Language Education Policy Profile

With regard to the implementation of a language policy

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4.5. With regard to the implementation of a language policy

4.5.1. Articulation between central authorities and local level is always an important factor for the actual implementation of a language policy. In a country where decentralisation is an interesting feature of the recent years, this may be a way to involve parents and other partners in the formulation of a “grassroot” language policy for each school or school cluster with due respect to regional and local indigenous needs. But this can only be monitored and coherent within a well defined general national framework. This is one of the ways towards the development of a policy that is socially integrated thanks to interaction between creative bottom-up formulation and normative top-down policies. How does one know, at present, that the necessary articulation and regulation between center aud periphery are really ensured?

4.5.2. Research in education has clearly shown the importance of what happens at school and local community level. Heads of schools are key figures in the implementation of innovation. A language in education policy depends partly on their knowledge of what is at stake, their awareness and acceptance of new orientations, and their capacity to relate to the local community. How are they sensitized to and made aware of their roles and responsibilities in ensuring the continuity, quality, coherence and diversification in language learning as a whole?

APPENDIX 1: Report: Minorities in Lithuanian Society and Schools


Pádraig Ó Riagáin
With the assistance of
Caitríona Ní Mhuircheartaigh
Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann/

The Linguistics Institute of Ireland

April 2005


Article 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania (1992) states that the Lithuanian language is the official language of the Lithuanian State. The Law on the Official Language (1995) comprehensively defines the status of the official language, establishes the areas of the public life where the official language must be used, and regulates for its protection and control. On 3 June 2003 the Seimas (Parliament) of the Republic of Lithuania approved Guidelines of the State Language Policy for the period from 2003 to 2008.

The rights of the citizens belonging to national minorities are also protected by the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania (1992). Article 37 of the Constitution declares that "Citizens belonging to national communities shall have the right to foster their language, culture and customs." Article 45 further states that "The national communities of citizens shall be independent in managing affairs related to their culture, education, charity and mutual assistance. The State shall provide support to national communities."

The rights of Lithuania's national minorities are most clearly and fully set out in the Law on National Minorities (1989). Article 2 of this Law states that ‘the Republic of Lithuania, taking into account the interests of national minorities, shall guarantee them the right under the law and the procedures thereunder to obtain aid from the state to develop their culture and education; to have schooling in one's native language, with provision for pre-school education, other classes, elementary and secondary school education, as well as provision for groups, faculties and departments at institutions of higher learning to train teachers and other specialists needed by ethnic minorities’59.

Further, Article 12 of the Law of Education (1991) states that ‘in the localities where a national minority resides or where there are many of its members, they shall be provided facilities for having public, municipal or non-state pre-school establishments, schools of general education and lessons in the mother tongue, if the said individuals so request and if such request corresponds with an actual need. Parents (guardians of the child) shall choose for the children a pre-school establishment or a school of general education with instruction in an appropriate language’. The same article also provides that ‘for small ethnic communities, classes or optional courses as well as Sunday schools may be set up at state and municipal schools of general education for the purpose of learning or acquiring a better knowledge of the mother tongue’60.

A more recent document, adopted by the Ministry of Education and Science in January 2002, is entitled "Guidelines for the Education of National Minorities". The Council of Europe’s FCNM Advisory Committee observes61, however, that the "Guidelines" place an emphasis on opportunities for national minorities to receive "informal" education in their mother tongue and encourage the setting-up of Sunday schools or Saturday schools as the most suitable way of meeting their needs. The Advisory Committee also notes ‘with deep concern’ the recommendation in the Guidelines that Polish and Russian as languages of instruction should be replaced by Lithuanian in the last two years of upper secondary school. The Guidelines also state the intention of the Ministry of Education and Science to remove minority languages from the subjects in which there is a compulsory examination at the end of secondary studies. According to the authorities, this measure is intended to facilitate access by the pupils concerned to higher education, which is available only in the State language. These criticisms also relate to the intention of the Ministry of Education and Science to remove these languages from the subjects in which there is a compulsory examination at the end of secondary studies’.

(The ‘Country Report’ (2004) prepared as part of this project, in similar vein, recommends that a new single examination be prepared in Lithuanian, replacing the existing two papers at levels of ‘native’ and ‘official’ Lithuanian.)

The Advisory Committee ‘concludes that at the moment these documents do not reflect a sufficiently clear and consistent approach to Government policy on the protection of national minorities in the sphere of education’62. Among its recommendations the Advisory Committee ‘notes with concern that the ongoing legislative reform could lead to the reduction of certain acquired rights and freedoms of persons belonging to national minorities. The Advisory Committee is of the opinion that, whatever the field, the authorities should make sure that these changes do not lead to a lower level of protection than that already enjoyed by persons belonging to national minorities. In the field of education, it is essential to ensure that the changes in legislation currently in progress provide a clear and effective legal framework with respect to the instruction of and instruction in minority languages’63.

By way of reply64, the Lithuanian Government has pointed out that a new Law on Education entered into force on 28 June 2003, soon after the Advisory Committee submitted its opinion on the issue. The government claims that the Law encompasses many proposals on national minorities, which were acceptable to the minorities themselves. (Note: As a copy of this law in English translation was not available while this report was being prepared, therefore no comment can be made on this issue).

It is clear from the foregoing review of recent legal, regulatory and policy documents that the teaching of minority languages in Lithuania underwent a major overhaul in the 1989 – 1991 period. It is also clear from recent documents and reviews that these issues are again under discussion and that some relatively far-reaching changes are either in train or proposed.

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