be preserved for immigrants from Ukraine. As he pointed out, it is impossible to separate the issue of schools from other immigration challenges. “In Lithuania, there are 200,000 immigrants from third states, including nearly 70,000 Belarusians and around 90,000 Ukrainians. Where do their children study? According to which programs and from which textbooks? What good can we say about the state’s integration policy and the quality of education if textbooks haven’t been issued for updated school programs in Russian so far?” Lopata stated.

According to him, the state must ensure the gradual issuance of textbooks for foreigners and shape the identity and self-awareness of students through their content. Additionally, he suggests reforming the teacher education system for those who will work in schools for national minorities.

According to data from the Ministry of Education, Science, and Sport, 13,646 students attend 28 Russian-language general education schools, 9,387 students attend 40 Polish schools, 3,416 students attend 7 mixed Polish-Russian schools, and 392 students study in one Belarusian general education school in Lithuania.

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

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