Danuta Narbut: campaign against Polish schools negatively affects the entire education system

2016-04-06, 13:12
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Danuta Narbut: campaign against Polish schools negatively affects the entire education system Photo by M. Paluskevic

L24 talked to Danuta Narbut, chairwoman of the Vilnius Forum of Polish Parents about accusations of Lithuanian politicians of disloyalty of Poles, about the results of her own research on the situation and the future of Polish schools in Lithuania, and the negative impact on the entire educational system in the country of the media campaign pursued for years and aimed against the Polish education.

L24: You have been linked with the field of education in Lithuania for many years. You have a master's degree in education management, qualification of evaluating teachers' work, you are an expert teacher of primary classes, you were also a teacher, a principal of a school-kindergarten. How do you assess the conditions in which Polish schools in Lithuania operate?
Danuta Narbut: That is true, I have been working in the field of education since 1989. I perceive the period at the turn of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries as a time when the educational system of the Republic of Lithuania underwent many reforms. In my opinion, these changes often were not carefully analyzed and thought out, they were inconsistent. This resulted in chaos and difficulties. But despite this, Polish education in Lithuania managed to keep its character and value.
The media have been presenting the Polish education in Lithuania in a bad light. The witch-hunt conducted in the media regarding the quality of the Polish education in Lithuania is unjust and based on false information. The quality and achievements of Polish education in Lithuania are discussed in different contexts by representatives of various branches, who sometimes are not conversant with the topic of education and its evaluation.
It is very important to know that the campaign against Polish schools negatively affects the entire education system in the country.
Definition of quality is not limited to information regarding the results of exams. Contextual information should be taken into account - a set of surrounding circumstances, resources invested in the process of education, demography, the environment in which education takes place, norms, values, conditions, capabilities and so on. It is important to assess own progress, achievements of the institution on the basis of approved national standards and programs.
And Polish education in Lithuania can be proud of many achievements - own achievements of students, qualifications of teachers, participation in various educational contests, initiation and implementation of copyright educational programs, effective teaching and educational activities. The most important fact is that the Polish education in Lithuania is the education of 'practical action'.

L24: In 2013-2015, when the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania was part of the ruling coalition, you have been the vice director of the administration of Vilnius City Municipality responsible for the education and culture system in the capital. What did you manage to do in order to strengthen the education of minorities in Vilnius?
Danuta Narbut: I was working for the citizens of Lithuania, for all the residents of Vilnius. I know that every citizen of Lithuania has equal rights. I always remember this when making decisions and solving problems.
It is important to improve every element of the functioning of educational units. Ensuring good conditions is an essential factor. Renovations have been carried out in 96 educational institutions of Vilnius in 2013-2014. Everything cost more than 10 million euros. The money came from the budget of the city, EU grants, and from the Association 'Polish Community'.
A lot has been also done in the field of lack of places in kindergartens. We carried out an in-depth inventory audit of available and misused buildings and premises. As the results, a few projects were developed, i.e. nursery-kindergarten 'Ąžuolas', nursery-kindergarten 'Gluosnis', 6 additional groups in the nursery-kindergarten 'Aušrinė'. We also managed to create 2903 additional places, what is equal to 11 newly built kindergartens. Moreover, lots of schools decided to form pre-school groups, which were supported by the government too.

L24: What do you think about such long education reform in Lithuania which will result in the disappearance of secondary schools in 2017?
Danuta Narbut: The reform has started in 2005. Some people think, that it will only bring positive outcomes, while others do not agree with that. Anyway, the reform has been going on too long for sure.
Actually, it is not the status of the school (gymnasium, progymnasium, or a basic school) which is the most important . The organization of proper educational reform is very important, and it lies in the responsibility of principals, teaching staff and parents. Therefore we should let schools' communities to built their own future suitable for their needs.

L24: This year Polish community has organized many protest actions against the destruction of Polish education in Lithuania. You also took part in those pickets. How could you comment on such actions?
Danuta Narbut: After such pickets we often hear that 'education of national minorities in Lithuania is in a very good condition, therefore what else is needed'. I do not fully understand such statements. Of course, I have to agree that Polish education in Lithuania can be proud of good teachers, great youth, and wise parents. This is our treasure.
We use the right to our own opinion. It is the right and duty of every parent to take care of his or her child.

L24: You have impressive work experience in the field of education, you are also the Chairwoman of the Vilnius Forum of Polish Parents. But could you tell us what do you, as a mum, think about the education model in Lithuania?
Danuta Narbut: We should remember, that education legislation must fully respect all rights of parents to educate their children at all levels.
In 2011, when preparing for the conference, I have carried out my own research regarding the future of the Polish education on Lithuania. I was analyzing the fates of graduates of Polish, Lithuanian, and Russian schools, conducting external audits, preparing schools' monographs. There was also a survey of parents under the title 'Is our school good?'. I have talked to schools' principals, teachers, parents, educational employees in districts and cities. The conclusion was that education should be carried out in ones' native language, although the teaching program should educate a real Lithuanian citizen. I stress - a citizen - as a citizen does not mean a Lithuanian exclusively, it can be a Pole, a Russian or a representative of any other nationality.
It has to be said, that every Polish school educates real Lithuanian citizens, but this process cannot be disturbed, only support is needed.
Despite all the difficulties, I believe in the bright future and high level of education, good pedagogues and students, modern infrastructure and a base providing the security of each member of the school community and good preparation of graduates for life in society and family.

L24: Thank you for the conversation.

MSZ ENG"This project is co-financed from the funds granted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland."

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