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Ukraine’s Education Ministry proposes three models of “language article” implementation

The ministry decided on this after receiving the recommendations of the Venice Commission on Ukraine’s education law
11:22, 12 December 2017

Open source

Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and Science is ready to implement the recommendations of the Venice Commission regarding the "language article" of the law on education. This was reported by the ministry’s press service.

Taking into account the recommendations, the ministry suggests the following models for the implementation of Article 7 (on language), which will be spelled out in the Law on General Secondary Education.

First model

The first model suggests the possibility of teaching all subjects from the 1st to the 11th (12th) grade in the language of minority along with the Ukrainian language.

"This model will work for vulnerable languages, that is, those which do not have their own state for the development of language terminology, as well as for those which do not live in the environment where their language is used," the report said.

Related: Ukraine’s MFA calls to refrain from free interpretation of Venice Commission conclusions

Second model

The next model is for national communities whose language belongs to the languages of the European Union.

Depending on the language group and the language environment, the use of this model can have two options. The first option is for the communities whose language belongs to the Slavic language group living in a predominantly Ukrainian-speaking environment. For example, Polish, Slovak, Bulgarian.

"As it is provided by the law, children whose mother tongue belongs to this group will be able to fully learn in their native language in kindergarten and primary school while simultaneously studying Ukrainian. Starting from the 5th grade, along with subjects taught in their native language, subjects that are taught in Ukrainian would be introduced. Their proportion will increase and will proportionately grow up to the high school,” the message says.

The second option will take into account the peculiarities of studying the Ukrainian language by representatives of other language groups and those who predominantly live in the environment using their native language.  In particular, it is about Romanian and Hungarian communities. For schools with these languages of study, the transition to teaching the subjects in Ukrainian will beconducted even more gradually, and the percentage of subjects taught in the state language will be smaller. Such transition is due to the fact that studying the language of another language group is much more difficult and it requires more study time to reach the language level for studying other subjects, " the ministry explains.  

Related: Klimkin on review of education law by Venice Commission: enough space for both languages

Third model 

The third model is for the national communities with a mother tongue that belongs to the same language family as the Ukrainian language and that mostly exists in the environment of the own language. It is the Russian language.

‘The children that are educated due to this model will switch to the education in the Ukrainian language after the 5th grade. The children with the Russian language as the mother tongue can easily understand the Russian on; they live in the environment with the Russian language in the family, communicate in the Russian language and watch the films and the TV in Russian. So, the only place where the children of this national community can freely use the national language in the school. If they are educated in the Ukrainian language and they learn the Russian language as the particular subject, they will be able to get the high knowledge of the Ukrainian and the Russian languages’, the ministry noted.

It is reported that the Education and Science Ministry also began to develop the education in the Ukrainian language at the schools with the education in the languages of the national minority.

“Ministry of Education and Science in cooperation with (national, - ed.) minorities is further developing educational approaches with the account of educational needs of children. The major objective is to provide children with a sufficient level of proficiency in the state language, preserving the quality teaching of different disciplines both in state and native languages,” reads the message.

The Education Ministry thanked the Venice Commission that the request on the preparation of the analysis of the Ukrainian legislation to determine its correspondence to the existing international legal standards was worked out as soon as possible and the commentaries of Ukraine were presented in the final conclusion.

It is reported that Ukraine’s Ministry of Education has also started improving teaching The Ukrainian language in schools with teaching in national minorities' mother tongues.

The Venice Commission Opinion itself

As it was reported earlier, the appropriate solution, published in the Opinion on the provisions of the Law on Education of Ukraine which concern the use of the state language and minority and other languages in education, adopted by the Venice Commission at its 113th Plenary Session (8-9 December 2017), would certainly be to amend Article 7 and replace this provision with a more balanced and more clearly worded one. In particular, the issue of discriminatory treatment of other minority languages - which are not official languages of the EU - would have to be addressed in this context.

The Venice Commission recommends in particular:

-to fully use, when adopting implementing legislation, the possibilities provided by paragraph 4 of Article 7 to ensure a sufficient level of teaching in official languages of the European Union for the respective minorities;

-to continue ensuring a sufficient proportion of education in minority languages at the primary and secondary levels, in addition to the teaching of the state language;

-to improve the quality of teaching of the state language;

-to amend the relevant transitional provisions of the Education Law to provide more time for a gradual reform;

-to exempt private schools from the new language requirements in accordance with Article 13 of the Framework Convention;

-to enter, within the framework of the implementation of the new Education Law, into a new dialogue with representatives of national minorities and all interested parties on the language of education.

-to ensure that the implementation of the Law does not endanger the preservation of the minorities’ cultural heritage and the continuity of minority language education in traditional schools.

As we reported earlier, the new law on education was signed by Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko on September 25. In particular, it implements 12-years-long school program and allows teaching languages of national minorities only in specially created classes in Ukrainian schools.

This particular decision evoked outrage in Moldova, Romania, Russia, and Hungary. Budapest even threatens to slow down the process of Ukraine’s integration with the EU.

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko had a speech at the PACE, on Wednesday, where he explained the language situation in Ukraine.

Ukrainian government voluntarily sent the law to the Venice Commission for further evaluation. The later rendered their conclusion on the law on Education on December 11.

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