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A proposal to solve the row over the Ukrainian law on public education

October 12th, 2017

A researcher on international law believes Hungary should give the majority of Ukrainian politicians the benefit of the doubt, and negotiate an amendment to their new law which violates the right of minorities to be taught in their mother tongue in the public school system.

On Index János Fiala-Butor, an expert on International Law at the Social Sciences Research Centre of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences agrees with critics of the law which rules out teaching in minority languages from the fifth school year. However, he remarks, a clumsy last-minute exception was introduced to the text which allows teaching ’one or several subjects’ in European Union member country languages. That is not a guarantee and Ukraine is therefore still in violation of its own Constitution and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Nevertheless, inveterate nationalists are a minority in Ukraine, Fiala-Butor explains. Hungary must accept that mainstream politicians are sincere in complaining about the poor Ukrainian of minority students, and admits that most young ethnic Hungarians in the Sub-Carpathian region don’t learn proper Ukrainian by the age of 18. The problem is that if the Ukrainian school system is unable to teach them proper Ukrainian over 11 years, it is unrealistic to expect them to learn physics in Ukrainian. The result will be that not only their language skills will not improve, but even their science knowledge will be impaired. The solution the Hungarian side should strive for, Fiala-Butor suggests, is a reform of the teaching of Ukrainian, which is at present highly ineffective.

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