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2.Education and National Minorities in Contemporary Rumania


The existence of educational institutions teaching in the national minority languages, in accordance with the minorities' numerical strength, geographical location, and levels of cultural development, has been indispensable to the survival and development of the national minorities. In the long run, education only in the language of a national majority has meant the absorption of national minorities, but documentation of this rate of assimilation has had to rely heavily on numerical comparison. At the same time, statistical data often have not provided an accurate picture of the level, quality, and content of education for minorities in their mother tongue, and the figures frequently have served propagandistic objectives.

Consequently, an awareness of the historical background and the motives of a nation's cultural policy has to precede the analysis of statistical figures. If, for example, a minority language has barred one from occupations requiring a higher level of education, then national minorities have been compelled to send their children to majority-language schools. This in turn has led the state organs to the conclusion that there has been no demand for minority education in the mother tongue. Or if, for example, the schools teaching in minority languages have not for any reason competed with the majority schools in the quality of education they have provided, parents will have to send their children to those schools that offer better prospects. Furthermore, in many instances institutions termed nationality schools have been such in name only, with instruction carried out only partly or not at all in the minority language.

In light of the above considerations, when studying the educational position of the national minorities, two aspects of the question have to be kept in the forefront: first, educational policy as it has affected the national minorities and, second, as it has related to the framework of the country's entire educational system. On the basis of the former, the laws, which have guaranteed teaching in the mother tongue of the

national minorities, have to be analyzed to see how far the educational institutions actually have contributed to the maintenance of national equality and to what extent these institutions really have served "national minority" existence. This analysis must include examination of such conditions of educational activity as the levels of instruction in the mother tongue, the character and content of textbooks and syllabi, particularly regarding the teaching of literature and history, the training and composition of the teaching staff, and the other assorted ways and conditions that circumscribe the transmission of the cultural inheritance of national minorities.

Before discussing the education of the national minorities in Rumania and the Rumanian educational system at present, it is necessary to provide a brief outline of the historical developments in this sphere. The beginnings of the independent Transylvanian Saxon and Hungarian school networks go back to the fourteenth-sixteenth centuries, and the scholastic traditions of the Transylvanian nationalities have been inseparable from the historic role of the nationality churches. The first Transylvanian Saxon and Hungarian schools, in the Middle Ages, were ecclesiastical institutions functioning along with monastic communities or at the seats of bishoprics. The Saxon Lutheran and the Hungarian Catholic, Calvinist, and Unitarian churches had the oldest ecclesiastical schools in Transylvania. On the other hand, the educational history of the Rumanian Uniate and Orthodox churches began later with less developed institutions.[1]

Ecclesiastical education for the national minorities in Transylvania acquired an additional significance after the first and second world wars in providing continuity in the education of the national minorities in their own language. The survival of the Hungarian and Saxon schools and the necessary intellectual leadership between the two world wars were secured by the churches.


The social structure of the Hungarians and Germans of Transylvania at the time of Transylvania's annexation by Rumania differed significantly from the social composition of the Rumanian Regat (Old Kingdom). At the conclusion of World War I, the nationalities in Transylvania had already developed a modern bourgeois social stratum. The bourgeois transformation and economic-intellectual growth were particularly noticeable in the German and Hungarian cities of Transylvania, which also contained a third urban element, the Jews, who

contributed significantly to intellectual and economic development as well. At the same time their different historical development enabled the Hungarian, German, and Jewish populations of Transylvania to attain a relatively higher economic and cultural level than the Rumanian population of either Transylvania or of pre-World War I Rumania.[2]

Between the two world wars, the nationalities in Rumania waged a hard struggle for the survival of their centuries-old educational institutions. In the three periods between 1919--25, 1925--34, and 1934--40, the tactics in the educational struggles showed marked differences. As successive governments followed one another, the status of the various schools was affected differently. Perhaps Rumania's Peasant party exhibited somewhat more patience than the Liberal party; however, all the political parties that attained power during these years could be described as antiminority.

New laws and decrees were enacted in the sphere of education practically every academic year, with the result that within a short space of time the number of the Hungarian schools was reduced by sixty-two-ninety-three percent, depending on the type of school involved. The Rumanian state abolished more than half of the Hungarian-language schools between 1919 and 1924; it also abolished the Hungarian university in Cluj (Kolozsvár).


Between the two world wars, the oppression of the national minorities involved a more or less open struggle. The nationalities had their defenders and also, even if only to a limited extent, the means to defend themselves. They were supported in this not only by their political, social, and cultural organizations, but by the school network as well.

After the Second World War, the national-minority ecclesiastical schools were nationalized by the Decree of August 3, 1948; thus the protection offered by the churches was eliminated. The Decree also removed the possibilities for defending nationality cultures and languages through nonstate institutions. With the introduction of state monopoly over education, the educational system has not been a means for minority protection but for repression and denationalization.[3]

The Rumanian national-minority educational system attained its present character through complex and complicated changes, which were adopted in the legal framework after the Second World War. These changes appeared to make concessions, while in reality they brought restrictions and a state of permanent uncertainty. However,

the negative repercussions were not apparent immediately in the post-war period, because the official educational policy did not aim, in the beginning, at the forced leveling of the more-developed Transylvanian educational system to the status of that of the less-developed Regat. Furthermore, educational development of the national minorities in Transylvania was not yet curbed to favor the Rumanian population.

