The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine is grateful to the Venice Commission for preparing an opinion on Article 7 of the Law “On Education” of 5 September 2017 in such a short time period.
The Ministry considers the Venice Commission’s opinion as a balanced and constructive one. We greet a consistent position of the Commission regarding the role of the state language as an instrument to develop the identity of the State community. The Commission rightly stresses in the paragraph 73 that the Ukrainian state-building and the strengthening of the state language as one of its foundations, is an important consideration of the Article 7.
The Law “On Education” is a framework law. Its modalities will be further detalized. In this regard, the Commission rightly points out that many concerns may be immediately addressed through other legislative acts. The upcoming new Law “On General Secondary Education” is, in particular, such an act. We fully adhere to this notion. The Ministry will immediately start working, together with the representatives of the national minorities, on educational approaches to different national minorities, taking into account their educational needs, educational environment, belonging to the language groups and a level of vulnerability of a certain language. A scrupulous consideration of each national minority is needed, as there is no one-size-fits-all best policy practice suitable for all minorities.
The main goal is to ensure a sufficient level of the state language proficiency that allows every citizen of Ukraine to exercise her or his constitutional rights.
We support the recommendations of the Venice Commission presented in the concluding paragraph 126. The Venice Commission recommends, in particular:
The given concluding recommendations will be, particularly, implemented by the Law “On General Secondary Education”. We fully agree with the Commission’s opinion that the paragraph 4 of Article 7 shall be used in a manner as ample and flexible as it is possible. As the Ministry repeatedly stressed, the mentioned paragraph 4 of Article 7 provides for an opportunity to define the ratio of the state and native languages depending on varying educational needs of the children from national minorities. Hereby, we once again call upon a constructive dialogue on this matter.
The Ministry is also ready to consider the amendment of the transitional provisions of the Education Law, what could also be done with the help of the new Law “On General Secondary Education”.
Taking into account the recommendations, the Ministry of Education and Science proposes the following models of implementation of Article 7, which could be detalized in the Law "On General Secondary Education". Educational models in schools with minority languages will take into account the educational needs of children of different national minorities, taking into account the following three criteria. The first criteria is vulnerability of the language, the second is the language environment, in which the minority resides, and the third criterion is the language group to which the language belongs.
Consequently, three models of the use and study of languages could be proposed for the implementation of Article 7 of the Law "On Education".
The first model envisages the possibility of teaching all subjects in the minority language from the first (1st) until the 11th (12th) grade along with the Ukrainian language
This model would work for vulnerable languages; those that do not have their own state for the development of linguistic terminology, as well as for those who do not live in their native language environment. For example, the Crimean Tatars do not have any other state to develop the terminology of their language; at present, the community lives exclusively in the Ukrainian-speaking or Russian-speaking environment, which also does not contribute to the development of the Crimean Tatar language.
The next model is proposed to the national minorities, whose language belongs to the European Union. Depending on the language group and the linguistic environment, this model may have two variants. The first option for the national minorities, whose languages belong to the Slavic language group, and who live in a predominantly Ukrainian-speaking environment. These are, for example, Polish, Slovak, and Bulgarian languages.
As stipulated by the Law, children whose mother tongue belongs to this group, will be able to fully study in their native language at kindergarten and elementary school, along with studying of Ukrainian as a subject. From the 5th grade, along with subjects taught in the native language, subjects taught in Ukrainian will be introduced. The share of subjects taught in Ukrainian will be increasing proportionally until the high school.
The second option will take into account the peculiarities of studying the Ukrainian language by representatives of other language groups, who mostly live in the native language environment. In particular, it tackles the Romanian and Hungarian national minorities. For schools with these languages, the transition to studying subjects in Ukrainian will be even more gradual, and the percentage of subjects taught by the state will be smaller. This approach is justified by the fact that learning a language in another language group is much more difficult and requires more study time to reach a sufficient language level for the study of other subjects in Ukrainian.
The third model is proposed to the national minorities, whose mother tongue belongs to the same language family as the Ukrainian does, as well as to those, who prevailingly live in native language environment. In particular, this model is applied to the Russian language.
Following this model, the children would proceed to study of the Ukrainian subjects immediately after the 5th grade. Children, whose mother tongue is Russian, easily learn Ukrainian. At the same time they mostly live in the 100% Russian-speaking environment – they communicate in Russian in families, on the streets, watch TV in Russian. Therefore, the only place where children from this national minority can freely use the state language is a school. While studying subjects in Ukrainian, and continuing to study Russian as a subject, children will be able to have a high level of proficiency both in Ukrainian and in Russian.
The Ministry of Education and Science has also started to work on improvement of teaching of the Ukrainian language in schools with the language of instruction of national minorities. Together with the minorities, the Ministry of Education and Science works to further develop various educational approaches taking into account the educational needs of children. The main aim is to provide a sufficient level of proficiency in the state language, while maintaining a high quality education of various subjects in both the state language and the native language.
We are willing to further work with the Council of Europe on a matter of education for national minorities in Ukraine, and hope for a constructive cooperation with our international partners during the implementation of the Law “On Education”.