The 2022/23 school year was marked by discrimination against thousands of children in Poland. In the spring of 2022, the Ministry of Education and Science issued a new regulation on the core curriculum for teaching German as a minority language at various levels of education. Following the Minister of Education and Science decree of 4 February 2022, a new core curriculum has been developed. According to the official data as of April 2023, a total of 55,520 children and young people who learn German as a minority language in Polish schools have borne the consequences of the reduced funding and could only have one class of mother-tongue language teaching per week instead of the three classes, as in the earlier years. The reduction in teaching hours resulted from the cuts in the financial resources provided by the Polish government for German minority language teaching. The different treatment of students based on their mother tongue is a case of direct discrimination against the Polish citizens (and their children) belonging to the German minority.
In 2022, the FUEN Minority Monitor reported on the decision of the Polish Sejm (taken mid-December 2021) to devote a significantly lower amount of state funds to teaching minority languages in the country. The Polish Senate's attempts to preserve the subsidy levels were blocked, and the decision for the planned reduction entered into force as of January 2022. In February 2022, however, the Polish Minister of Education and Science issued a decree, which provided that as of 1 September 2022, the reduction of funds would affect only the teaching of the German minority language. A week later, a second Minister of Education and Science decree amended the Ordinance regulating the general subsidy for self-governments in 2022 regarding education. The decree reduced the basis for the calculation of the self-government subsidy related to the pupils belonging to the German minority.
Alongside the fact that the adopted decisions were discriminatory against the German minority (being the only one affected by the financial reductions), they directly violated the Constitutional rights of the national minorities in Poland, the laws in force (among which the 2005 Act on National and Ethnic Minorities and Regional Languages), and the international commitments of the state.
Details about the reported case of 2022 can be obtained here. The current article covers March 2022 – May 2023 and provides information about the further initiatives of the German minority in Poland to defend their minority rights.
Civil Society Reactions
In March 2022, representatives of the German minority, parents, and students submitted over 13,000 signatures to the Ministry of Education and Science, based in Warsaw, as part of a petition opposing the Ministerial regulation of February 2022, which limited the number of lessons for German as a national minority language. As one of the affected schools – initiator of the petition – informed, in response to the petition provided in May 2022, the Ministry pointed out the lack of symmetry between the teaching of the German minority language in Poland and the teaching of the Polish language in Germany. The need for redirecting the funds from financing the German minority language teaching in Poland to investing in Polish language teaching in Germany was outlined as a reason underlying the decision made.
At the end of May 2022, delegates from the member organisations of the Association of German Social-Cultural Societies in Poland and its affiliated organisations gathered at Sankt Annaberg. As representatives of a large group of Polish citizens who profess their German national and cultural identity, they sent a message to their members and the governments of Poland and Germany regarding the restrictions on the mother-tongue education of the German minority in Poland. In addition, the former chairman of the board of the Association of German Social-Cultural Societies in Poland, Bernard Gaida, and the current one - Rafał Bartek, wrote official letters to the Polish President and the Prime Minister. None of the two high-ranked officials, however, addressed the case adequately.
In June 2022, the Board of Directors of the Association of German Societies issued a negative opinion on the new core curriculum. According to the Association, the implementation of the curriculum within only one hour per week is insufficient for the development and maintenance of the German minority identity and for learning about the cultural and scientific heritage of one's minority. The core curriculum does not provide for active student participation in the life of the local community, resulting in limited involvement in the local community and, thus, a loss of sense of connection with one's own culture and traditions. Furthermore, the reduction in teaching hours threatens the continuity of the didactic and educational processes. Learning their minority languages, the students not only acquire knowledge but also develop competences and feeling for belonging to a multicultural society.
The governmental decisions regarding the reduction of funds and the amendment of the core curriculum were made and introduced without any consultations held in the Joint Commission of the Government and National and Ethnic Minorities, which was set up for this purpose. Objecting to the Curriculum Regulation as well as the Regulations introduced in February 2022, in June 2022, Bernard Gaida and Rafał Bartek, together with many members of the Commission, suspended their participation in the work of this advisory body to the Polish Prime Minister.
