|Elemér Illyés : National Minorities in Romania|
In the 1951-1952 academic year in Romania, 2,267 general schools with 237,560 pupils, 79 general secondary schools with 13,179 pupils, 92 technical secondary schools with 11,809 pupils and 197 occupational schools and occupational courses with 11,312 pupils, had instruction in the languages of the national minorities. The Hungarian Bolyai University of Cluj consisted of seven faculties. Altogether, there was instruction in Hungarian in six higher educational institutions, and 3,045 Hungarian students completed college or university degrees in their mother tongue.39 Particular attention should be paid to the problem of the availability of higher education in Hungarian in the areas of medicine, economics, agriculture and the arts. The Hungarian-language Institute of Medicine and Pharmacology was in operation in Tirgu Mures, with approximately 1,000 students; in Cluj, there were Hungarian-language sections in the agricultural college and the colleges of economics and visual arts; and from 1946 onward regular instruction was offered at the Hungarian Music Academy in Cluj.
It should be noted that in the schools where a minority language was the language of instruction, teaching was often done by Romanian staff. The Romanian administration placed Romanian teachers wherever it was possible, and the dismissal of the teachers of minority origin shook the entire national-minority educational system to its very foundations.
With the consolidation of the internal political situation, cultural policy also took a new direction in people's democratic Romania. According to the new Constitution of September 24, 1952, "the development of the culture of the Romanian people and the culture of the nationalities is socialist in content and national in form." Thus, while the spirit of the Constitution was infused with a "class" point of view, it was tolerant toward the nationalities, a fact clearly reflected in changes in policy toward the national-minority school network.
Steps were taken toward the further development of national-minority education in 1956 and 1957. The network of general secondary schools offering instruction in Hungarian was expanded, and several new specialized German-language and Hungarian-language secondary schools were organized. A party resolution on the development of higher education seemed to promise significant results. The number of Hungarian students to be admitted to Bolyai University in Cluj was increased, and young people belonging to the national minorities were given the option of taking higher educational entrance examinations in their mother-tongue.
An independent Hungarian agricultural college was founded in Cluj and the Cluj Technical University established a Hungarian-language chair and lectureship. A nationalities directorate was set up within the Ministry of Education to oversee the education of the national minorities. This directorate issued a decision that, in order to begin offering instruction in one of the national-minority languages, only 15 fifth-grade pupils and only ten sixth- and seventh-grade pupils were required.
However, 1958 saw another significant turnaround in Romanian nationality policy; since that year, the national minorities have been subjected to serious infringements in many spheres of life. Several of the measures which have limited national equality have related specifically to education. In this context, it is worth noting that, according to statistical data, the amount of education in the nationality languages is growing, but the number of independent national minority schools is constantly decreasing. In fact, this process had already begun in the 1950s, as illustrated by Table V-1.
The 1956 Hungarian Revolution had a great effect on the reorganization of higher education in Romania. On the surface, it appeared that many concessions were made, but, in fact, higher education was put under more rigid control. The July 26, 1957 reform of higher education made clear the intentions of Bucharest: the ideological re-education of the future entrants into the ranks of the intellectual elite.40 The emphasis was shifted, from the traditional examinations to determine the academic preparedness of candidates for admission to institutions of higher education, to an examination of social origins. The children of workers and peasants were to be given preferential treatment.
The 1957 law concerning higher education modified in many ways regulations of 1953 41 governing, among other things, the activities of instructors and organizational, social and student problems in institutions of higher learning.
Minority Schools and Sections in Romania, 1948-1959
in schools offering
instruction in another
Source: Anuarul Statistic al R.P.R 1959 (The Statistical Yearbook of the Romanian People's Republic, 1959), pp. 288-293.
