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Education

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Slovaks/

The three pillars of the Slovak community – the family, the fraternal society, and the church – maintained many elements of Slovak culture and saw to the education of the children in the community. The earliest immigrants identified their ethnicity with the Slovak language and taught the second generation to speak Slovak at home. The mother took the leading role in transmitting the language since she spent far more time with the children than the father. Because the immigrants in the first two waves were primarily agricultural labourers who had only a few years of formal schooling, the Slovak taught at home was the dialect of the region from which the parents originated, and their vocabulary was limited.

Immigrants in the third and fourth waves, because they had higher levels of education, spoke standard Slovak and taught it to their children. Thus, when first-and second-generation Slovaks from the four immigrant waves meet at social functions and converse in Slovak, it can be in numerous dialects, with those speaking standard Slovak feeling somewhat superior to those speaking in dialect. Third- and fourth-generation descendants of the early immigrants generally do not speak Slovak, and they converse in English (or sometimes in French, in Quebec). Most members of the second generation felt that their knowledge of Slovak was limited, and they have not passed the language on to their children. Many also wish to assimilate with English-Canadian (or French-Canadian) language and culture.

Another strategy used to maintain the Slovak language was to present plays and other amusements in standard Slovak. All the larger communities, which boasted fraternal-benefit societies and had the use of church basements (or Slovak halls), staged plays in the early years of their existence. They also sang traditional folk songs at dances (featuring polkas, waltzes, and čardášes) and parties, and the children were encouraged to recite poetry in the vernacular. Immigrants in the first two waves did this in the 1920s and 1930s, as did immigrants in the third and fourth waves in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

The children in Slovak Catholic families usually attended separate schools, while the children of Lutherans and committed Slovak socialists attended public schools. Because neither the public nor the separate schools taught Slovak, after World War I, the larger communities, such as those in Thunder Bay, Montreal, Toronto, and Windsor, established part-time schools (usually held on Saturdays) where their children were taught standard Slovak and also some Slovak history and culture. The Saturday schools used grammars and other books published by American Slovaks or curriculum materials provided by the Matica slovenská (Slovak Cultural Association) in Slovakia. Such schools usually lasted from ten to twenty years, depending upon the size of the Slovak community and the number of second-generation children available for such schooling. With the aid of grants from Canada’s Ministry of Multiculturalism, some post-1968 immigrants have established Saturday schools to teach their children Slovak, although there are few of these classes, and they have had only limited success.