• kewal sethi

fighting for polish language

languages do not die due to oppression. they die when the people themselves want to kill them. here is the saga of the polish language. material collected from various websites.

fighting for polish language

poland has a long history of education. the activity began in the eleventh and twelfth centuries with cathedral schools. in 13th century,. parish schools appeared in the villages. the first university was at crawco founded in 1364 by king kazimeierz the great. it was reorganized in1400 to provide for four faculties on the lines of some other universities of europe. in 1519 'academic gimnazjum' was founded at poznan. other schools also came up but it was in 1741 that school was founded by konarski for families of rich people which aimed at patriotic education with polish language at the heart of it. in 1773 the 'commission on national education' was set up which served as ministry for education. this body set up a uniform national system emphasizing mathematics, natural sciences, and language study. the commission also stressed standardizing elementary education, integrating trade and agricultural skills into the elementary school curriculum, and improving textbooks at all levels.

the partitioning of poland by foreign governments interrupted this programme. germany, russia and austria sought to destroy polish national consciousness by germanizing and russifying the education system. polish language was banned. after 1802, schools in the russian sector received some liberties. during the first thirty years, the polish education expanded freely in the duchy of warsaw. after the november uprising in 1830, the mass educational system was subjected to intense russification.

during the 123-year period of partition, teaching and publishing in polish continued in pockets of resistance, and some innovations such as vocational training schools appeared. In general, the austrian sector had the least developed education system, whereas the least disruption in educational progress occurred in the prussian sector. in 1840s (in the period called the spring of nations), teaching of polish was permitted in elementary schools and the lower classes of some gymnasia. In 1848, ewaryst estkowski's established the 'polish pedagogical association' and published the first pedagogical journal in the polish language, 

another surge of germanization started in the mid-nineteenth century. the polish language was removed from secondary schools and peasant schools, and students suffered political surveillance. In 1901 religious education in the german language began. This caused a children's strike in wrzesnia that spread to other places in great poland and pomerania. the strike was continued intermittently until 1907.

polish consciousness was strengthened by many educational associations. karol marcinkowski's association for teaching help (towarzystwo naukowej pomocy), for instance, was established in 1841, and the association of peasant libraries (towarzystwo czytelni ludowych) founded libraries in small villages and towns and gave lectures and public performances. In 1862 the tsar approved a decree concerning education in the kingdom that allowed polish language as a teaching language, and partial autonomy of schools.

the defeat of the january uprising in 1863-1864 put an end to autonomy of education. the main school in warsaw was turned into a russian university in 1869, elementary schools were reduced, and secondary schools were subjected to intense ideological control. in 1897 illiterates composed about 69.5 percent of the whole population in the congress kingdom of poland. the only escape lay in underground teaching. two such institutions were the so-called flying university (uniwersytet latajacy), operating between 1887 and 1905, and the peasants' university (uniwersytet ludowy). new private schools, especially for girls, were also established. during the revolution of 1905 the state russian schools on polish territory were boycotted. the protests continued until 1914.

after receiving autonomy in galicia in 1866, the national school board (rada szkolna krajowa) was established to manage secondary schools. because of a lack of funds, those schools developed very slowly. schools in galicia used the polish language as a teaching language but their spirit was austrian. the polish students opposed that situation, especially after 1905.

after the rise of the independent second polish republic in 1918, the most important task was the standardization of the educational system. this process lasted until 1920. between 1918 and 1939 the newly independent poland faced the task of reconstructing a national education system from the three separate systems imposed during the time of foreign control by germany, austria, and russia.

during the occupation in the second world war, on the territories incorporated into the reich, education in polish was banned and punished with death.. however, many teachers, professors and educational activists organized underground courses all around the country, reviving the tradition of flying university from the times of partition of poland. most of the underground education was organized by the secret teaching organization. by 1942, about 1,500,000 students took part in the organization underground primary education; in 1944, its secondary school system covered 100,000 people and the university level courses, about 10,000. special courses of forbidden subjects, such as the polish language, were organized. students of formally non-existent schools and colleges entered formally non-existent universities. the fake certificates carried the dates of 1938 and 1939. these were subsequently recognized by the government.


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