Although it may be inferred from Table 26 above that minority pupils were in either Russian or Polish medium schools, this is not altogether the case. First, as can be seen from Table 27, a significant number of the schools attended by such pupils were ‘mixed’ schools in which two or more languages were the medium of instruction.
Table 27: General Education Schools by the Minority Language of instruction
Language of instruction
Source: Ministry of Education and Science, Country Report 2003/4, p. 27
The change over time in the number of Russian-only or Polish-only schools reflects the overall changes in the numbers receiving instruction through the medium of those languages. However, the number of so-called ‘mixed’ schools, i.e. where two or more languages were used as the medium of instruction has declined quite dramatically, from 110 schools to 41, but within this general patter, there was an increase in the number of Lithuanian-Polish schools.
Unfortunately, very little further information is available about the educational infrastructure of these schools (buildings, facilities, teachers, school supplies, etc.), or the quality of the educational services provided. Even the current number of students in each minority school type is unclear. The diagram contained in the Country Report (p. 27) suggests that, in 2003-4, 3% of pupils attend Russian-only schools, 5% attend Polish-only schools, while 89% attend Lithuanian-only schools. However, these figures are not compatible with the official aggregates contained in Table 26 (above).
Although slightly dated, the figures contained in the Eurydice Report for 1999-2000 suggest that 72% of pupils in minority language programmes received education in schools where only one language (usually Russian or Polish) was used as a medium of instruction, leaving 28% in ‘mixed’ schools where two or sometimes three languages were used93.
While details on the size of individual school are not available, it is possible to calculate the average size of schools attended by minority pupils from the data in the Eurydice Report, and the results are presented in Table 28 below.
Table 28: Average number of pupils attending General Education Schools, classified by the Minority Language of instruction (1999-2000)
No. of Schools
Average No. of Pupils in each school
Even at the level of average scores, the table reveals a considerable degree of variation between schools in terms of size. The averages vary between 63 and 1000. The actual figures can be expected to vary more widely around the averages in each group. This adds another dimension to the differences in the educational experience of minority students. Although the effect of school size on the academic performance of pupils is disputed in the international literature94, in Lithuanian research the evidence would suggest that pupils in larger schools perform better95. This being so, it has to be a cause for concern that, on average, Polish students appear to be in much smaller schools than others.
The available data is also problematic in another and, perhaps, more fundamental respect. The data published by the Ministry of Education and Science on minority education, and reviewed in the foregoing paragraphs, relate solely to the child’s language of instruction. But this is quite a different matter from either the ethnicity or the first language of the pupils. Ethnicity and first language of the pupils may be related to, but is not defined by the language in which they receive instruction. In fact, the (a) ethnicity and (b) mother tongue of a child, and (c) the school language of instruction are all conceptually and in fact quite separate matters.
The relationship between the ethnicity of pupils and language of instruction may be examined with the census data already discussed. In the 5-9 years-old age cohort, non-Lithuanians comprised 11.2% of the national population. The percentages for the 10-14 and 15-19 age-groups are 13.2% and 14.9% respectively. On average, non-Lithuanians make up 12% of all three school age cohorts. On that basis, some 66,700 of the school population in 2003-4 (see Table 26 above) were ethnically non-Lithuanian, but only 51,000 were receiving instruction in Russian or Polish. Thus, some 15,700 children from ethnic minority families are receiving instruction in Lithuanian-medium schools – that is, an estimated 24% all minority children.
However, if the calculations are based on ratios of native language spoken, a slightly different picture emerges. It appears from the census that about 11.7% of school going age cohorts claim one or other of the minority languages as their first or native language. Translating into actual figures, this would suggest that there are some 65,100 pupils in the Lithuanian school system whose initial home language was not Lithuanian. As only 51,000 were receiving instruction in Russian or Polish, this means that the remaining 14,100 (or 22% of all minority language students) are enrolled in Lithuanian schools.
On the basis of these figures, it is further estimated that 6.6% or 36,700 pupils came from Russian speaking homes (irrespective of ethnic background). As there were only 30,500 pupils receiving education through Russian, it follows that 6,200 at least must be in Lithuanian schools. Secondly, 4.8% were Polish speakers, and these 26,700 pupils were provided with 20,500 places in Polish-medium schools, leaving 6,200 who must have gone to either Lithuanian or Russian schools. There were also some 2000 pupils, whose first language was neither Russian or Polish, and it is presumed that they largely attend Lithuanian schools, although there is no data to confirm this.
These are, of course, only rough estimates made necessary by the absence of more complete and reliable data. They indicate however that minority language pupils are catered for in four principal ways:
In schools where there is one school language, usually Russian or Polish (about 55% of total)
In schools where two or three languages are used as school languages (about 21% of total), and
In schools where Lithuanian is the language of instruction (about 21% of total)
Finally, there are children in Lithuanian schools who have been assimilated linguistically, but who retain a non-Lithuanian ethnic identity (the available data would suggest 2-3% of all minority pupils, but this is clearly an underestimate.)
Within this general pattern, more complete information will undoubtedly show an even more complicated picture regarding the ethno-linguistic composition of schools and classes. Variations in school size have already been noted, but there are other differentiating issues. Several of the smaller minorities have been largely Russified, and the ethnic composition of minority children in both Russian and Lithuanian school groups is likely to vary greatly. For the same reason, it is not possible with present data to say with any certainty if the trend towards Lithuanian medium schools is a feature of all ethnic groups, or if it is particularly associated with one ethnic group.
For example, although they give no supporting data, Kasatkina & Beresneviciute (2004), in their report prepared for the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, particularly identify Russian-speaking families (rather than Polish) as those transferring:
‘More students and their parents of the Russian origin (and the Russian speaking population) tend to choose to attend schools where subjects are taught in Lithuanian as they believe that in such a way they will gain better knowledge of the State language, i.e. they will have better opportunities to enter universities in Lithuania, which will increase their chances of getting a better job later and achieving a higher status in society….’96.