[lg policy] Students From Western Ukraine Failing Ukrainian Language Exams

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Wed Aug 24 11:20:09 EDT 2016

Students From Western Ukraine Failing Ukrainian Language Exams
© Sputnik/ Evgeny Kotenko
Europe <http://sputniknews.com/europe/>
18:03 23.08.2016(updated 18:12 23.08.2016) Get short URL
Ukrainian media recently reported that students from western Ukrainian
regions have scored the lowest in countrywide external independent testing
of students' knowledge of the Ukrainian language and literature, as well as
Ukrainian history. Independent journalist Sviatoslav Knyazev comments on
the troubling results, and their wider implications.

Last week, the Ukrainian Center for Educational Quality Assessment, an
agency responsible for examinations for admission to Ukrainian
universities, publicized
<http://rian.com.ua/society/20160816/1014799231.html> the results
of testing of Ukrainian students' knowledge of Ukrainian language &
literature and history.

The center discovered that the highest percentage of students who failed
exams in these areas were from the Zakarpattia region (where 27.3% failed
language and literature, and 29.2% history), Chernivtsi (20.9% and 29.1%,
respectively) and Rivne (14.9% and 18.3%). All three of the regions are
situated in the country's west. Kiev, Ukraine's capital, and Lviv, in the
far west, scored the best results, according to the center's director.
[image: Deputies of opposition factions block the Presidium of the
Verkhovna Rada demanding that the parliament not discuss a bill that would
give the Russian language official status in Ukraine]
© Sputnik/ Grigoriy Vasilenko
UN Finds Controversial Ukrainian Minority Language Law Socially Divisive
Traditionally, Western sociologists studying Ukraine's language dynamics
have superficially divided the country between a 'Ukrainian-speaking' west
and a predominantly 'Russian-speaking' east. However, the results appear
to demonstrate that something strange is going on. Commenting on the
testing results, and on the state of Ukraine's education and language
policy in general, independent journalist and blogger Sviatoslav Knyazev
suggested that the testing was indicative of several major problems.

In his analysis, published by PolitRussia
<http://politrussia.com/world/yazykovoy-absurd-na-371/>, the journalist
suggested the Western regions' poor results were an indication, first and
foremost, "that education has ceased, in principle, to be a priority area"
for the Ukrainian government.

"In recent years," Knyazev recalled, "the number of educational
institutions and teachers in the country has declined dramatically. In the
near future, the education system will lose another 4,000 teachers, close
5% of its schools and nearly two-thirds of institutions of higher
education. Educational programs themselves are also being trimmed
For example, students in younger grades will no long have to know their
times tables, to read quickly and write essays; in the upper grades, a
comprehensive study of history will be replaced with a 'national-patriotic'
[image: Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko speaks during the opening
ceremony of an exhibition showcasing new Ukrainian military equipment in
Kiev, Ukraine, October 14, 2015]
© REUTERS/ Gleb Garanich
If Kiev Invokes Martial Law, It Won't Be Because of Any 'Russian Threat'
Another problem, the journalist wrote, has to do with the fact that many
Ukrainian children are beginning to feel a sense of despair over the
depressed economic situation in the country. "Many of their parents are
working in Russia (over four million), in Poland (about one million),
in Italy (400,000) and the Czech Republic (over 100,000). Moreover, the
kinds of workers demanded there for the most part do not require higher
education. Meanwhile, Ukraine itself is facing the rapid degradation of its
industry, and the demand for skilled labor is falling with the closure
of industrial enterprises."

At the same time, the analyst noted, despite the efforts of Ukraine's
government, virtually since the country's independence, but especially
after the coming to power of Western-oriented governments in 2004 and again
in 2014, many Ukrainians, by some estimates even a majority, continue
to prefer the Russian language for their daily communication.
[image: Ukrainian high school graduates playing in a fountain on the
traditional 'Last Bell ceremony' in Kiev, 2013.]
© Sputnik/ Grigoriy Vasilenko
Ukrainian high school graduates playing in a fountain on the traditional
'Last Bell ceremony' in Kiev, 2013.

For instance, while Ukrainian sociologists recently released polls
<http://www.newsru.com/world/18aug2016/ruslanginukraine.html> showing that
42% of Ukrainians use only the Ukrainian language to communicate
with family (with 32% using Russian and 25% both languages), these figures
may be hiding underlying realities, since Russian has become highly
politicized following the 2014 Maidan coup d'état and the ensuing political
conflict with Russia.

Knyazev recalled that as recently as 2008, polling conducted by Gallup
had discovered that nearly 83% of respondents nationally preferred the
Russian language over Ukrainian. Ukrainians' preference for the use
of Russian language has also been confirmed in their language of choice
on the internet, including searches using the popular search engines Google
and Yandex, with only two of the top ten queries on Google asked
in Ukrainian.
[image: School year begins in Ukraine]
© Sputnik/ Alexandr Maksimenko
Ukraine's Soros'-Inspired Education Reform 'Will Create Generation of
Mentally Debilitated Citizens'
"For fairness' sake," the journalist noted, "it's necessary to note that
rural areas in central and southern Ukraine are dominated not by the
Russian or Ukrainian, but by a mixture of the two known as 'Surzhyk'.
Moreover, the Ukrainian used by the country's television presenters today
is radically different from that which was taught at schools during the
Soviet era. Furthermore, differences in regional dialects are quite
serious. A resident of Poltava [closer to the country's east], will likely
have a hard time understanding someone from a Carpathian hamlet [in the
country's west]. The dialects are perhaps as different from each other as
'standard' Ukrainian is from Russian."

Last week, commenting on the language testing results for Lenta.ru
<https://lenta.ru/articles/2016/08/19/mova/>, Ukrainian historian Viktor
Pirozhenko explained the problem as he sees it.

"Russian language is dominant everywhere – in everyday life, in the media,
on the internet, in personal communication. In written form it is at a very
low level, due to systematic teaching," he said.

"At the same time," Pirozhenko noted," a majority of students are failing
to master Ukrainian, with the language remaining unfamiliar to them. They
know it at the everyday level, but are not eager to learn the written
language." As for Western Ukraine, the area "is the most depressed part
of the country, with the highest levels of unemployment. Accordingly,
students are focusing on going abroad to work at construction sites,
as unskilled workers, and as service personnel. More than Ukrainian, they
need Polish, Czech, Slovak and maybe Italian."
[image: President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko inspects a service center for
issuance of biometric passports in Kyiv on January 12, 2015]
© East News/ Ukrafoto
Ukraine's President Says EU Will Give Kiev Visa-Free Travel, Lots of Money
"Against this background," Knyazev wrote, "the fact that a quarter of even
a third of the graduates from Western Ukrainian schools do not consider it
necessary to study Ukrainian language and history is lamentable, but also
logical. Working abroad at greenhouses, meat processing plants or plumbing
companies, the language is an absolutely useless burden for them."

Even worse, the journalist added, is the fact that "against the background
of aggressive attempts at Ukrainianization by authorities, the country's
Russian and Surzhyk speakers are not being taught the Russian language
correctly. Not knowing Russian grammar rules, but communicating in Russian
or in a mixture of Ukrainian and Russian at the everyday level, they try
to write using elements of Ukrainian orthography. The picture becomes very
grim, with students failing to achieve full competency in either language."


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