VILNIUS - National minority schools are a legacy of the Soviet era and we need to think about ways to better integrate young people attending them into Lithuanian society, Asta Skaisgiryte, chief foreign policy advisor to Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, says.
"Russian schools, just like those of other national minorities, are a Soviet legacy. They existed in the Soviet times and they still exist today," she told the Ziniu Radijas news radio on Tuesday. "We should probably not think about how to abolish them, we should think about ways to integrate national minority youth and children into Lithuanian life, how to make them speak Lithuanian very well, for example, when they leave school, so that they are able to pass the school graduation exam in Lithuanian and are able to fully integrate into the Lithuanian life."
Without a proper command of the Lithuanian language and a good knowledge of history and culture, national minorities youth cannot live a full life in the country, Skaisgiryte said.
"They are confined within the national minority, and this can be a problem because we still want all Lithuanian citizens to be integrated into life," Skaisgiryte said.
Her comment came after Lithuanian Education, Science and Sport Minister Gintautas Jakstas last week reignited debate on whether Russian-language schools should be closed in Lithuania by following in the footsteps of the Estonians and Latvians. However, he later said he did not link this debate to the aforementioned incident.
The Education Ministry plans to draw up a proposal on gradually phasing out education in the Russian language over the next several weeks. Meanwhile, national minority schools where the education process is done using the languages of EU countries or countries friendly to Lithuania could continue, Jakstas says.
Under the existing law, local authorities in areas with traditionally large national minorities guarantee education in the language of the national minority at the request of the local community.
National minority schools mostly operate in southeastern Lithuania where children receive education in national minority languages in nearly 100 schools in nine municipalities.
According to the National Agency for Education, over 47,000 children attended educational establishments for national minorities, from kindergartens to schools, in the academic year of 2020-2021.
Around 14,000 pupils are now attending general education schools with Russian as the language of instruction, mostly in Vilnius, Visaginas and Klaipeda.