After the Second World War, the first Rumanian regulation affecting the education of the national minorities was the Nationality Statute of February 6, 1945.[4] This, however, only represented a temporary stage. It was superseded by the Decree of March 15, 1946, of the Groza government, which partially secured the continued functioning of the still existing Hungarian school network and facilitated the foundation of more schools, colleges, and cultural institutions. At this time the Catholic church still represented a considerable force.

Within the sphere of educational policy, the 1946--47 academic year was characterized by two factors, which were seemingly contradictory but in reality organically complemented each other. Rumanian administrative organs at the national level were compelled for reasons of external and internal politics to make concessions in favor of the Hungarians, while at the lower and local levels they allowed nationalist manifestations against the minorities.

An old demand of the Hungarians of Rumania was realized when in 1945 the government issued a decree concerning the establishment of a Hungarian-language state university possessing the faculties of arts, law, economics, and natural sciences, which was the Hungarian Bolyai University of Cluj. At this time there were several other higher education institutions teaching in Hungarian. This period created the foundations for a school network teaching in the mother tongue, in accordance with the proportion of the numbers of Hungarians in Rumania. It also seemed to begin the process of providing equal opportunities for the nationalities within the sphere of education.


The first Constitution of the people's democracy, enacted on April 13, 1948, and the August 3, 1948, decree[5] on educational reform, whose principles have remained the foundations for the present Rumanian educational system, brought about a radical change of direction in the educational system of Rumania. The latter is the concern of the remainder of this study, which has focused on the history of national-minority education from August 3, 1948, to the present. The frequent

and contradictory changes in nationality policy and the misleading nature of the available official statistics has posed significant difficulties in the analysis of this topic. The official use of statistical data for propaganda purposes by the Rumanian state has also posed some problems.

Article 24 of the first People's Democratic Constitution, published on April 13, 1948, has guaranteed the "free use of the mother tongue for all the 'coinhabiting nationalities,' as well as the organization of education in their mother tongue." The law on educational reform enacted on August 3, 1948, did not bring about a genuine reform and deviated from democratic commitments. As was the Constitution, the law also was based on the Soviet model; it introduced the ideological foundations of the educational system of the future and prescribed the nationalization of all the ecclesiastical and private schools as well as the expropriation of the landed and other properties of the churches and of the religious and private organizations that served the maintenance of the earlier educational institutions (Article 35). This measure destroyed the link between the churches and the school systems, which had played such a great part in the education of national minorities in Rumania. This law created an absolute state monopoly in the sphere of education.

Following the 1948 educational reform, class considerations gained priority, and the workers and peasantry were given privileged treatment regarding educational opportunities. But the real purpose of the law was the introduction of Marxist ideology in the new school system and the development of a new intellectual elite (i.e., teachers) acquainted with Marxist-Leninist ideas. The objective was also to exclude the influence of the churches, which were the protectors of the nationality ecclesiastical schools. They endeavoured to achieve this by removing a large proportion of teachers in church-related schools, and by the ideological reeducation of the teaching staff left at their posts. Simultaneously, new syllabi replaced the old ones. The decree also guaranteed the education of the nationalities in their mother tongues from the primary to the university level. However, the 1948 educational reform had two other striking characteristics from the point of view of the national minorities: the introduction of the teaching of Rumanian in all educational establishments, including the Hungarian university, and the radical reinterpretation and rewriting of the history syllabus. The negative Hungarian reaction in Transylvania led Party leadership to claim that these measures served the cause of "Hungarian-Rumanian fraternity." After 1948, in effect, only the language of instruction remained in the national-minority educational system, since the entire

educational system was redirected to serve the realization of "proletarian internationalism." At the same time, in the course of nationalization, a large number of national-minority institutions were converted into Rumanian institutions.[6]

Almost parallel with these directives, other kinds of nationality institutions were simply abolished. The regime used this period of reshaping and reorganization to carry out changes and purges among the teaching staff and the students.

The year 1948 brought additional and significant changes in Rumanian nationality policy. From this year onward, the national minorities have been subjected to serious infringements in many spheres of life. Several of the measures, which have limited national equality, were particularly adverse for education. According to statistical data, education in the major nationality languages has been increasing, but the number of independent national-minority schools has been constantly decreasing. In fact, this process had already begun in the early 1950s, as illustrated in the following table:[7]

Academic Year

Total number of schools with national-minority education
Of the above, number of majority schools with "sections" for minority education
Independent national minority schools

In 1956, the Hungarian Revolution contributed greatly to the reorganization of higher education in Rumania. Higher education was put under more rigid control. The July 26, 1957, reform of higher education confirmed the intentions of Bucharest: the ideological reeducation of the future entrants into the ranks of the new intellectual elite.[8]

At the end of the 1950s, the nationalistic atmosphere became even more manifest. The ideology, which claimed that the nationality question had been solved, called for an ideological struggle against "national isolation" in 1959. The merging of the national-minority schools and Rumanian schools, their "parallelization" at the end of 1959, indicated the roundabout way in which the Rumanian authorities endeavoured to nullify equal rights for the national minorities in education. The hidden purpose of the so-called parallelization, or unification (unificarea),

was the abolition of independent national-minority schools and the acceleration of a general Rumanianization.

