Open letter from the Transcarpathian Hungarian Pedagogical Association
Dear Mr. Prime Minister!
The Transcarpathian Hungarian Pedagogical Association (THPA) welcomes plans and proposals of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine with regard to their attempts at renewal and reform of the education and educational process of our country, and the establishment of a new Ukrainian school. However, as responsible teachers, we voice our concern over the facts of discrimination of schools, where instruction is conducted in the language of national minorities and indigenous peoples. In Transcarpathia a system of schools and educational institutions with Hungarian as a medium of instruction has been in existance and functioned for centuries: we boast on a rich history and traditions, graduates of our schools have successfully attended and currently continue their studies at higher educational institutions of Ukraine. Unfortunately, the system of requirements for external independent evaluation (EIE) of the state language command has been placing graduates of schools with the language of instruction of national minorities and indigenous peoples in unequal conditions. All competent organs recognize that the EIE of the state language does not serve as a means of measuring communicative competences of university entrants, at the same time violating the right of all national minorities and indigenous peoples to equal access to education in higher educational institutions of our country, since the requirements of these tests serve as an effective measurement tool only in case the state language is native for learners, and not the second. Our communities wish to preserve the system of schools, educational institutions with the language of instruction of national minorities and indigenous peoples, and express our deep concern over certain provisions of a number of documents that will regulate institutions of general secondary education from the next academic year.
In relation to these issues, THPA have repeatedly appealed to the authorities with requests and proposals to take into account recommendations of representatives of professional and non-governmental bodies regarding the implementation of the language article of the Law of Ukraine "On Education". In recent months, several open letters have been sent concerning these questions:
- Appeal of the extraordinary general conference of the Transcarpathian Hungarian Pedagogical Association on the adoption on September 5, 2017 of the new Law of Ukraine "On Education" of October 7, 2017.
- Appeal of the XXVI General Meeting of the Transcarpathian Hungarian Pedagogical Association dated December 16, 2017.
- Open Letter to the Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine L. Grinevich on the implementation of literature teaching in educational institutions with languages of national minorities as a medium of instruction of January 22, 2018.
- Appeal of Hungarian organizations of Ukraine to senior officials of Ukraine: President of Ukraine Poroshenko P.O., Prime Minister of Ukraine Groysman V.B., Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Parubiy A.V. dated February 12, 2018.
- Petitions and propositions of teachers of educational institutions with Hungarian as a language of instruction concerning the enactment of the Law of Ukraine "On Education" for the preservation and protection of the the national minorities’ education system of July 22, 2018.
In recent months, several open letters have been sent with regard to this question:
- Letter proposal of the Transcarpathian Hungarian Pedagogical Association on the issue of Ukrainian language and literature state standards for primary education for schools with the language of instruction of national minorities of March 29, 2018.
- Letter proposal of the Transcarpathian Hungarian Pedagogical Association concerning new curricula as outlined by the New Ukrainian School reform for primary educational level which will be introduced in 2018-2019 academic year for schools and classes with national minority languages of March 29, 2018.
- Letter proposal by the Transcarpathian Hungarian Pedagogical Association on the issue of protection of the Hungarian language educational system and provision of equal conditions for the acquisition and preservation of its language and culture of March 29, 2018.
THPA received a reply from the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine dated 02.05.2018 No. 1 / 11-4729 signed by the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine P. Hobsey. It is worth mentioning that THPA have also previously sent a number of appeals, constructive petitions concerning the necessity and need for taking into account the specifics of the official language teaching in educational institutions with the language of instruction of the indigenous people or national minorities, and ensuring equal access to education for the citizens of this category. It should be noted that in many cases we were not given any answers which received professional treatment, or there was only a mere account of the current situation devoid of any voiced intention of a constructive discussion of problematic issues. The same problem arouse in case of the aforementioned letter from the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine.
The issue of foreign language teaching in educational institutions with the language of instruction of indigenous people or national minorities also remains open.
