‘How can there be discrimination in one country? Some study with textbooks, others do with manuals’

Mintimer Shaimiyev is concerned that Tatar language manuals fail to get the status of textbooks

“How can there be discrimination in one country? Some study with textbooks, others do with manuals,” Tatarstan State Advisor Mintimer Shaimiyev raised again the problem of mother tongue learning in Tatarstan at a joint meeting of two Tatarstan councils, for interethnic and interfaith relations and education and science, as well as the organising committee of the Year of Mother Tongues and National Unity in the republic. A delay in the inclusion of 38 new Tatar language manuals to a federal list of textbooks is the reason of the first Tatarstan president’s concern.

Mother tongue and culture development as priority

Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov chaired the joint meeting in the Kremlin. Besides Mintimer Shaimiyev, it was attended by other high-ranking guests, for instance, Chairman of the republican State Council Farid Mukhametshin and Tatarstan Prime Minister Alexey Pesoshin. At the meeting, they talked about national education, touched on the upcoming census, a plan of events to host the Year of Mother Tongues and National Unity.

In his welcome speech, Rustam Minnikhanov noted that the conservation and development of mother tongues, cultures and traditions are a priority in the activity of power agencies. And of course, he urged the audience to pay special attention to mother tongue learning. In Tatarstan, children choose to learn their mother tongue voluntarily and according to their parents’ will. Education in five languages is organised in Tatarstan educational establishments, but there are some shortcomings too:

“In some settlements where the Chuvash, Mari, Udmurt and Mordva people compactly live, the choice of a respective mother tongue is not paid enough attention. There are also shortcomings when Tatar parents choose a language for their children,” said the Tatarstan president.

Among other problems, he noted the fact that staff really matters in the system of national education and culture. And Kazan Federal University, Naberezhnye Chelny Pedagogical University and Kazan Institute of Culture and Art are responsible for their training in the republic. While the president strictly ordered municipalities together these universities and related ministries to “take certain measures to provide establishments with staff.”

The president separately mentioned the issue of early engagement of the youth in ethnic and cultural life and national policy. For instance, Minnikhanov praised the project Selet the republic receives “a very big positive effect” from.

“How much can we be humiliated?”

But textbooks are necessary to teach children the Tatar language at school at a good level. And Tatarstan State Adviser and first President of the republic Mintimer Shaimiyev emotionally spoke out in this respect at the meeting. After a reform of the mother tongue teaching system in Tatarstan, contemporary textbooks complying with federal educational standards started to be prepared. But the process of inspection and inclusion of 38 manuals with different training levels to the federal list dragged on, Tatarstan Minister of Education Ilsur Khadiullin said. Shaimiyev was indignant:

“This concerns everybody. How much can we be humiliated? National schools continue using manuals instead of textbooks. It is discrimination. I am a man of my word. How can there be discrimination in one country? Some study with textbooks, while others do with manuals. We were promised to be provided with them! Now the situation depends on federal agencies, the Ministry of Education.”

Khadiullin explained that 38 translated manuals are now inspected to be on the list of federal textbooks. After the inspection is over, they will obtain the status of textbooks, and this should happen shortly:

“The last stage is on now. They must be on the federal registry by the end of the year. But besides translated textbooks, there are Tatar language and literature textbooks, which are also being inspected. It is a new generation of textbooks. There are different levels — basic and proficiency — for Tatar and Russian schools. Also, there is Selam manual for the Russian-speaking audience, which was also inspected,” specified the head of the Ministry of Education.

“Tatar needs to be promoted, we shouldn’t calm down”

Not that the minister’s reply satisfied Shaimiyev a hundred per cent, the latter asked him to speed the process up:

“This must be accelerated! And President of Russia Vladimir Putin joined this issue. And this process needs to be controlled, Tatar needs to be promoted, we shouldn’t calm down. It is too serious. It is a hot-button issue, this cannot go on. The textbooks we created are considered only as manuals. In general we use manuals. We are interested in the dynamics now. It is good there has been progress in federal state standards and amounts of republican national language learning. But when amounts of mother tongue learning increase by state standards, it must be textbooks, not manuals!”

Head of the Department of National Poliсн of the Russian Presidential Office Tatiana Vagina also tried to explain that the procedure of inspecting mother tongue textbooks is complex, long and requires financial costs. She even cites State Duma deputy from Tatarstan “comrade Gilmutdinov” she constantly talks about the complicacy of this procedure with.

“It seems to me that in the new political cycle we should pay attention to simplify these procedures to have manuals and textbooks on the federal list of textbooks as soon as possible because only they are legally used in the educational process, as legislation envisages it.”

Tatiana Vagina said the issue was under permanent control and put an example. A report of the federal Ministry of Education as of 20 August read that the federal list of textbooks now includes 612 textbooks in different languages of Russian people. So textbooks in 21 languages such as Adyghe, Bashkir, Kazakh, Chechen, Yakut are in the legal educational process. There are Tatar textbooks too. In 2021, another 97 textbooks in 9 languages will appear on the federal list. So the work is underway, moreover, Vladimir Putin personally accelerated this process.

“We think this issue must be on our radar not to slow down so that any child and his parents who want to learn their mother tongue are provided with possibilities of the educational system — textbooks, teachers, rooms — across the country.”

Minnikhanov concluded the long-suffering topic of textbooks:

“We should seriously work on this matter. Perhaps, we weren’t persevering enough. But now we should resolve these issues quickly,” he promised.

Luiza Ignatyeva. Photo: tatarstan.ru