Seeking support from the kin-state, representatives of the German minority addressed the German Embassy in Warsaw.  The topic of the current situation of the German minority in Poland and the challenged educational rights was in focus during the meeting, held in July 2022, with the ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr. Thomas Bagger, the chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group Friedrich Merz and other CDU/CSU parliamentarians.
To attract international attention to the case, on 6 October 2022, the representatives of the German minority in Poland visited the European Parliament in Strasbourg.  In the meeting with the Intergroup on Traditional Minorities, National Communities, and Languages, they provided information about the current discrimination against the German ethnic group in Poland. They expressed their disappointment with the inaction of the European institutions on this issue.
In support of the educational rights of the German minority in Poland and condemning the adopted discriminatory approach, the delegates of the member organisations of the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN) also adopted a resolution against the restriction of mother-tongue teaching and discrimination against the German minority in Poland at their Assembly of Delegates on 01 October 2022 in Berlin.
German State Reactions
The Association of German Societies has actively sought support to protect their minority rights in the field of education yet at the beginning of the processes. It contacted German politicians, who committed to the concerns of the German minority in Poland in various ways.
In April 2022, the Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate, Malu Dreyer, and the President of the State Parliament, Hendrik Hering, met with local politicians, Marshal Andrzej Buła, other members of the Board of the Voivodeship and Sejmik, as well as representatives of the German minority and youth. Among other things, the topic of teaching the German language as the language of the national minority was put forward. Malu Dreyer pointed out the possibility of learning Polish in her state, providing the number of people who take advantage of this opportunity.
In support of the German minority in Poland and after the visit to Opole in March 2022, in May 2022, the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag addressed the German Federal Government.  In nine main questions, some of which were accompanied by several supplementary questions, the members of parliament demanded, among other things, information on how the Federal Government has assessed the political situation of the German minority in Poland since 2015. The Federal Government confirmed that they share the opinion that the German minority perceives the systematic restriction of their rights as a threat to their identity.
In July 2022, the Chairman of the Association of German Societies, Rafał Bartek, took part in the German-Polish Parliamentary Group meeting in the Bundestag. The main topic of the discussion of the deputies was teaching German in Poland and Polish in Germany. The meeting concluded with a common, albeit not written, message for both governments to be called upon to enter into dialogue on the subject and to find a solution as soon as possible to end the discrimination against the German minority. Later, in October 2022, Dietmar Nietan, Federal Government Coordinator for German-Polish Intersocietal and Cross-border Cooperation since 2022, visited the German minority in Poland to learn about the consequences of the decree introduced by the Minister of Education on the reduction of German lessons for children in schools.
Reactions in Poland
In contrast to the state authorities, many local governments supported the German minority in Poland in protecting their educational rights. In the spring and summer of 2022, local authorities and other organisations managing educational institutions decided to finance additional hours of the German minority language in the 2022/23 school year. The financing was allocated to teaching language classes in addition to the compulsory one lesson per week or the introduction of teaching in two languages. According to the information obtained by the Association of German Societies, such decisions have been made in 44 municipalities throughout Poland.
In November 2022, representatives of the German minority met with Minister of Education and Science Przemysław Czarnek and Deputy Minister Tomasz Rzymkowski in Warsaw. However, the talks did not bring about the changes expected by the members of the German minority.
While the Polish Government's Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment, Anna Schmidt, expressing her concern about the measures taken by the Ministry of Education and Science did not propose any concrete counter-measures, the Ombudsman Marcin Wiącek undertook some concrete steps in support of the German minority and their educational rights. Already in 2022, he addressed the Prime Minister on the issue. In February 2023, the Polish Ombudsman turned again to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, putting with a request that the Prime Minister asks the Council of Ministers to repeal the two discriminatory regulations of the Minister of Education and Science. He also pointed out that in his reply in 2022, the Prime Minister did not address the substantive reasoning regarding the discriminatory nature of the amendments to the two ministerial decrees.
Would the Problem be Solved for the 2023/2024 School Year?
