Information from the Transcarpathian Hungarian Pedagogical Association
on the Information provided by the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine on the Implementation of the Recommendations of the Venice Commission regarding the Law of Ukraine "On Education"
The Transcarpathian Hungarian Pedagogical Association (THPA) considers it necessary to inform the authorities and all institutions involved in the implementation of equal rights in education for all citizens of Ukraine about the implementation of the recommendations of the Venice Commission. The THPA supports all provisions of the Law of Ukraine "On Education", which are based on the best European practices and values, and should create the regulatory basis for the construction of the national education system of the 21st century. However, Article 7 of this Law provides for the narrowing of existing rights of national minorities to receiving education at the level of students for whom the state language is their native one. The provision that students belonging to national minorities will study part of the subjects in the state language and part in their native language in secondary schools will make it possible to equalize the opportunities of citizens of all nationalities in access to quality higher education and competitive labor market, etc. is unreasonable, contradicts the basic principles of pedagogy, and narrows the possibilities of graduates of schools with the language of instruction of national minorities, because the study of a number of subjects in a language other than their native one has an adverse effect on the effectiveness of both teaching and learning.
On 11 December 2017, the Venice Commission issued an opinion on the provisions of the Law on Education of 5 September 2017 on the use of the state language and minority languages, as well as other languages in education. The Venice Commission supported Ukraine and, in particular, emphasized that "the promotion of the national language and making it obligatory to all citizens is a legitimate and even commendable goal of the State" (paragraph 118) and provided key recommendations (paragraph 126) on practical implementation of the law.
Taking into account the recommendations of the Venice Commission, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine has developed a roadmap for the implementation of Article 7 "Language of Instruction" of the Law of Ukraine "On Education", which outlines the main measures to ensure a balance between improving the quality of teaching the state language and preserving the cultural heritage of national minorities and indigenous peoples.
The THPA fully supports the need for all language learners to learn the state language and master it at an appropriate level. However, ensuring this should be achieved through the development of the relevant standards and curricula, methodologies, textbooks, didactic materials based on them that take into account the peculiarities of the respective national minorities’ languages, have a communicative orientation, and the requirements of which are realistic and do not aim at language assimilation.
The THPA agrees with the Venice Commission's conclusion that "the promotion of the state language and making it obligatory to all citizens is a legitimate and even commendable goal of the state." However, we also consider that Article 7 of the Law on Education, contradicts the Constitution, significantly reduces, in violation of previous international obligations of the country and bilateral treaties, the right that existed before, i.e. to use the language of national minorities in the field of education in Ukraine. It should be noted that only a small proportion of the relevant recommendations of the Venice Commission have been implemented, as requirements such as "ensuring that the implementation of the Law does not endanger the preservation of the cultural heritage of minorities and the continuation of the education of minority languages in traditional schools" (CDL-AD (2017) 030 Paragraph 126, line 7) or "repeal the provisions of the law discriminating against languages of indigenous peoples and national minorities which are the official languages of the EU and languages of national minorities that are not official languages of the EU ... (CDL-AD (2019) 039 , Paragraph 139, Paragraph 3) have not been met.
During the years 2018-2019, a number of steps were taken under the Roadmap, as recommended by the Venice Commission (paragraph 126).
- "to amend the transitional provisions of the Law on Education in order to allow more time for the progressive implementation of the reform"
The duration of transition for the implementation of Article 7 for minorities whose languages are official languages of the EU has been increased up to 2023 (Section 3 of Chapter IX, "Final and Transitional Provisions" of the Law of Ukraine "On the Principles of Functioning of Ukrainian as a State Language " of 25 April 2019).
Increasing the transitional period for the implementation of Article 7 up to 2023 does not solve the problem of studying the state language in educational institutions with the language of instruction of national minorities, but only delays the application of provisions of the law, which have an assimilatory character, completely contradict the international obligations of Ukraine, do not take into account the real needs of the students of these institutions.
