Education in Belarusian language severely marginalized

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April 22, 2016 18:39

Those wishing to study in Belarusian in the major cities are a minority. The long-term risk is that national-oriented strategies will be weakened.

Secondary education in Belarusian language has been severely marginalized. Education in the Belarusian language is not developing, it is not promoted, and it has the reputation among many Belarusians of being ‘poor’ and ‘minor’ education. Most Belarusian language schools are in rural areas. As a rule, these schools are poorly equipped and use outdated teaching methods.

On paper, Belarusian language students come to almost 50 %. in some regions In Stolin region (Brest Oblast), district Belarusian language schools officially enroll about 8,000 students. In practice, that is only a declaration. About half of the subjects, including science, are taught in Russian.

In the regional centers, the situation is also patchy: in Gomel there is only one school where some classes are taught in Belarusian; in Grodno, a total of 13 students are taught in Belarusian in two secondary schools; in Vitebsk there are no Belarusian language classes; and in Mogilev, only one 10 year old schoolgirl is taught in Belarusian.

These practices are supported by the discriminatory attitudes towards secondary education in the Belarusian language coming from Education Ministry high-level officials. Recently Education Minister Sergei Maskevich said that ‘[Belarusian] youth wants to be taught in the language which will give them better opportunities in life. For us, today, Russian offers significant prospects, so teaching science in Russian is obvious’.

Paradoxically, even Belarusian history is taught in Russian. The Education Ministry announced that in 2013 teaching Belarusian history and geography in Belarusian would not be made compulsory due to financial difficulties. Printing Belarusian history textbooks for all students requires over BYR 10 billion, and Belarusian geography textbooks for 10th-graders BYR 1.3 billion more.

The long-term risk is that national-oriented strategies will be weakened and that Russia will once again be perceived by young Belarusians as the cultural and educational metropolis.

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