At a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Government and National and Ethnic Minorities in December 2022, the Minister of Education and Science, Przemysław Czarnek, announced concrete measures to reintroduce the three hours of German lessons per week as a minority language.
In January 2023, at a meeting with the Association of German Social-Cultural Societies, he confirmed that the number of hours teaching German minority language should be restored as soon as possible. He also pointed out that there is a need to optimise the subsidisation of teaching minority languages in general so that resources are provided and used efficiently and improvement of the level of language learning is achieved. The Minister stated that a working group will be convened by the Ministry of Education and Science, which will consult the results of its work with the Joint Commission of the Government and National and Ethnic Minorities.
Since this meeting did not bring tangible results, a few weeks later, representatives of the German minority, parents, and teachers raised the question again. In March 2023, the Ombudsman also addressed the minister with a question of whether and what measures have been taken or are planned in this matter. However, as of June 2023, the only development on the matter is the reply from the Minister that “the ministry is currently analyzing the existing solutions in this area, aimed at comprehensively organizing the issue of teaching minority, ethnic and regional languages “. 
Given that the return to the three hours per week German as a minority language for the next school year 2023/2024 currently seems very unlikely, the question now arises as to whether the municipalities will continue to finance the additional German lessons. To this end, the Association of German Societies published an appeal to the municipalities in April 2023.
Regardless of the heavy negative aspect, the case also provides a very positive example – that local governments can play a vital role in protecting minority rights in a state. The case also reveals the need to mobilise broader support from all types of stakeholders belonging to minorities, the majority, and the international community.
The current situation in Poland, where adopting a regulation restricts the rights of persons belonging to minorities and where a language-based discriminatory approach towards communities is in place, clearly indicates that the protection of minority rights cannot be only within the competence of the Member States. The Association of German Societies is therefore committed to protecting minority rights at the European level so that the interests and needs of minorities can be better represented.
Discrimination is prohibited by fundamental international instruments, to which the Polish state, among the others, is committed. Hence, the case of the German minority in Poland should come among those at the top of the international human rights agenda as of 2023 so that the government restores the number of language classes before the beginning of the 2023/2024 school year.
 Nur eine Stunde Deutsch als Minderheitensprache ist Realität geworden. Bildungsministerium diskriminiert, Gemeinden bezahlen, Verband der deutschen Gesellschaften, 30 Aug 2022 https://vdg.pl/de/nur-eine-stunde-deutsch-als-minderheitensprache-ist-realitaet-geworden-bildungsministerium-diskriminiert-gemeinden-bezahlen/
Den Verordnungen zum Trotz: Wie die deutsche Sprache unterstützt werden kann, 6 Sept 2022, https://vdg.pl/de/den-verordnungen-zum-trotz-wie-die-deutsche-sprache-unterstuetzt-werden-kann/
 Ordinance of the Minister of Education and Science of 4 October 2022 amending the Regulation on the conditions and manner in which public kindergartens, schools, and institutions carry out the tasks that enable pupils belonging to national and ethnic minorities and the community of the regional language to cultivate their national, ethnic and linguistic identity - Gesetzblatt Der Republik Polen, Warschau, 04.02.2022, Pos. 276 http://isap.sejm.gov.pl/isap.nsf/download.xsp/WDU20220000276/O/D20220276.pdf
Pursuant to Article 13(3) of the Law of 7 September 1991 on the Education System (Journal of Laws of 2021, item 1915), the following is ordered:
1. In the Decree of the Minister of National Education of 18 August 2017 on the conditions and manner in which public kindergartens, schools and institutions carry out the tasks that enable pupils belonging to national and ethnic minorities and the community of the regional language to cultivate their national, ethnic and linguistic identity (Journal of Laws item 1627), the following changes are introduced:
(1) In Paragraph 8(3), the words '3 hours per week' are followed by the words '... and in the case of pupils belonging to the German minority – to the extent of 1 hour a week";
2) Appendix No 3 shall be replaced by the text of the Annex to this Regulation.
§ 2. The Regulation will enter into force on 1 September 2022.
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