The only trilingual school for adults in Lithuania. Education also in Polish.

2015-11-15, 13:17
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The only trilingual school for adults in Lithuania. Education also in Polish. Photo

'We are the only trilingual school for adults in Lithuania, where amongst others, we also provide education in the Polish language' said Natalija Kimso, the director of the Vilnius Adult Education Centre.

The Vilnius Adult Education Centre, located in the picturesque Žvėrynas district (Vykinto Street 11), was founded in 1993. 'Until recently, this building facilitated an evening school for adults, and before- a school for working youth. Polish classes, however, have been here for a long time,' said the director of the Vilnius Adult Education Centre, Natalija Kimso. She noted that the Centre is currently the only educational institution for adults in whole Lithuania offering instruction in three languages: Lithuanian, Russian and Polish.

It is also the country's first school for adults, which received the status of gymnasium in 2010.

Currently, 30 adults (2 classes of 15 students) are acquiring secondary education in the Polish language. It is not much, considering the total number of students - 530. The Lithuanian classes are by far the most numerous, collectively comprising of 376 students. There are 124 students studying in Russian.

'When I started working here in 1999, we had two parallel Polish classes. The considerable decrease in students, however, applies also to Lithuanian and Russian classes,' noted Jolanta Makovska, teacher of the Polish language and economics, head of the Science and Technology Department in Vilnius Adult Education Centre.

Back home and back at the school-desk
Kimso-szkola-dla-doroslych-centrum-suaugusiuju-mokymo-centras-fot.Iwona-Klimaszewska-1According to the director, the decrease in the number of students is the result of mass emigration of our citizens. 'Before Lithuania joined the European Union, we had enrolment rate of 800 students a year. Now it is approx. 500-600 persons per year. In most cases, people who leave the country have no education and therefore struggle to find employment here,' said Kimso. However, there has been a tendency of comeback to Lithuania since last year. 'Among our students there are people who have been working abroad as non-qualified workers, and who realized that it is better to continue their education and get a better paid job,' she said.

Kimso also sees a negative trend when it comes to Polish classes. 'I noticed that Poles, who have mixed families and who wish to obtain a secondary education in their adulthood, rather do not want to go back to Polish classes. They explain that they speak Lithuanian on a daily basis, therefore they might as well choose to be educated in Lithuanian,' said the director.

Nonetheless, school is prepared to make every effort to encourage people to learn in their mother tongue. It is not just advertising in the media, public transport - teachers also encourage young working people to acquire secondary education. Students urge their colleagues to continue their education as well, because they are certain that they do not only acquire secondary education here, but also have many opportunities for self-education. 'We are proud that we are a trilingual school and we can offer citizens to learn in their mother tongue. We are making great efforts to have Polish classes,' emphasized Natalija Kimso.

Various forms of teaching
'We are doing everything possible to adapt to and fulfil the needs of our students,' assured the director of the Vilnius Adult Education Centre. The school offers various forms of education: full-time, part-time studies, as well as distance learning (via the Internet). Students can attend classes both in the morning and in the evening. It is perfectly understandable, that an employed person, who also has a family, cannot always have time and opportunities to attend all the lessons.

The school for adults provides secondary, as well as primary education. There are no Polish groups in primary education stage, solely because of the shortage of applicants. 'According to the legislation, classes for national minorities may consist of 15 people if it is the only institution in the city. If a Polish class does not reach that minimum, the students are offered Lithuanian or Russian classes, but with the possibility of additional classes in the Polish language, so that they can attain secondary education in Polish,' added Kimso.

Polish lessons at the House of Culture
Within the framework of informal learning, the school also offers studies of any selected subject (lessons are paid). 'About 10 years ago German and English lessons were the most popular. Now it is Lithuanian for non-Lithuanians,' said the director of the facility.

A few years ago there were as many willing to learn the Polish language as any other. 'Some needed to learn Polish because of their work. Others, coming from families of mixed origins, learned out of curiosity and heritage. They learned the Polish language and culture not only during lessons but also during events and celebrations in the House of Polish Culture,' said Ms Natalija.

Vilnius Adult Education Centre cooperates with many foreign institutions, organizations, including Polish ones, within EU projects. In 2011-2013, teachers and students took part in the international project Grundtvig 'Forest for all, all for forests'. The meeting of the project partners took place in Podkowa Leśna (Poland). The organizers of the meeting - the local action group 'Green Neighbourhood' familiarized participants with protected areas in Poland, Polish flora and fauna, and their protection.

Evening school done, next stop – Cambridge!
The students of Vilnius Adult Education Centre are mostly young people aged 25-35 years. 'The age of our students varies of course. For example now the number of students over-40 is rising,' said Kimso.

'We have a husband and wife among our students, both 38 years old. They became a family and had kids quite early. They had to work a lot; there was no time for education. Now they have more time for themselves, so they want to achieve successes in their careers and be a good example for their children,' says the director. She stressed that it is particularly challenging for an adult to make himself/herself to come back to school. 'A person of that age does not allow himself/herself to undermine studies. Such person is motivated to be an example for one's family and to improve his/her qualifications. Parents are the ones who take their children to the regular school, but an adult student comes there by himself,' noted Ms Natalija.

The least motivation is found among young people, who are still uncertain of their future endeavours. In contrast, older people have clear objectives of what they want to accomplish. They come to school for adults to upgrade their qualifications, they want to go to university and so on.

A number of Vilnius' professional drivers began applying lately, as bus and trolleybus depots require secondary education.

'During last graduation ceremony I noticed many graduates with smiles and tears of joy in their eyes. Their emotions were sincere, as reaching this milestone is of great importance to most of them. It is reassuring and makes me happy that people still strive for knowledge,' said Kimso.

'One of our Polish class graduates enrolled in University of Cambridge this year. Initially, she planned to work in UK, but decided to continue her education and successfully joined the university,' said Makovska.

It is not right to speak Polish incorrectly
Ms Jolanta has been teaching the Polish language and literature for 16 years. Her students have 3-4 lessons of the Polish language and literature per week (depending on the level).Makowska-szkola-dla-doroslych-centrum-suaugusiuju-mokymo-centras-fot.Iwona-Klimaszewska-9

'For adults, it is not that easy to learn Polish, as usually they speak only Lithuanian or Russian at work. Most of them speak with Vilnius' dialect; there is a clear accent. In addition, the Polish language of young people is tinged with English, and of older people – with Russian, so I am very happy when I can finally hear the correct Polish language. The progress is visible,' said Makovska. She added, that students at the school for adults learn Polish the same way as youngsters in schools. However, more attention is given to the practical use of the language, culture of the language. She stressed that if someone comes back to education after a long break, it is necessary to repeat the school program of 7-8 grades to refresh the spelling.

'Although the examination of the Polish language is not mandatory for graduation, every year some people still take the school exam in their mother tongue,' the Polish teacher said. She maintains contact with the majority of her students; they often call her to share their successes and achievements.

Adult students also participate in extracurricular activities - various meetings, parties, events. 'Last year, for example, we organized a Polish-Russian poetry night. Children and families of students usually join the festivities,' said Makovska.

'Many adult Poles continue their education in Polish classes because of their children. They say that if their own child attends a Polish school, it is not proper for a parent to use incorrectly their mother tongue. Moreover, the lack of knowledge of proper Polish makes it difficult to help youngsters with their homework. We are happy that parents send their children to Polish schools and continue their own studies in Polish. We therefore hope that the Polish classes will not disappear,' said Makovska.

Ivona Klimaševska

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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