The same ideology which claimed that the nationality question had been "solved" called for a struggle against "nationality isolation" in 1959. The hidden purpose of this campaign was the abolition of independent national-minority schools in order to facilitate -- according to the official formulation -- "the establishment of closer ties between the national minorities and the majority people." As part of this program, the national minorities were pressed to request the "unification" of their schools with Romanian ones; minority teachers who did not were threatened with dismissal.42 Thus, the hitherto independent national-minority schools became mere sections in Romanian schools, thereby losing their special character as national-minority institutions. Specialized schools teaching in the languages of the minorities have thus been gradually eliminated; in the Szé kler region, for example, which has an absolute majority of Hungarian inhabitants, Hungarian pupils have often had to study in Romanian-language schools because of a lack of Hungarian-language ones. This policy affected national-minority education as a whole, but it had the greatest impact on institutions with instruction in Hungarian or German, as illustrated in Table V-2.
What is most striking is the constant decrease in the number of Hungarian-language four-year general schools: in the 1955-56 academic year there were 1,022, and by 1958-59, their number had been reduced to 915. During the same time the number of Hungarian sections in Romanian-language four-year general schools increased from 38 to 124. In the 1955-56 academic year there were 493 seven-year general schools offering instruction in Hungarian while in the 1958-59 academic year there were only 469, and at the same time the number of Hungarian sections in seven-year general schools increased from 10 to 77. By contrast, the number of German-language, four-year general schools and sections shows an increase; that of seven-year schools shows a decrease, while the number of German sections in seven-year schools is increasing.
The Development of the Hungarian and German Education
for Four-year and Seven-year General Schools Between
1955 and 1959
1. Four-year General Schools
2. Seven-year General Schools
Source: Anuarul Statistic al R.P.R (Statistical Yearbook of the Romanian People's Republic, 1959), pp. 290-293.
Table V-3 provides a general picture of education in the Romanian People's Republic, arranged according to types of school and language of instruction, in the academic year 1958-1959.
At the end of the 1950s Romanian nationalist tendencies were given more concrete manifestation. The merging of the national-minority schools and Romanian schools at the end of 1959, referred to as "parallelization" and "unification," is a good example of the roundabout way in which the Romanian authorities sought to undermine the equal rights of the national minorities. This so-called "parallelization," and "unification" continues to be an important instrument for Romanianization. "Parallelization" means that Romanian-language classes are established alongside minority-language classes, even in those areas where there are only a very few Romanian pupils: in minority-language schools, a request by three Romanian pupils has been enough to have a Romanian-language class organized. The purpose of establishing the parallelclasses, called sections ("sectie"), is to persuade -- with carefully chosen methods -- national-minority pupils to join the Romanian-language classes. The ultimate result of this policy has been the closing of one national-minority school after another, because of a lack of pupils for minority-language instruction.43
National-Minority Education Institutions
in the Romanian People's Republic in the Academic Year
|Language of Instruction|
|Types of schools||Hungarian||German||Ukrainian||Russian||Serbian||Slovak||Jewish||Tatar||Turkish||Others|
Source: Anuarul Statistic al R.P.R. (Statistical Yearbook of the Romanian People's Republic), 1959. pp. 254 et seq., 265, 268 et seq., 272 et seq., 290-293.
At the same time, nationality sections are set up, which are later combined with the Romanian section of the school. Even the existence of nationality sections can be justified only as long as the proportion of national-minority to Romanian pupils remains constant. But an unfavorable change in this proportion is ensured by the government's efforts to introduce Romanian settlers into minority areas. As a result, for example, in some places 75 percent of the German sections are made up of Romanian pupils.44 In the long run this process undermines the justification for the existence of nationality schools. This measure has resulted in a 50 percent reduction of the national-minority school network over the last ten years. In the course of this process frontiers between the nationalities' educational systems have taken on a national character: official educational policy has sought to encourage the development of the culturally less-advanced Romanian population by restricting the educational development of the more-advanced national minorities.