2) “to ensure that the teaching of the European Union's official languages is sufficient for the relevant minorities to take full advantage of the opportunities provided for in Article 7, paragraph 4, when adopting legislation;
in addition to teaching the state language, continue to provide a sufficient proportion of education in minority languages at primary and secondary levels;
release private schools from the new language requirements in accordance with Article 13 of the Framework Convention”
A draft of the new Law of Ukraine "On comprehensive general secondary education" has been formulated, which in Article 5 describes in detail the models of the use of the language of instruction in the institutions of general secondary education. These models provide for a fair share of minority language education in primary and secondary schools and are designed according to three criteria, namely: the vulnerability of the relevant language; the linguistic environment in which the minority lives; a language group to which the relevant language belongs. Different models are designed to take into account the educational needs and educational opportunities of children from different national communities. Article 5 also contains a separate regulation for private schools.
In May 2019, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the Bill "On Comprehensive Secondary Education" as a basic legislative act. It is currently being prepared for a second reading (registration number 0901 dated 08/29/2019).
In January 2020, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the said bill. Article 5 of the Law of Ukraine "On comprehensive general secondary education" defined the specified shares of education in the languages of national minorities. This law is discriminatory in essence, since it divides citizens into 4 categories regarding the study of the state language. This law defines the quantitative ratio of the use of minority language to classes with instruction in one of the official EU languages at different stages of the general educational process. At the level of basic secondary education, at least 20% of the annual curriculum in 5th grade must be taught in the state language, with gradual increase of up to 40% in 9th grade. At the level of specialized secondary education, that is, in grades 10-11-12, at least 60% of subjects must be taught in Ukrainian in the classes of national minorities. In the case of non-EU native speakers, at least 80% of class time is taught in Ukrainian, starting with the fifth grade, while indigenous peoples, such as Crimean Tatars, can study all subjects in their native language except for the Ukrainian language. In private, non-governmental education institutions, the language of instruction may be chosen independently, but they are required to ensure that the state language is taught in accordance with the standards.
These restrictions are discriminatory in terms of ensuring equality of educational rights:
- the "sufficient proportion" referred to in the Ministry’s information regarding the implementation of the Venice Commission’s proposals does not guarantee the right to study in the native language, as it essentially reduces the system of teaching in the languages of national minorities to the level of teaching the language itself (since only 40% of the subjects can be taught in the native language);
- THPA does not deny the possibility of bilingual education, but it should be a free choice for parents and students, not to be forced on all minority education recipients;
- changing the language of instruction for all education recipients from a pedagogical point of view is a clear violation of the equality of opportunity to study a particular subject, significantly affecting the quality and effectiveness of teaching of this discipline, and at the same time puts the students and teachers of these institutions in unequal conditions;
- The Ministry of Education and Science has not developed standards for the study of the state language for educational institutions with minority languages of instruction, i.e. delaying the implementation of the Law or the permission to choose the language of instruction in private educational institutions are only declarative, and these measures are proof of the intention to close educational institutions with minority languages of instruction.
3) "to improve the quality of the teaching of the state language"
In order to implement this recommendation, measures are being taken to create a modern educational environment, to create additional conditions for the qualitative study of the Ukrainian language by students, to improve the qualification of Ukrainian language teachers, and other teachers:
- the new State Primary Education Standard was approved, according to which the number of hours for learning Ukrainian from the first grade is increased (from 3 to 5 in 1-2 grades and 6 hours in 3-4 grades) in schools for children belonging to national minorities;
This standard requires that language learners have a good command of the state language, which is contrary to all pedagogical principles in the case of minority language education institutions, in the case of general secondary education in languages other than Ukrainian and cannot be implemented even in the case of a complete transition to another language.