Reference has been made to the draft law "On general secondary education" detailing the model of the use of the state and native languages in the educational process. However, in our opinion, it is a gross violation of the rights of citizens to equal access to education.
For example, Article 4 and Art. 5 grants the right to persons belonging to indigenous peoples of Ukraine to obtain a full general secondary education at the state, communal or corporate education institutions in the language of the respective indigenous people, in addition to the state language, and to representatives of Ukraine’s national minorities to acquire elementary education in communal or corporate education institutions in the language of the respective national minority in addition to the official language. In other words, the existence of educational institutions with the language of instruction of the indigenous people and of the national minority is suspended. According to paragraph 7 of the bill, persons belonging to national minorities whose languages enjoy the status of official languages of the European Union and who exercise the right to education in the languages of the respective national minorities attending communal and corporate education institutions in accordance with the requirements of state standards: in particular at least 20 percent of the annual academic load should be conducted in the official language in grade 5, with an annual increase of such volume (not less than 40 percent in grade 9); in the case of the 9th grade, the time allotted for the teaching of school subjects in the official language is doubled, and in the case of a specialized school, not less than 60 percent of the annual amount of study time is required, which is twice as high.
In paragraph 3 of the response of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine regarding the introduction of a new approach to the state language teaching, it has been emphasized that it is a premature change for the Ministry of Education and Science, and for the time being it is not ready to take any decisive steps. Except increasing the hours for studying subjects in non-native languages (which is especially negative at all educational stages, grossly violating the right to equal access to education for all Ukrainian citizens, hampering acquisition of the relevant disciplines, contradicting the competent approach principles to teaching a number of subjects and reducing the effectiveness of their acquisition) no concepts have been specified. That is, the purpose of the Ministry of Education and Science to ensure state language acquisition by representatives of indigenous peoples and national minorities is not expressed explicitly in these projects and regulations; in essence, the authoritarian method of dealing with this issue leads to the termination of such educational institutions.
In paragraph 5 of the response of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine in support of enshrining identity of their own people reference is made to the articles of the draft law "On General Secondary Education" regarding the broadening of rights of educational institutions on this issue. However, the current practice and the number of hours of marginal loading for students of institutions of general secondary education makes implemention of the relevant educational programmes impossible. In other words, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine asserts the right, at the same time closing the possibility of exercising this right. Indeed, no instructional time is allocated even for the study of foreign languages in these schools, and there is absolutely no possibility of introducing any variant component.
THPA draws attention to the negative anomalies of the provisions of the Core Curriculum for Grades 1-2 of institutions of general secondary education (Decree of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine No. 268 dated March 21, 2018) and the State Standards for elementary education:
- The core curriculum, developed under the guidance of O.Ya. Savchenko, relates only the Ukrainian language and literary reading to the linguistic-literary educational branch. It is unclear whether the native language for the speakers for whom Ukrainian is the second language, belongs to a foreign-language educational branch, ie does it cease to be native according to this interpretation? This is extremely discriminatory and humiliating. Moreover, it is unclear whether it is possible to teach primary school learners native and foreign languages due to the lack of instructional time for both disciplines.
- The curriculum, developed under the guidance of R. B. Shiyan, relates native language instruction to the linguistic-literary branch (the Ukrainian language and literature, languages and literature of indigenous people and national minorities), but the stipulated requirements make the very existence of such schools or even classes with the language of instruction of national minorities and indigenous peoples impossible. In the aforementioned curriculum the following is stated: "communicative competence, including fluency in the Ukrainian language and communication in the native language (if it is not Ukrainian), is manifested in direct and indirect communication." That is, students are required to have a fluent command of Ukrainian in grades 1-2, which is seen as an unrealistic goal. In addition, the curriculum does not provide any opportunity of teaching foreign languages alongside the native language.
