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NEWS BRIEFS

Schools Minister promises bilingual report cards

Education Minister Ľubomir Ftáčnik promised on November 27 that pupils attending schools with Hungarian as the language of instruction will get bilingual school report cards by the end of this school year.

Former Education Minister Eva Slavkovská, from the opposition far-right Slovak National Party, argued in parliament that the State Language Act makes renewing the bilingual report cards illegal.

In January 1997, the state terminated the custom of providing bilingual report cards, and for the first time handed out report cards only in Slovak to schools with Hungarian as the language of instruction. The Education Ministry's ban on the use of Hungarian on report cards caused waves of disturbances. Many students refused to take the report cards home, and on several occasions boycotted school.

A Hungarian petition committee backed by more than 55,000 signatures asked then-Education Minister Slavkovská to return to the old system, but she refused, citing the 1996 Slovak Language Law which makes Slovak the only official language of communication. In several cases, headmasters of Hungarian schools who refused to obey the ban were fired.

The European Union has made the passage of minority rights legislation in Slovakia on of the preconditions for the country's acceptance into western alliances.

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