“It’s normal to know the State language”


The Minister of Education, Ivan Vakarchuk, spoke to journalists from the newspaper Komersant in Ukraine on a number of issues regarding recent controversy over a government resolution on language in schools, external testing and history textbooks.

Following outcry over the Cabinet of Ministers Resolution from 30 September and a submission by some National Deputies to the Constitutional Court, the Minister of Education called the Resolution on changes to the Regulations on General Educational Institutions of a recommendatory nature.  As already reported, these changes include a new item 241 which states that “In State and municipal general educational institutions Ukrainian shall be the language of tuition. Together with Ukrainian in the teaching process in State and municipal general educational institutions, languages of national minorities may be used and studied.” There is also a statement about the Ukrainian language being used regularly in working hours in such educational institutions.

The Minister stated that the resolution was of a recommendatory nature, and “if you read it carefully, you’ll see that it defends the rights of national minorities. Nobody intends to punish anyone for failure to carry out this resolution. It was passed in order to finally regulate relations in school. After all children who speak Ukraine have the right to say to the teacher: “I want you to speak to me in Ukrainian”, or in another language they speak, for example, in Russian. This is basically one more possibility for parents and children.”

Mr Vakarchuk was asked about why the Ministry of Education had issued an order to have external examining carried out in Ukrainian from 2010.

He explained that the decision had been taken two years ago and pointed out that it was in keeping with Article 10 of the Constitution which stipulates that Ukrainian is the State language. “Our country gives children the opportunity to receive school education in their native language, but entering a higher education institute, young people, as citizens of Ukraine, must know the State language. Members of the national minorities learn Ukrainian from Grade 1, moreover according to our programme, for two years now they have had the option of studying other subjects in Ukrainian. At the end of the day knowing the State language is natural!  And since this decision was known about two years ago, difficulties should not arise. Still more so since there are 8 months to go under the tests”.

He was asked whether it would not be better to change tactics, concentrating on popularizing Ukrainian.

“Some people, instead of helping children to master Ukrainian, simply hype up the situation. .. Does it not seem strange to you that all children are happily studying and only some adults strongly react? There has simply not been a minister before me who affirmed the need to study the Ukrainian language. Probably because they were frightened”.

When asked what they were frightened of, the Minister, Mr Vakarchuk replied “Just this “scandal” and that you’ll be asked questions on this track. This is perhaps some kind of metaphysical fear since according to results of sociological studies, the language issue in Ukraine is in 18th place in terms of problems facing the country and it worries a mere 3% of the population!”

The Ministry is proposing changes to textbooks on Ukrainian history: to add information about Holodomor, Stalin’s repressions and the activities of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists – Ukrainian Resistance Army. Will that not lead to an even greater schism in society with different generations having different knowledge of history?

Each generation’s knowledge of history varies. And when, for example, the Security Service has disclosed a quarter of a million new documents, then why should we keep them away from children and society, and how should our assessment of many events as a result not change? We have no right to hide the facts from our children. I would mention that the group that suggested these changes in the curriculum represented all regions of Ukraine.

From an interview at:

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