"Parallelization" has meant that, parallel with the nationality-classes, Rumanian-language classes have been established even in those areas where there were only very few Rumanian pupils. In schools possessing Hungarian instruction, a request by three Rumanian pupils has been enough to start a Rumanian-language section. The purpose of establishing the parallel classes, the so-called sectie (sections), has been to persuade with carefully chosen methods the pupils belonging to the national minorities to enter the Rumanian-language sections. The result of this policy has been that, lacking a suitable number of pupils belonging to the minority nationalities, their schools have been abolished one after another.[9]

Unification, or parallelization, began with the merger of the independent Hungarian Bolyai University of Cluj with the Rumanian Babes University (1959), under the name of Babes-Bolyai University.[10] Just as in the Bolyai University, instruction in Hungarian has been gradually phased out in the other Hungarian-language institutions of higher education as well. The Institute of Medicine and Pharmacology, which in the beginning had had an exclusively Hungarian character, was moved from Cluj to Tirgu Mures (Marosvásárhely) and transformed from 1962 onward into an institution with a majority of Rumanian students, drawn from the Regat. Only a reduced portion of the Hungarian teaching staff has remained at their posts.[11] Instruction in Hungarian has been maintained only in the College of Dramatic Art of Tirgu Mures, which has a special character and by its nature has catered only to a few students, and at the ecclesiastical institutions of higher education. The training of teachers for the general schools has been provided in the minority languages, in the form of a section, at the Teacher Training College of Tirgu Mures.

There has been little available data concerning the number of college students belonging to the national minorities during the 1950s. In the 1957-58 academic year, the number of Hungarian students enrolled in the Hungarian-language institutions of higher education was 4,082, with an estimated 1,000--1,500 students in technical training or attending Rumanian universities. This makes a total of 5,500, 10.75 percent of all Hungarian students, as compared with 51,094 students enrolled in full-time higher education in the whole country.[12]

After the absorption of the Bolyai University, the process of eliminating teaching in national-minority languages --- particularly in Hungarian --- was accelerated.[13] The method, which has remained to this day as the means for denationalization, has been the same as that

employed in the case of the universities:[14] combining the Rumanian and the national-minority schools into a single school with nationality sections. This has made it possible at a later date to reduce the number of the nationality sections.

Another method generally employed has been to persuade parents to send their children to Rumanian classes. Since instruction in the languages of the nationalities has been almost completely eliminated from two highly important areas, higher education and vocational education, parents have been more easily persuaded. Among the methods used to convince them has been pressure exerted within the Party and also in various offices and at the workplace. On top of this, administrative barriers serving the same aim were employed. All this was justified by the argument that insistence on teaching in the mother tongue is a form of nationalism.

As a result of the educational policy of mergers, all technical education in the minority languages has been abolished, even in the apprentice schools. Finally, in the wake of the reorganization of the general or elementary schools, the number of schools teaching in the languages of the national minorities has been reduced by half.[15]

The unification process, or parallelization, of the schools meant in practice that in the vast majority of cases the educational institutions were given Rumanian directors, the language of staff conferences became exclusively Rumanian, and from this time onward school ceremonies were conducted in Rumanian. These measures have been intended to hinder the education of intellectual leadership belonging to the national minorities and to limit the number of skilled workers and foremen from the ranks of the minorities.

After 1960, from the time when uniformization of the schools had been completed, the Rumanian statistical yearbooks discontinued publishing data regarding the education of the national minorities. Since then, educational data relative to minorities has been more and more difficult to obtain.

According to the 1966 census, in relation to the total population the proportion of the Rumanians in general schools (seventh-eighth primary grades) was 84.11 percent, of the Hungarians 11.61 percent, of the Germans 2.80 percent, of the Jews 0.30 percent, and of the Gypsies 0.06 percent. In secondary technical and special schools, there were 86.75 percent Rumanians, 9.88 percent Hungarians, 3.29 percent Germans, and 0.66 percent Jews. In secondary academic schools, 86.58 percent were Rumanians, 8.94 percent Hungarians, 2.15 percent Germans, and 1.25 percent Jews. In institutions of higher education, 88.72 percent were Rumanians, 6.10 percent Hungarians, 1.83 percent Germans,

and 2.13 percent Jews.[16] Thus, the two largest nationalities, Hungarians and Germans, were relatively better represented in the primary and intermediary levels, but underrepresented in secondary academic schools and higher educational institutions. The Jewish minority has been better represented in secondary academic schools and institutions of higher education, while Rumanians have a distinct overrepresentation at all levels of the educational system.

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