The head of the Lithuanian Government has no idea about the current situation associated with the unified final high school exam from the Lithuanian language. During his visit in the Political Saloon in the “Znad Wilii” (“Upon Neris”) Radio the Prime Minister said: “I don’t think that it is possible to go back to the previous version of the bill on education, according to which the exams from the Lithuanian language and literature were different for Lithuanian and non-Lithuanian schools.”. Moreover, a lot of controversy among representatives of the Polish national minority was raised because of the statement: “Neither graduates nor teachers demanded re-introduction of the old Bill on education.”
The Forum of Parents of Polish Schools in Lithuania immediately reacted to such words. They have published the following statement:
“We are shocked by the Prime Minister’s lie. We, parents of students from schools that have Polish as the teaching language, have been against the new Act on education from the very beginning. We collected sixty thousand signatures under our demand to cancel the amendment to the Act of 17th March 2011. We handed the signatures to Ms President, to the Prime Minister and to the Office of the Seym of the Republic of Lithuania. We conducted numerous protest actions. Together with strike committees on 2nd September 2011 we did not let our children to go to schools, manifesting our protest against the imposition of a unified national Lithuanian language exam from above. We wrote many letters asking for cancellation of changes that were to be introduced into the Act, since they would worsen the situation of our children. (…)”
Moreover, in 2011, the Michał Romer University and the Institute of Labour and Social Research conducted the research “Are Polish schools in Lithuanian worse than Lithuanian schools?” The social movement of the Forum of Parents of Polish Schools in Lithuania was the initiator of the research, which was conducted by Mirosław Szejbak, together with a research team. The research involved neighbouring schools, both Polish and Lithuanian, in cities that are densely populated by Polish people. The results obtained by neighbouring Polish and Lithuanian schools were analysed using the tools of descriptive statistic. The central tendency of two sets was examined: the sets were rankings of Polish schools and Lithuanian schools neighbouring with the Polish ones. The average result for a five-year period in Polish schools was 337,4 and in Lithuanian ones it was 347,7. The smaller number means a better ranking, which means that the result of Polish schools is better than the one of Lithuanian schools. The analysis of neighbouring schools has shown that in 57% of cases, within the past 5 years a Polish school is higher in rankings than a Lithuanian school. Thus, the thesis that knowledge of better quality is delivered in schools with the national language as the teaching one is a myth and the new Act on Education aims at closing school that give better education than neighbouring schools with the national language.
Parents of Polish children clam that for their children, Lithuanian language is a learned one, whereas for Lithuanian students their language is an acquired one, their mother tongue.
The European Foundation for Human Rights absolutely supports the discontent expressed by the parents. Moreover, the Foundation believes that unification of the national language examination without introduction of a new educational programme that would give the students time to re-adjust is discriminative and, indeed, it worsens the initial situation of students from national minorities’ schools. From 1st September 2011, students of 11th and 12th grades in national minorities’ schools started learning the Lithuanian language according to the same programmes that are used in Lithuanian schools. In two years, students who will be finishing high schools will have to write the unified matura exam (the final high school exam), which will be exactly the same one as the exam written by students in Lithuanian schools. In consequence of the actions taken today, a student of the 10th grade of national minority’s school will have to write exams on the same level on which a student from a Lithuanian school writes them. Obviously, in two years a national minority’s school student is not able to prepare himself or herself to the exam on the level equal to the one of a student from a Lithuanian school. Thus, there is a high probability that the student will not pass the exam and he or she will not continue the education.
It is worth mentioning that in 2011 the Foundation managed to collect over 2900 signatures under a petition concerning the Act on education, which discriminates Lithuania’s minorities. http://www.efhr.eu/2011/09/27/europejska-fundacja-praw-czlowieka-kieruje-kolejne-trzy-petycje-do-brukseli/
In EFHR’s opinion, international standards are not observed in Lithuania, and the best example is the Act on education, which, in an obvious way, contradicts the Directive of the Council of Europe 2000/43/EC that is to introduce the rule of equal treatment of persons regardless of their racial or ethnic origin. The 2000/43/EC directive applies in case of our children, since Article 3 encompasses the public education as its subject.
Lithuania, which took the European presidency on July 1st, cannot sink into politicians’ lies, particularly now when it is more visible in both international press and in the European Union. Such a stance of the Prime Minister shows his superficial attitude to solving the problem and a false statement that the unified examination has worked well.
EFHR will provide with legal help anyone, whose rights have been violated, in particular students who came across difficulties related to the Lithuanian language examination that took place this year.
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Translated by Emilia Zawieracz within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.