- The Primary Education State Standard approved by the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine dated February 21, 2018, No. 87 declares that the key competencies include:
- fluent command of the state language, including the skills of expressing thoughts or feelings orally and in writing, clearly and reasonably explaining facts, as well as love for reading, a sense of the word’s beauty, an awareness of the language’s role for effective communication and cultural expression, willingness to use Ukrainian as a native language in different life situations;
- the ability to communicate in the native (in case it is not the state language) and foreign languages, which provides for the active use of the native language in various communication situations, in particular in everyday life, educational process, cultural life of the community, the ability to understand elementary expressions in a foreign language, use it as a communication tool in appropriate contexts, facility for intercultural communication (paragraph 7.).
- In addition, in paragraph 12 it is stated that the purpose of foreign language education is communicative competence development for direct and indirect intercultural communication, which ensures development of other key competencies and satisfaction of various life needs of the education participants.
- Paragraph 23 has it that "institutions of general secondary education with the language of instruction of the respective indigenous people or national minorities independently allocate the academic load between the relevant national minority language and foreign language, reflecting this in the curriculum. According to the decision of the Pedagogical Council, in particular, when the language of the national minority is simultaneously the official language of the EU, this language can also be taught as a foreign language. Ukrainian as a state language in such institutions of general secondary education is taught on the basis of the curriculum that takes into account the linguistic education of students and the relationship between the native and state languages ."
- For teachers and heads of institutions of general secondary education with the language of instruction of the respective indigenous people or national minorities, it is not clear why the Basic Primary Education Curriculum for general secondary education institutions with the language of the respective indigenous people or national minorities (Appendix 2) annually allocates 105 hours less for the study of the mother tongue and foreign languages than for students of institutions of general secondary education with Ukrainian as a medium instruction, and also annually 70 hours less for official language teaching, if requirements remain identical at each level of the educational process. This is an unacceptable infringement of the right to equal access to education for our state’s citizens.
- THPA repeatedly insists on safeguarding equal rights to students of national minorities and indigenous peoples:
- To align state language command requirements with international standards:
- A1 level for primary school graduates;
- A2 level for secondary school graduates;
- B1 level for graduates of vocational secondary educational institutions;
- to ensure the right of all students to foreign language study along with the state and native language study:
- students of general secondary education institutions with the language of instruction of the respective indigenous peoples and national minorities should acquire foreign language competences when continuing their studies at the basic school; therefore absence of the possibility of studying this discipline can unequivocally lead to the closure of institutions of general secondary education with the language of the respective indigenous people as a medium of instruction.
- for students of general secondary education institutions with the language of instruction of the respective indigenous peoples or national minorities, the native language cannot be treated as foreign, since its study is as time-consuming and painstaking, as in the case of studying the Ukrainian language by learners for whom it is native. Another interpretation of this issue is anti-pedagogical, discriminatory and humiliating to the citizens of the respective indigenous peoples or national minorities;
- the study of a foreign language that is not official or native for students of institutions of general secondary education with the language of instruction of the respective indigenous peoples or national minorities ensures the realization of the goals declared in the State Standard in the sphere of foreign language education. Paragraph 12 indicates that the purpose of foreign language instruction is foreign language communicative competence development for direct and indirect intercultural communication that ensures other key competencies’ development and satisfaction of various life needs of students. In the case of students of general secondary education institutions with the language of instruction of the respective indigenous peoples or national minorities, foreign language teaching should not be identified with the teaching of state language and mother tongue, which is seen as the only way of guaranteeing equal access to education of all Ukrainian citizens.
THPA asks to consider and enforce equal rights to secondary education for all citizens of our country.
We address all responsible persons, first and foremost, the Prime Minister to cooperate in encouraging constructive dialogue between the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine and representatives of the educational community, public organizations on the issues of preservation, functioning and development of educational institutions with the language of instruction of indigenous people and national minorities.
On behalf of teachers of educational institutions with Hungarian as a language of instruction