"Parallelization" and "unification" have affected every level of the educational system. The imposition of uniformity began with the merging of the independent Hungarian Bolyai University of Cluj and the Romanian Babes University in 1959 to form Babes-Bolyai University.45 This merger, -- which was carried out with disregard for the principle of national equality -- was officially justified by the argument that the separate Hungarian university was a hotbed of "separatism" which could have only led to the emergence of "nationalism," rather than facilitating cooperation between Romanian and Hungarian students and the establishment of closer ties between them. The rector of the Hungarian university was forced to be the one to request the merger, arguing that it was impossible to separate the schools on nationality lines. It is characteristic of the atmosphere of intellectual-political terror at the time that the more uncompromising opponents of the merger were publicly humiliated at the unification rally. (The meeting was chaired by the then still relatively young Nicolae Ceausescu). The loss of the Hungarian university's independence led to the suicide of four professors, including the famous Hungarian poet and literary scholar, Lá szló Szabé di.
The merger took place gradually. According to the unification document, each faculty was to have a separate Hungarian section, and Hungarian-speaking students were still to be taught in Hungarian, although it was not specified which subjects were to be taught in Hungarian. However, the number of lessons and lectures held in Hungarian decreased from year to year; in the 1958-1959 academic year there were twelve faculties with Hungarian lectures; after 1964 these sections were abolished, and thereafter in practice only those studying Hungarian linguistics or Hungarian and another language were taught in Hungarian. The merger document, containing a list of faculties, was never published. The Romanian authorities took strict measures against those professors and teachers who objected to the new instructions in one way or another; as a result, many were forced to resign.
Instruction in Hungarian has gradually ceased at the other Hungarian-language institutions of higher education as well. The Institute of Medicine and Pharmacology, which was transferred from Cluj to Tirgu Mures, had originally been an exclusively Hungarian institution, but it was transformed after 1962 into an institution with a majority of Romanian students, the result of recruiting students from the Regat; only part of the Hungarian teaching staff remained in their posts. Instruction in Hungarian continues to be offered only at the College of Dramatic Arts in Tirgu Mures (which has a special character and, by its nature, caters to only a few students), and in the ecclesiastical higher educational institutions. Training of general-school teachers in Hungarian language is provided in a section of the Teacher Training College of Tirgu Mures.
After the absorption of Bolyai University, a decrease in the amount of teaching in minority languages, particularly Hungarian, began.46
The same method that was used to denationalize the universities is still being applied to the rest of the school system: combining Romanian and national-minority schools into a single school with a nationality section. Further efforts are then made to reduce the number of nationality sections as much as possible.
Another method commonly employed was to persuade parents to send their children to Romanian classes. Such parents were concerned that the further education and career prospects of their children might not be as assured if they enrolled them in minority-language schools.
Since it was impossible to agitate publicly in favor of education in the mother-tongue, discreet local propaganda in favor of the Romanian section, emphasizing the advantages of learning in Romanian, convinced many parents that it made no sense to education their children in their native language. This conviction was greatly strengthened by the fact that minority-language instruction had been almost completely eliminated from two highly important areas: higher education and vocational education. Often, in an effort to persuade parents, pressure was exerted by the Party, the administration, and individuals' employers. In addition, administrative barriers serving the same aim were employed. All was justified by the argument that insistence on teaching in the mother-tongue is a form of nationalism, indicating lack of loyalty as a citizen and lack of respect for the official language of the state. Changes within the school were ensured by the appointment of nationalist Romanian teachers everywhere, with the deputy teachers being chosen from among the more subservient teachers belonging to the national minorities.
As a result of the educational policy of mergers, all technical education in the minority languages was abolished, even in the apprentice schools, by the end of 1959. Finally, in the wake of the reorganization of the general schools, elementary education in the languages of the national minorities was reduced by a half.
The aim of these measures was to hinder the continuing growth of the minority intellectual leadership and to limit the numbers of skilled minority workers and foremen. This was done partly in order to deprive the national minorities of their leading strata and partly in order to strip the working class of its most militant elements, ensuring that the new generations of workers would get no aid in the development of their class consciousness.
