Poland wants to secure future of Polish language education in Belarus

On Monday, Polish Education Minister Dariusz Piontkowski, who went on a two-day trip to Belarus, met with his Belarusian counterpart Ihar Karpenka to discuss Polish language education in Belarus.

“It is important for the Polish government that Belarus opens classes with Polish language instruction whenever there are people willing to learn it. We also hope for our neighbours to provide students the opportunity to take high school leaving exams in Polish as the language of instruction," Mr Piontkowski told the Polish Press Agency.

Earlier, Polish minority organisations in Belarus warned that the planned changes to the education code in the country would lead to the abolition of such a possibility and it would be necessary to take the high school-leaving exams in one of the country’s official languages, Belarusian or Russian.

According to Minister Piontkowski, the meeting showed the openness of the Belarusian side to the issue of Polish language teaching.

“Mr Karpenka declared that the Belarusian side “sees no problem in forming Polish classes,” however, such decisions are mostly the responsibility of local authorities in Belarus, and Polish is treated as other foreign languages,” he said.

Mr Piontkowski stated that Poland would seek the establishment of a legal framework “that will allow national minorities in Belarus to have their own classes, their own schools, and cultivate their own language, tradition and history".

He added that he had already invited Mr Karpenka to Poland “to review Polish solutions for the Belarusian minority in Poland”.

Nearly 13,000 children in Belarus were taught the Polish language in the last school year with more than half of them learning in schools run by Polish organisations.

On Sunday, Mr Piontkowski met Polish minority representatives and discussed their education needs. On Monday he visited state school No. 69 in Minsk, where Polish is taught as one of the subjects.

Mr Piontkowski is the first Polish Education Minister since 1989 to pay an official visit to Belarus.