Will minority languages remain in Belarusian schools?Florin
Andrzej Tichomirow: The necessity for education in non-state languages in this region has been raised since the late 1980s. Currently there are four full secondary schools with instruction in the languages of national minorities (Polish and Lithuanian) in the region. They work in accordance with state educational standards. Languages are taught as compulsory or elective classes; there are also various forms of education provided by public and private organizations, and lectures in high educational institutions. Interest in the learning of languages (primarily Polish) in the region is growing not only because of the growing awareness of minority representatives, but also due to economic and social reasons, including labor migration, as well as the development of cooperation with neighboring states. In addition to Polish and Lithuanian, Georgian, Armenian, Hebrew, and several other languages are taught in the region.
The forms of teaching of minority languages have been changing over the past 20 years from the desire of public organizations to have secondary education in the minority language to the gradual minimization of these demands in which the focus is made on the actual embracement of language, and elements of history and culture. Basically, the state is little interested in expansion of education in minority languages. This position is mainly supported by the argument that there is little demand for this form of education among students and their parents. Additional financial investments in teaching manuals, programs and equipment are also needed. Attempts have been made to redesign existing schools, such as for example proposals to create Russian-language classes in schools with the Polish language of instruction, as well as proposals to teach some school subjects in one of the state languages. Some media have linked the dependence of the existence of schools of national minority schools with the current state of Belarusian-Polish relations.
Education in minority languages will depend on the wish of students and their parents, the activity of public organizations, as well as on the political and economic situation in the region. The involvement of the state in this domain is primarily situational: the problems are being solved almost exclusively as they are articulated by the organizations which usually do not go beyond the issues of cultural and linguistic self-expression. There has been a pronounced tendency of cutting education in minority languages in public schools in recent years, whereas the number of civil and private initiatives in this sphere is growing. Nonetheless, the state expresses no interest in expansion of the education in minority languages. It rather strives to maintain the existing situation or even to reduce this education.
There are three possible scenarios for the development of the education in the minority languages in the Hrodna region: