SCHOOLS in Slovakia which teach in the Hungarian language have begun returning new geography textbooks to the Education Ministry.
They complain that the textbooks, intended for 9-year olds, contain only Slovak place names. László Pék, the chairman of the Association of Hungarian Teachers, told the SITA newswire that they are sending back the ministry several hundred textbooks.
The schools ordered the textbooks because of shortages of an earlier textbook, published in 2000. But the Hungarian texts and maps in the new book contain only Slovak geographic names. At the end of the book is an index with Slovak and Hungarian names. The teachers have also complained that some names in the textbook are in a hybrid language, i.e. a mixture of Slovak and Hungarian.
Education Minister Ján Mikolaj has said he sees no problem with the textbooks. He told Radio Express that there is no reason to withdraw them, and that the glossary at the end of the textbook is enough. According to him, it is up to the publisher whether names in minority languages should be in brackets, or at the beginning or the end of the textbook.
Hungarian teachers complain that Slovak names in the Hungarian textbook break up the text and make it incomprehensible for children.
They say they regard the whole affair as regrettable.
“Every government talks about removing politics from schools,” said Alexander Fibi, the chairman of the Association of Directors of Hungarian-Language Schools. “Alas, it seems to me that schools, parents and also older students are forced to play politics,” Fibi commented.
Hungarian schools say they are concerned about how other textbooks, which are still to be published, will turn out. According to Fibi, the geography textbook was an unpleasant surprise and he will be glad if it is the last.
Along with Pék, he objects to the attitude taken by the Education Ministry.
Hungarian teachers have also proposed, without any response so far from the ministry, a new method of teaching ethnic-Hungarian children Slovak, SITA wrote.
It is currently taught as a mother tongue, but for Hungarian children Slovak is a second language. Fibi maintains that if foreign-language teaching methods were applied, children would learn the language more effectively.