The unification of the schools meant in the vast majority of cases that educational institutions were headed by Romanians, that the language of staff conferences became exclusively Romanian, and that, henceforth, all school ceremonies were conducted in Romanian.
Nationality cultural activities in the schools disappeared completely: it was no longer possible for national-minority literary circles, voluntary study groups, or dramatic societies to function. Among the negative effects of the radically altered nationality policy was the fact that the number of national-minority pupils attending Romanian-language general and secondary schools gradually increased.
As the minority languages lost ground, the Romanian language and way of thinking became increasingly predominant. At this point, the ban on importing journals and newspapers from Hungary and Western Europe took on real significance.
The textbooks, which were based on Soviet models, were published by the Ministry of Education or other agencies in charge of education. Their content reflected the proletarian internationalism which was characteristic of the political line of the Eastern European states at that time. Much of their content was devoted to propaganda against American "imperialism" and against the "bourgeois exploiting class," as well as to praise of Soviet "friendship" and the working class.47
After 1960, when the unification of the schools had been completed, Romanian statistical yearbooks no longer included data on minority education. Furthermore, the references available in various official sources are not always reliable. According to certain sources, 84.11 percent of the students in 7-8 year schools were Romanian, 11.61 percent were Hungarian, 2.8 percent were German, 0.3 percent were Jewish, and 0.06 percent were Gypsies. In professional schools, 85.6 percent were Romanian, 9.88 percent were Hungarian, 3.29 percent were German, 0.27 percent were Jewish, and 0.03 percent were Gypsies. In middle technical and special schools, 86.75 percent of the student body was Romanian, 9.05 percent was Hungarian, 2.43 percent was German, and 0.66 percent was Jewish. In the lycé es, 86.58 percent of the students were Romanian, 8.94 percent were Hungarian, 2.15 percent were German, and 1.25 percent were Jewish, while in the institutions of higher education, the percentages were as follows: 88.72 percent Romanian, 6.10 percent Hungarian, 1.83 percent German, and 2.13 percent Jewish.48 Thus, the two largest national minorities, the Hungarians and the Germans, were relatively better represented on the primary and intermediate levels, but were under-represented in the lycé es and higher educational institutions. The Jewish minority, on the other hand, was much better represented in lycé es and institutions of higher learning, relatively speaking, than were the first two groups, and the Romanians were over-represented on all levels of the educational system.
The Educational System of the Romanian Socialist Republic
1968 can be seen as the starting point of a number of tendencies in external and internal politics which have led to profound changes both in Romanian nationality policy and in the Romanian educational system. It was in that year that the new education law, most of which is still in effect, was issued. However, before turning to an analysis of the 1968 education reform, it should be noted that the present-day Romanian educational system is based on the following laws: the educational reform of August 3, 1948, the July 13, 1956 resolution of the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party, the Decree of October 7, 1961, the reform-decree concerning the new educational directives issued on May l3, 2968,49 the decree of May 11, 1973,50 the June 18-19 resolution of the Central Committee of the RCP, 51 and, finally, the most recent Educational Law, issued on October 11, 1978.52 These laws have been supplemented by decrees and party resolutions issued in the intervening period. The frequent changes of laws and decrees reflect the contradictory spirit of educational policy and tendencies toward Romanianization.53
The Educational Reform Law issued on May 13, 1968, which was later modified by a decree issued on March 8, 1972,54 brought about both a certain restriction and a certain relaxation in the sphere of education. The law's fundamental provision was the declaration that ten years of general school would henceforth be compulsory, (from age six to sixteen). In practice, however, this measure has still not been fully implemented: pupils who do not go on to higher or continuing education complete only eight years of schooling. This measure was further modified in 1973 by the June 18-19 resolution of the Central Committee of the RCP, which was more restrictive than the 1968 law.