- Following consultations with representatives of the Hungarian national minority, the National Standard for Primary Education has been supplemented by a separate appendix “Requirements for compulsory learning outcomes for language learners (Ukrainian language and literature for indigenous peoples and national minorities)”; their requirements are lower (Resolution of the Cabinet of ministers of Ukraine No. 688 of July 24, 2019), as well as a variant of the basic curriculum of elementary education for classes (groups) of indigenous peoples and national minorities with Ukrainian language of instruction;
The Ministry of Education and Science did not hold real consultations with representatives of national minorities, only materials were sent to inform, there was no real cooperation. Requirements for compulsory learning outcomes for learners (Ukrainian language and literature for indigenous peoples and national minorities) are essentially identical to, and slightly lower than those for Ukrainian native learners. This is evidenced, for example, by the use of the term "Ukrainian language and literature", since the requirement to study literary works by non-native learners at the level of those who are fluent in the language remains proof that the Ministry of Education and Science does not solve the problem of learning the state language, does not change the approaches to the teaching of the state language.
- new Ukrainian language programs for grades 1-4 that take into account the specificities of minority languages have been approved;
These programs implement the specified state standard, so they cannot solve the problem of qualitative study of the state language, the methods of teaching the state language as a second language in these educational institutions are not developed, and they do not take into account the specificity of the national minority’s language.
- in 2018, Ukrainian language classrooms in general secondary education institutions with national minority languages of instruction were equipped with modern equipment: technical training equipment (electronic “flipcharts” and mobile stands), didactic materials, external audio systems and flash drives etc. were purchased. In 2019, modern didactic materials have been provided for science classrooms in these schools;
The development of a material and technical basis for teaching the state language is an important means of improving the effectiveness of its learning, but current standards, programs, and textbooks cannot provide the desired result.
- A series of online courses for preparation for external independent assessment in the Ukrainian language and literature (prometheus.org.ua) have been created on the initiative of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine and with the support of the British Embassy in Ukraine and the British Council in Ukraine;
- in August 2018, at the initiative of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, the GoGlobal organization with the support of the US Embassy in Ukraine, a GoCamp language camp was conducted for over 500 students of schools from the Berehove and Berehove district of the Transcarpathian region;
- in March 2019, during the school holidays, in the framework of the project Finnish Support for the Reform of the Ukrainian School titled "Let's Learn Together "(with the financial support of the EU), BombeZNO school camps were organized for 400 graduates of Hungarian and Romanian schools with intensive preparatory training for the independent assessment in the Ukrainian language and literature;
- in August 2019, language camps for elementary and secondary school students from the regions of Transcarpathia and Chernivtsi were held as part of the Finnish Support project for the Reform of the Ukrainian School (with EU funding);
- since 2018, Uzhgorod National University has been training students for the specialty 014 Secondary education: Ukrainian language and literature in the educational program "Ukrainian Language and Literature for schools with Minority Languages of Instruction (Hungarian and Romanian)";
- the following manuals were developed “New Ukrainian School: Methods of Teaching Ukrainian in Hungarian Secondary Education: Competency Approach”, “New Ukrainian School: Methods of Teaching Ukrainian in Romanian Secondary Education” ;
- typical programs of advanced training with elements of bilingual learning for Ukrainian language teachers were approved;
These measures are valuable and useful from the point of view of the THPA. However, the curricula, the requirements for learning the state language, and the requirements of the Independent Assessment are completely different from the goals that those programs sought to implement. After all, the study of the state language is focused on the study of grammar, the testing of this subject measures not the speaking skills or the learners’ understanding the language. Actually, the programs and methods cannot provide this, because they require fluency in the state language from the 3rd grade. That is, students of educational institutions with language of instruction of national minorities are taught not to understand and speak Ukrainian, but to study the grammar of the language, as well as to study literature without properly understanding the language. These measures were aimed at developing students' communication skills, but all of them were essentially in an educational vacuum, because their purpose and requirements of the current standards do not match.
