Hungarian Minority Leaders Meet with Ukraine Ministry Officials on Education Law

Hungarian Delegation Reports “Progress”; Meeting with Foreign Ministers Set for June 22

Washington, D.C. — A delegation of the Hungarian Cultural Association of Transcarpathia (KMKSZ) met recently with the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, to discuss a controversial provision on the state language in Ukraine’s new Law on Education.  The Hungarian delegation reported “progress” on several fronts.

László Brenzovics, Chairman of the Hungarian Cultural Association of Transcarpathia (KMKSZ) and representative of the Ukrainian Parliament, headed a delegation representing the Hungarian minority which met with officials from the Ukraine Ministry of Education on June 5.

As Brenzovics noted, the Ukrainian Parliament is already considering an amendment to delay introduction of the law’s language-related language provision until 2023. At the June 5 meeting, Ministry officials promised to develop a mechanism to cooperate with Hungarian experts in Transcarpathia to ensure that the Education Law, before it is implemented, meets the expectations of the Hungarian minority. These include developing a new methodology for teaching Ukrainian as a second language, and a system for evaluating the proficiency of non-native-speaking Ukrainian students. The Ministry also promised to invite representatives of the Hungarian minority to the committees in charge of working out the details.

According to Brenzovics, the Ministry also agreed to the Hungarian minority delegation’s request that private schools be exempted from the Education Law’s language-related provision. Ministry officials promised to include this exemption in the new law on secondary education.

“We hope that the process now underway will continue, and that sooner or later we will find a compromise that guarantees native-language education for the Transcarpathian Hungarians, and also improves the quality of Ukrainian language teaching,” said the KMKSZ chairman. “The latter will require new teaching methods.”

Ildikó Orosz, President of the Transcarpathian Association of Hungarian Teachers (KMPSZ), also highlighted the meeting’s positive developments. Starting next year, the Ministry promised, it would lower the minimum passing score in the subject of Ukrainian language for national minority students taking their school-leaving exams.

Ms. Orosz noted that the Ministry has drawn up a schedule for implementing the education law. Earlier, representatives of Transcarpathian Hungarians protested that this plan only amounts to a gradual transition to teaching school subjects in Ukrainian, and makes no provision for protecting native-language education.

However, Ms. Orosz reports a “positive development”: Minister of Education Liliya Hrinevich stated that the Ministry is prepared to involve Hungarian minority representatives in defining the measures necessary to preserve national identity in education.

“The first step has been taken, but we are still far from the solution,” Ms. Orosz said. “We have much more to discuss, but it is reassuring that they are listening to us, and there was no miscommunication this time.”

Further high-level consultations are planned on the Ukrainian Education Law and its consequences for national minorities. On June 22, Pavlo Klimkin, Foreign Minister of Ukraine, and Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, will meet with Hungarian minority leaders in Beregovo, Ukraine.

In addition to the two Foreign Ministers, the meeting will be attended by Ms. Hrinevich; Mr. Brenzovics; and Miklós Kásler, Minister of Human Capacities of Hungary.

Based on reports by the Hungarian News Agency (MTI), June 5, 2018

and Zakarpattya Online, via the Interfax-Ukrajina news agency, as reported by the online journal Kárpátalja, June 13, 2018

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