European Parliament
Comittee on Petitions

The Secretariat
Rue Wiertz
B – 1047 Bruxellles

Vice-president and Commissioner
Ms. Viviane Reding

European Commission
DG Justice
B-1049 Brussels

We demand that immediate steps be taken against the new Education Act passed on March 17th 2011 by the Lithuanian Parliament (Lietuvos Respublikos Švietimo Įstatymo Pakeitimo Įstatymas 2011 m. kovo 17 d. Number XI-1281:

a) We request the European Parliament to adopt a resolution calling upon change of laws that discriminate against national minorities, and to call upon the European Union Commission to take adequate legal action against Lithuania, pursuant to Art. 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, including filing a complaint to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

b) We request the European Union Commission to take adequate legal action against Lithuania, pursuant to Art. 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, including filing a complaint to the  Court of Justice of the European Union on violating, among other things, European Union Directive 2000/43/EC.

The Education Act, in force since July 2011, provided for the whole education process in national minority schools to take place in the language of the given minority. The only exception being, Lithuanian language classes.

On March 17th 2011, the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania adopted an amendment to the Education Act which aimed at sweeping deterioration of education in minority schools. The Act was passed despite numerous protests and rallies of the national minority representatives and 60 thousand signatures collected against the Act. Our voice, the parents’ voice, was not heard. The Act provides that:

a) in national minority schools, lessons connected with the history and geography of Lithuania will be conducted in Lithuanian as of September 2011 ;

b) Science subjects and Civic education will be entirely in Lithuanian;

These changes were made without the prior transition period, without proper teacher training or without preparation of course books and curriculums.

As a consequence, from September 1st, all students in national minority schools are forced to receive education in a language that is not theirs, and without prior transition period. The students are subject to additional stress of being made to study a subject in Lithuanian in the 11th form, even though in the 9 previous forms they learned it in Polish. The effect of such an action is that students will score poorly in exams and consequently they will fail the exams and will be forced to abandon schooling.

Furthermore, the amendment requires all national minority school to adjust their Matura exam to the received norm as of 2013. Up till now, the exam in all minority schools was according to their own curriculum. The unification of the official language exam without the prior transition period, enabling students to master the material of the new curriculum, is discriminating and, as a matter of fact, will put minority schools at a disadvantaged position. Starting from September 1st 2011, minority students of 11th and 12th forms will learn Lithuanian according to the same curriculums as Lithuanian students. In two years’ time, minority students will take the unified Matura exam in Lithuanian, i.e. the same as Lithuanian students. Consequently, today’s 10th form student from minority school will have to take Matura exam at the same level as a Lithuanian school student. It stands to reason that the minority student is not capable of preparing for the unified exam since in the previous 9 forms, all their subjects were taught in their national minority language. Thus, such a student is likely to fail the exam and drop out of school.

Moreover, the new Act makes provisions for an optimal number of schools, among others, by closing down minority schools in little towns and leaving only Lithuanian schools there. Even despite bigger popularity of a minority school in a town compared to the Lithuanian school, it will be the former one that will be closed down, forcing parents to send their children to a the school with Lithuanian.

The new replaced Art. 2 of the Treaty on European Union, lays special emphasis on the fact that the EU is based on respect for human rights, including representatives of national minorities. Moreover, pursuant to Art. 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, any discrimination against ethnic and national minorities is prohibited.

We consider the new Act to be a glaring violation of the above mentioned laws and Directive of the European Union 2000/43/EC, which implements the principle of equal treatment of people regardless of their race and ethnicity. Directive 2000/43/EC concerns our children since, Art. 3 applies to education in the public sector as well. The amendment is discriminating against our children, who will be left without possibility of further schooling, without prior transition period and will receive poorer grades and will be subject to greater stress. Our children will be discriminated only because, as national minority students, they attended to minority schools. The new Act aims at discouraging parents from sending their children to minority schools and encouraging them to choose Lithuanian schools instead, as well as preventing minority students from continuing education at higher levels, forcing them to drop out of school, which is also against the provisions of EUROPE 2020 strategy.

Another consequence of the new Act is making teachers of minority schools redundant or replacing them with Lithuanian ones since there are no teacher trainings allowing them to pass exams in Lithuanian and teach in the official language. Such redundancies will also violate the Directive of the European Council 2000/43/EC.

Tłumaczenie Katarzyna Różańska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Katarzyna Różańska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

Rue Wiertz