Justice Minister Ewelina Dobrowolska said on Thursday that minority education in the country is facing problems, but they must be deal with by finding ways to help Lithuanian citizens obtain quality education rather than by closing schools.
“If we talk about national minority schools, whether Russian or Polish, there are challenges in terms of quality, exam performance, enrolment and teaching the Lithuanian language,” Dobrowolska told the Ziniu Radijas radio station.
“I do wish there was no populism and I’d very much like to see education experts sitting down and discussing how to help our citizens,” she added.
The minister said that both national and international student achievement surveys indicate poorer results in schools in the regions and in national minority schools, but that addressing this issue requires a strategic vision rather than just “saying that we are replacing the schools of one national minority with schools in a different language”.
She also noted that minority issues are usually brought into the spotlight in election years to mobilize voters.
Education, Science and Sport Minister Gintautas Jakstas last week reignited the debate on Russian schools by saying that Lithuania should consider following the lead of Estonia and Latvia and scrap Russian-language education.
Jakstas says that national minority schools teaching in the languages of EU countries or countries friendly to Lithuania could remain open.
The ministry plans to draft a proposal on phasing out Russian schools in the coming weeks.
The Department of National Minorities said last week that it did not support proposals to eliminate Russian as the language of instruction.
The department believes that marginalizing one ethnic group would do more harm than good to the state and “destroy the structure of a multiethnic society that has been built over three decades”.
The discussion on Russian schools resurfaced after an incident where teenagers attending a Russian school fired a pneumatic gun at a classmate because he said he was against the war in Ukraine.
However, Jakstas urges against linking the renewed discussion on national minority schools to this incident.
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