- in July-November 2019 the Summer Academy and trainings were held in Lviv for teachers of the Ukrainian language from the Transcarpathian and Chernivtsi regions who teach in Hungarian and Romanian schools (for about 200 participants) within the project "Finnish Support for the Reform of the Ukrainian School" (with EU funding);
These trainings, without a real opportunity to apply the obtained methods, do not reach their goals, because the current standards, programs, textbooks are not aimed at providing mastery of the state language at a level that meets the real abilities and needs of the students.
- the procedure of conducting external independent assessment (determining the knowledge in the Ukrainian language and literature) was adapted for persons who had completed a secondary education in languages other one from than the Slavic group of languages (Crimean Tatar, Moldovan, Romanian, Hungarian), which allowed to increase the percentage of graduates who have overcome the threshold of EIT required for admission to higher education institutions of Ukraine.
The THPA welcomes the application of an adapted threshold for evaluating the results of external independent testing. However, this threshold was not applied to the evaluation of the results in the Ukrainian language, i.e. it was only partial.
4) "to ensure that the implementation of the Law does not threaten the preservation of the cultural heritage of minorities and the continuity of the study of minority languages in traditional schools"
- Over the course of 2018-2019, more than 150,000 copies of textbooks of modern children's literature for 1-2, 3-4 grades, about 100,000 copies of bilingual terminology dictionaries from five national minority languages and over 1 million copies of original and translated textbooks were published in the languages of indigenous peoples and national minorities of Ukraine;
- the publication of textbooks for all educational recipients is not a new or additional measure: it remains the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Science. Bilingual terminology dictionaries can be useful, but they do not solve the problem of learning the state language and are not at all a means of preserving cultural heritage or national identity.
- in 10 kindergartens and schools of the Transcarpathian, Odesa, and Chernivtsi regions, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine conducts an all-Ukrainian experiment "Forming multilingualism of children and students: progressive European ideas in the Ukrainian context", which involves the introduction of multilingual education, especially through the integrated subject-language method of learning (CLIL method). Since 2018, expert support for the implementation of the experiment has been provided by the Office of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities;
The THPA has repeatedly provided analyses of the application of the CLIL methodology, its effectiveness in general education institutions, as well as the obligation to apply it. We emphasize, that bilingual education should remain a right of choice. Pedagogical science confirms that mastering educational subjects in general educational institutions is the most effective in one’s native language.
- The integrated educational program “The Culture of Good Neighborhood” is being implemented (since 2005). For 10 regions (Donetsk, Transcarpathian, Zaporizhia, Luhansk, Lviv, Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv, Kherson, Chernivtsi) regional variants of workbooks and materials for parents and teachers were published under the programs "I, My Family, My Neighbors", "The place where we live", "We study, work and relax together" from the educational course "The Culture of Good Neighborhood", which can be used in the formal education system of Ukraine from grades 1 to 7, as well as tutorials to the educational program "I. We. The country" for grades 5-11; five inter-regional meetings of creative groups were held to adapt and approve the course in Kyiv, Irpin, Lviv, Odessa, Uzhgorod, as well as 37 six-day training seminars for educators in the regions. The Ukrainian Wreath program of the Culture of Good Neighborhood course has been adapted for pre-school institutions and appropriate methodological materials have been developed;
These measures do not ensure the introduction of those disciplines, programs that have been repeatedly requested by the THPA, such as national studies, folklore, art, music, and cultural studies of the native people, which directly and indirectly affect the preservation of the cultural heritage of the respective national minority. And the main problem of such programs is that they remain declarative, since in the specific curricula of educational institutions with the language of instruction of national minorities there is almost no variant component, and under the new law it will be completely absent, that is, the introduction of such subjects into the curriculum of a certain educational institution remains impossible.
- Student competitions on languages and literatures of national minorities are held annually (since 2015). Competitions are held among students of grades 9–11 of general secondary education in the following languages and literatures of national minorities: Bulgarian, Moldovan, Modern Greek, Polish, Russian, Romanian, Hungarian, and Hebrew;
The THPA has applied to hold these competitions and considers them to be a positive achievement. However, the Ministry of Education and Science strongly rejects the proposals of the THPA and other non-governmental organizations of national minorities of Ukraine on conducting STAs and EITs in the language of instruction, which, in our opinion, should be a basic right of the learners studying in a language of a national minority. (EITs from EU languages that are taught languages are possible, but it is not possible to pass EITs from languages of instruction, which are also EU languages, such as Bulgarian, Greek, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, Hungarian).
- within the framework of the Council of Europe project "Protecting national minorities, including Roma, as well as minority languages in Ukraine", seminars are held to study the European experience in the education in state and minority languages, study visits are conducted to study the European experience in multilingual education, and some methodological materials are being prepared to be used in schools, including the preparation of a booklet on the history and culture of national communities in Ukraine;
- Within the framework of the Innove Foundation’s project “Supporting the Activities of Ukrainian Schools and the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine in the Field of Multilingual Education” (Estonian Republic), two training courses on the implementation of multilingual training for school teachers with national minority languages of instruction and heads of education bodies from six regions of Ukraine were held in Kyiv.
The THPA welcomes such measures, but the main problem remains the exercise of the right to preserve educational institutions with the language of instruction of national minorities, to ensure the study of all subjects in the language of instruction, to establish standards for the study of the national language, which take into account the specificity of the native language and are aimed at the development of communication. The Hungarian minority historically resides in the territory of Transcarpathia, we are not migrants in our own homeland, that is, we ask not to use educational projects that are possible in case of certain groups moving here from abroad in order to integrate them into society, because we are a historical part of this region. We find it abusive and discriminatory that the Ministry of Education and Science grants the right to obtain a higher education with the acquisition of the state language by foreigners at level B2, though it requires its native citizens to speak the state language at the level of their native language, which is a clear proof of assimilation policy.
5) “to initiate a new dialogue with representatives of national minorities and all stakeholders in education on the language issue within the framework of the implementation of the Law on Education”
- During 2018, the Ministry of Education and Science held 7 consultations with representatives of national communities in Kyiv on the implementation of Article 7 of the Law and the draft article on the language of instruction of the draft law on general secondary education, as well as a number of working visits to Transcarpathian, Chernivtsi, Odessa regions, during which meetings with minority organizations, leaders and teachers of schools with minority languages of instruction were held;
The THPA is ready to continue the cooperation, and has always been the initiator of the dialogue. However, to this day, only the submission of information or requests for submission of the information were made by the Ministry of Education and other authorities, but there was no real cooperation. That is, these meetings were a platform for expressing problems without an effective professional dialogue.
- within the framework of the joint project with the Office of the OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine, The Dialogue for Reform and Public Cohesion in Ukraine, during 2017-2018, eight dialogues were held with representatives of the pedagogical, parental community, public community associations of national minorities to discuss possible ways of implementing the Law on Education;
The OSCE, the Ministry of Education and Science, and other relevant governmental bodies participated in the events only at the minimum level, though these events provided an opportunity to learn about the positive practices of many European countries in exercising the right to study in institutions with a minority language of instruction. These proposals were well known to representatives of public organizations of national minorities who participated in the events, but they were not implemented in the Law of Ukraine "On Education", and even contradicted it. That is, the Ministry of Education and Science and the government did not take into account the proposal of these measures when adopting legislation on education in minority languages.
- On December 6, 2019, the Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine, Hanna Novosad, paid a working visit to Transcarpathia, in particular to places of residence of the Hungarian-speaking community, and met with leaders of public organizations of the Hungarian national minority.
The THPA is expecting a working and non-declaratory meeting with the Ministry of Education and Science on the implementation of the educational process in institutions with the language of instruction of national minorities. We are ready for constructive cooperation to solve the educational problems. We believe that Ukraine, as a democratic state, will seek to resolve the issue of education at a professional level, taking into account the needs of all recipients of education, ensuring the right to equal access to education for all participants of the educational process.