The structure of the present-day Romanian educational system that has emerged, as a result of these modifications, is as follows:
Pre-school (kindergarten) provides education for children between the ages of three and six. During the 1974-75 academic year, 66.5 percent of the children in Romania attended kindergartens. More recently a large-scale program for the further development of the preschool system was launched. The kindergarten curriculum has placed increasing emphasis on preparing children for school.
The compulsory ten-year general school is divided into the following three stages:
a) classes 1-4: the basic stage (primas), or primary school;
b) classes 5-8: the intermediate stage (gimnasial);
c) classes 9-10: the lycé e stage, grade I (liceul I)
Stage b), the elementary school, is the foundation of the entire Romanian school system; Stage c), that is, lycé e grade I, opens the way to further secondary education (lycé e grade II) or vocational schools.
The general school provides uniform instruction up to the eighth year, after which a greater emphasis is placed on specialization. After the completion of the eighth year, pupils who pass the entrance examinations may enroll in an academic lycé e, in a specialized technical lycé e, or in a vocational secondary school. Ideally, those students who do not pass such entrance examinations simply complete their education with two more years of general school; after the completion of the ten years they then have the possibility of further vocational education. At the academic lycé es, which correspond to the traditional gymnasia, and which are divided into humanities and science lycé es, courses last four years. Study in the specialized technical lycé es lasts either four or five years; there are six different types of technical lycé es, specializing in industry, economics, agriculture and forestry, health, pedagogy, and the arts. Some 55 percent of the pupils of lycé e grades I and II attend vocational secondary schools, 27 percent attend the traditional arts or science lycé es and 18 percent the specialized technical lycé es.55
The completion of lycé e grade II, either in one of the two types of academic lycé es, or in one of the six types of specialized technical lycé es, marks the end of secondary education. Success in the final examination, the baccalaureate, entitles pupils to a specialized diploma and an opportunity to go on for higher education. However, admission to college or university also depends on the passing of an entrance examination.
In an era of industrialization, when a large proportion of school children are orienting themselves towards technical training, the significance of the specialized technical lycé es is constantly increasing. There had already been experiments in Romania during the 1955-56 academic year, with specialized polytechnical education along the line of Lenin's ideas, but with little result; in the 1958-1959 academic year a press campaign, advocating this model, was launched, and in 1966-67 specialized technical lycé es were established.56
The number of technical lycé es increased at the expense of the academic lycé es after 1966. Thus, for example, while during the 1970-71 academic year there were 226 specialized technical lycé es and 28 fine-arts lycé es with 118,577 and 4,258 pupils, respectively, by the 1978-79 academic year there were 824 technical lycé es and 28 fine-arts lycé es with 870,128 and 4,622 pupils.57
The institutions of further and higher education in Romania can be divided into universities, and other colleges or institutions with courses lasting four to six years for universities, and three years, for teachers' colleges (training teachers for secondary schools) and engineering colleges. Admittance to institutions of further and higher education depends on passing both the baccalaureate examination and the entrance examination. Success in the entrance examination does not depend on talent alone; political reliability, the opinion of local party organs, and participation in ideological life have at least as great a part to play.
Following the resolution of the Ninth Congress of the RCP (1965) and the proclamation of the Romanian Socialist Republic (August 21, 1965), further innovations were introduced in the field of education. Structural changes were introduced primarily on the higher level; these changes were reflected particularly in the "qualitative improvement" of higher education (i.e., more emphasis on technical training and ideological orientation) and in "self-examination based on national traditions." The resolutions of the June 18-19, 1973 plenary session of the RCP Central Committee resulted in a new organization of the higher educational and general educational system. The aim of this reform was the complete integration of education into the economic, social, and political structure. The 1974 annual conference of the teachers and party functionaries of continuing and higher educational institutions introduced further innovations into the Romanian university and college system.
