Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Moscow Comes Up with Another Way to Suppress Interest in Non-Russian Languages

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 29 – Standards of learning documents generated by governments around the world are among the most boring writing imaginable, but they often contain arrangements that signal official intentions for the rising generation and that will have a profound impact on the future.  Thus, it is with Russia’s regarding non-Russian languages.

            And while these provisions, which exclude all non-Russian languages from achievement tests, are not as easily understood and dramatic as Vladimir Putin’s decision to end the required study of the languages of the titular nationalities in the non-Russian republics, they are likely to have a broader and even more negative impact.

            That is because, as Tatar scholar Nail Gyylman points out, if students aren’t going to be evaluated in terms of their progress in the study of these languages, both students and their parents will view these subjects as less important to their futures and will drop them in favor of other subjects on which they will be rated (

            Officials at the Russian education ministry rammed through with only the briefest periods allowed for discussion new standards of education, announcing on September 18 that these discussions are at an end and the regulations are to go into effect (

                As Gyylman points out, “on the whole, federal standards of learning are a collection of requirements which it is difficult for non-specialists to evaluate.” But with regard to native languages and literatures, the meaning of the new rules is clear: they are almost the only subjects in which the progress of students won’t be assessed after the fourth and ninth classes.

            Not only does that mean that there will not be a unified state examination in them, but it also means that “for the administration of the schools, teachers, and students, native language will have the lowest status of all subjects and that the hours of native language instruction will be the first to be cut.”

            Gyylman continues: “Usually the lack of interest among the majority of pupils in the study of native languages is connected with their low status and lack of use in further instruction, work, and social life. But by the older classes, the majority of pupils know that school training will do little to equip them for life.”

            And consequently, he says, “the main and sometimes the only motive for studying one or another subject among upper class pupils is the offering of unified state examinations and entrance into higher educational institutions.” If there is no such possibility for a particular subject, there will be much less interest than otherwise

            Moscow had already reduced the importance of unified state examinations for native languages – they are at best optional – but now, it has eliminated the assessment of progress in those languages at still earlier grades, reducing still further the motivation students will have to study them and reducing the quality of knowledge and skills they might acquire.

            What the powers that be are trying to do is to create conditions in which pupils and their parents will have fewer reasons to study these languages and thus choose not to, allowing Moscow to place the responsibility for the decline in non-Russian languages on those who speak them rather than to admit its own role.

            Parents and pupils who speak non-Russian languages must recognize what Moscow is doing, protest against it by continuing to study these languages and demand that the standards of learning by changed so that the motivation people have for studying them will not be reduced to nothing.

No comments:

Post a Comment