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10.02.2011

Authors of language education concept didn’t listen to scholars – or the public

   

On Tuesday 8 February, a meeting took place of the working group on drawing up a concept strategy for language education in Ukraine. Public discussion of the concept ended on 20 January. Despite numerous comments from scholars, the authors made only small changes to the documents, not removing the main points of dispute concerning extension of the sphere of use of the Russian language n Ukraine and the lack of support for the Ukrainian language at state level. Specialists believe that the document may be approved in its original form.

The authors envisage that their concept strategy should become the basis for State standards of language education, study programmes and methodology for teaching languages in schools and institutions.

One of the key tenets of the concept is free choice of language of tuition which the authors deem to be “an important characteristic of a democratic society”. The concept also envisages extending the sphere of use o the Russian language as “native for a significant percentage of the population and the language of inter-ethnic communication”.

According to the Head of the Working Group, Yevdokiya Holoborodko, public discussion resulted in more than 100 suggestions. “We agreed that the issue of which language to communicate in is the personal matter of the individual. We removed the characteristic “international” for the Russian language and also in places changed “native” and “State” in the Concept’s tenets” (the original text said that citizens should speak “their native and the State languages”).

Ms Holoborodko said that the concept does not have the thesis of State support for the Ukrainian language in all regions of the country since “this is not part of the task of the concept”.

“The document extends the rights of the Russian language in Ukraine, but the developing of a multilingual individual is one of its aims”, she added.

It should be mentioned that the tenets of the Concept drawn up in the Ministry of Education run counter to the provisions of former President Yushchenko’s Decree on a Concept for State Language Policy, signed on 15 February 2010 and current to this day. The Decree, for example, envisages extension of the sphere of use of the Ukrainian language and unconditional provision by the State for the constitutional norm “on the comprehensive development and functioning of the Ukrainian language in all spheres of public life over the entire territory of Ukraine”.

Explaining this contradiction, the members of the Working Group said that Ukrainian legislation was “contradictory as a whole”.

Representatives of the Lviv Ivan Franko National University are convinced that the Concept runs counter to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages which its authors cite. “The Charter states that any measures aimed at developing territorial languages must be carried out without harming the official language of the State. Yet the Concept is aimed at creating a privileged position for one – the Russian language”, a statement from the University’s Press Service reads.

At the same time analysts consider that the Ministry of Education may adopt the Concept despite legal clashes. “This document may be passed, but it will go down in history as a circular signed by people denying the existence of Ukrainian culture and the Ukrainian language, and that is a disgrace. There cannot be a State where people do not speak the State language, yet that it would seem is what the authors are aiming at” Komersant – Ukraine was told by the Honorary President of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Viacheslav Bryukhovetsky.

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