The most profound transformation in Romanian culture and education since the Second World War was produced by the "Little Cultural Revolution" of 1971.58 Subsequently, in accordance with the November 1971 ideological program of the Party and the resolutions of the Xlth RCP Congress (1974) the structure of education -- as well as the structure of public administration in general -- was reorganized. The purpose of the innovation was to imbue education and cultural and artistic training with a spirit of "loyalty to socialism" and commitment to the "building of communism." The reorganization was most clearly manifested in secondary and higher education, primarily in the rewriting of textbooks and in changes in the curriculum and university lectures. Thus, for example, the history of Romania and of the Romanian Communist Party were made compulsory subjects in every faculty. At the same time, the mass young people's political organizations -- the UTM (Union of Working Youth), the Pioneers, and, after 1976, the "Falcons of the Homeland" -- increased their activity, aimed at the indoctrination of youth; ideological re-education was accompanied by a special emphasis on Romanian nationalism. The teaching of Latin was given greater emphasis, underlining the Latin origins of the Romanian people, and history was rewritten, with the so-called "DacoRoman theory" given greater prominence than ever. The negative effects of these Romanian nationalist excesses on the national minorities will be analyzed below.
In order to realize this transformation, the Romanian Communist Party utilized all available organs of the state, subordinating them to itself. Thus, for example, a government decree59 transformed the Council for Socialist Culture and Education into a state and party organ, subordinating it to the direct control of the Central Committee of the RCP and the Council of Ministers. The principles of complete ideological and educational reorientation were formulated at the "Congress of Political Education and Socialist Culture" in May 1976.60
The school system of post-war Romania succeeded in reducing the considerable rate of illiteracy to a minimum by the middle of the 1950s; it also succeeded lessening the great difference in standards between Transylvania and the Regat. Table V4 illustrates the rate of illiteracy in Romania between 1899 and 1956, comparing the situation in the Old Kingdom (Regat) and in Transylvania. Table V-5 shows the rate of illiteracy according to nationality in Hungary in 1890 and in Romania in 1956.
The Present System of National-Minority Education
In addition to Marxist-Leninist ideological elements, education in Romania is characterized by its stress on the "national," which manifests itself primarily in a disproportionate emphasis on Romanian national history, as well as on Romanian language and literature. The question of national-minority education must be approached with an awareness of these two factors, as well as an awareness of the internal and external political factors shaping nationality policy.
The 1965 Constitution of the Romanian Socialist Republic refers in several places to the equal rights possessed by the nationalities. Among other things, it guarantees the free use of the mother-tongue in education (Article 22). In its words, "education for the nationalities on all levels is in their own languages." The Education Act of May 13, l968 states that "education for the 'co-inhabiting nationalities' is provided in their own languages at every level of the educational system" (Article 9, Paragraph 2). The act further stipulatesthat school textbooks are to be written in the languages of the "coinhabiting nationalities" (Article 45, Paragraph 3) and that, in schools and sections with instruction in minority languages, the teaching and auxiliary staffs will be selected from among those who are familiar with the language in question (Article 9).
Rates of Illiteracy in Romania and in Historical Transylvania 1899-1956
(Figures in percent)
|Romania as||Old Kingdom||Historical|
Source: Statistics for 1899-1912 for the Old Kingdom (Regat), from Leonida Colescu, Recensamintul general al populatiei Romaniei din dec. 1899. (The 1899 Census), Bucharest, 1905, pp. 80-331.; Statistica stiutorilor de carte din Romania intocmita pe baza rezultatelor definitive ale recensamintului general al populatiei din 1912 (Statistics on literacy in Romania, compiled on the basis of the general census of 1912), Bucharest, 1915; Statistics for Transylvania from Nicolae Albu. Istoria invatamintului romanesc din Transilvania pina la 1800. (The History of Romanian Education in Transylvania until 1800), Blaj, 1944; Statistics for 1948 from Anton Golopentia and D.C. Georgescu, "Populatia Republicii Populare Romania la 25 ianuarie 1948" (The Population of the Romanian People's Republic on January 25, 1948), Probleme Economice, 1948, no. 2, pp. 28-45; on the population over eight years old: Recensamintul 1956 (The 1956 Census), Vol. I, p. 426 et seq., for the whole population Vol. I, pp. 576-587.
Furthermore, in minority-language schools or sections, headteachers or deputy heads are to be selected from the nationality in question or at least from among those who speak the language of that nationality (Article 40, Paragraph 2), and in those counties where there are minority-language schools, the staff of the educational administration will beappointed from among the members of these nationalities (Article 46, Paragraph 2).
However, the rights guaranteed by the Constitution have in practice, been implemented quite differently. This is the result, in part, of a lack of clarity in the formulation of the text of the Constitution and, in part, of the clear non-implementation of the rights guaranteed by the text.
In outlining the free use of the mother tongue in education, for example, the constitutional text speaks of education "at all levels" but not of "all types." Thus, the text does not exclude the possibility of there being a type of secondary school, such as the specialized technical lycé e, where education is carried out exclusively in Romanian. Furthermore, the Constitution does not guarantee minority-language schools, but only "instruction in the mother-tongue." In any case, the educational policy pursued in the years since the proclamation of the constitution has revealed the extent to which these rights have not been observed. This can be seen clearly by examining certain phases of the increasingly disenfranchising and denationalizing educational policy as well as conditions in the most important types of school. An analysis of this problem will be undertaken later.
Rates of Illiteracy in Hungary and Romania Between
1890 and 1956 According to Nationality
Source: Magyar statisztikai é vkö nyv 1916-1918 (Hungarian Statistical Yearbook, 1916-1918), p. 10.; Recensamintul 1956 (The 1956 Census), Vol. I., pp. 576-582.
It cannot be said that the status of national-minority education was in any way stabilized after 1968. After the Czechoslovak events, a policy of temporization was instituted, and a certain degree of relaxation occurred. This was partly the result of internal pressure from the nationalities and partly a result of external pressures (i.e., the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia). There were certain concessions made which, though only of secondary significance, with no real effect on the fundamental political line, were nonetheless sufficient to reassure the national minorities and to create a more favorable image of Romania abroad. As a result of internal pressure, minority-language skilled-workers' schools were established; these were later abolished, only to be re-established once more, with great care always taken to ensure the exclusion of non-Romanians from certain key fields. Care was also taken to ensure that these schools functioned in an atmosphere of uncertainty, thus discouraging parents from sending their children to such schools. Pressure was also placed on the head teachers of Romanian schools: it was suggested it was a result of negligence on their part that minority children were not enrolled in Romanian schools.
Once Romania perceived the danger of Soviet invasion to have passed, this system of national oppression and cultural suffocation was reasserted even while measures for the extension of the national-minority school network were formally under discussion. This oppression far surpassed that of the interwar period. Every effort was concentrated on limiting minority education purely to the use of minority language, without permitting any specific nationality content whatsoever.
In 1969 certain concessions were again made in the field of education. A decree of July 3, 196961 prescribed that the examination committees for university and other school entrance examinations should include speakers of minority languages. At the March 12, 1971 plenary session of the Council of Working People of Hungarian Nationality, Hungarian delegates were given an opportunity to speak up for the cause of minority education. Furthermore, Nicolae Ceausescu, General Secretary of the RCP, instructed the Ministry of Education to secure the establishment of Hungarian-language sections or classes in some vocational-training schools and vocational secondary schools beginning in the 1971-1972 academic year, and to expand the amount of teaching in the mother-tongue at Babes-Bolyai University in Ciuj and the Medical and Pharmacological Institute.62
And, in fact, a certain measure of improvement did occur in the educational sphere after the 1971 plenary session of the Council of Working People of Hungarian Nationality: educational policy had a positive effect on national-minority culture. In the 1971-72 academic year, the new schools and sections began to function; it must not be forgotten, however, that these measures restored only a tiny proportion of the minority vocational and higher level instructional network that had existed in the 1940s and 1950s. Thus, these new measures did not in any way come near to satisfying the existing needs. Kindergartens and schools teaching in the nationality languages were newly established only in places where their absence was particularly noticeable in view of the size of the national-minority population, or where their establishment had been demanded by local public opinion or by intellectual and political groups. On the other hand, there were still a large number of villages, towns, and new housing developments where, lacking suitable schools, national-minority children could not carry on their studies in their mother-tongue. The recommendation that the "national" subjects -- history, geography, and patriotic education -- should be taught in the languages of the minorities was not implemented either.
In any case, the 1971 concessions were short-lived. On the basis of higher instructions, issued without any explanation, the vocational schools which had been formed by the new measures were either abolished or reorganized as vocational schools teaching in Romanian. A new decree which ordered the teaching of specialized subjects in Romanian was issued five days before the beginning of the 1971-72 academic year, when school registration had already been completed. A later decree, issued for the following academic year, made the teaching of special subjects in Romanian compulsory in the minority-language specialized technical lycé es as well.
Typically, concessions had been motivated largely by considerations of foreign-policy strategy.
During the 1973-74 academic year, new educational laws were adopted,63 whose purpose was the complete elimination of teaching in the mother-tongue through universal Romanianization. These measures were aimed primarily at the Hungarian and German minorities. In accordance with the new laws, the academic lycé es -- which correspond more or less to the traditional arts-and-sciences gymnasia of Western Europe -- were reorganized: 70 percent became specialized technical lycé es or vocational schools, with Romanian as the language of instruction, and 30 percent remained academic lycé es, some of them with nationality sections.
According to these laws, in order to maintain national-minority sections in general schools between the fifth and tenth grades, at least 25 applications are necessary. Otherwise minority-language instruction can be provided only for the first four grades, and even that only if there are at least seven applicants,64 except with special approval from the Ministry of Education. As a result of this measure, the minority population scattered in settlements where they are few in number and are unable to receive any education in their own languages. In the lycé es and specialized technical lycé es (grades 9-10) the minimum number of applicants required to organize a minority-language section is 36. By contrast, no minimum number of students is necessary in order to organize classes taught in Romanian, and the law reinforces this by prescribing that in those secondary and elementary schools where there are classes taught in the languages of the national minorities, Romanian sections must be established, regardless of the number of Romanian pupils. The discriminatory character of the law is not even disguised. In practice, the new education law makes possible the establishment of Romanian sections in all areas inhabited by the national minorities. Thus, the pupil belonging to a national minority who cannot be given a place in his own section because of numbers, finds himself sooner or later in the Romanian section. As a result, in the long run, in those nationality areas which are not entirely homogeneous, education in the vernacular will eventually cease to exist.
It has already been noted that the available data on minority education in Romania during the past decade are far from complete. It should be added that the official statistical data fail to reflect the real situation. Official statistics on the number of minority educational institutions and comparisons drawn with the official percentages of the national minorities do not provide a realistic picture of the geographical distribution of the nationality populations' educational needs. What is more, these statistics cannot indicate the quality or content of minority education nor the direction of new developments. But one cannot ignore such questions as whether, for example, the proportion of minority-language education in the Szé kler region, 85-95 percent of whose population is Hungarian, merely corresponds to the proportion of Hungarians in the whole of Romania, which is officially 8-9 percent; or, whether in nationality areas where the population belonging to the national minorities is less concentrated, there is any institution teaching in the vernacular at all -- as a result of the education act prescribing minimum numbers necessary for the establishment of national-minority classes. This situation is not substantially changed by the fact that, on occasion, in accordance with the needs of foreign policy, the Romanian authorities permit the opening (or rather, reopening) of some national-minority educational institutions.
|Elemér Illyés : National Minorities in Romania|