RIGA, March 9. /TASS/. The Latvian parliament on Thursday passed in the second reading a bill to make teaching in Latvian compulsory in national minority schools.
"The absurdity surrounding private schools is just beyond any common sense. Have you ever seen a country that prohibits national minorities, whose children make up a quarter of all students, from studying in their own language even for their own money? There is no such country," said Andris Morozovs, a lawmaker from the opposition Social Democratic Party "Harmony."
Latvian Education Minister Karlis Sadurskis replied that it was absurd to discuss language issues in schools 27 years after the county gained independence.
"We hear that it would be difficult for children and for parents, but all those children were born in Latvia and their parents were also born in Latvia," he said. "Can we imagine that residents of Sweden, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy or any other European country could not speak their country’s official language. Why should Latvia be an exception?"
Another Harmony lawmaker, Boriss Cilevics, dismissed the statement as "lies."
"More than 30 European Union countries ensure education in minority languages in their schools," he said.
Latvia’s national parliament, the Saeima, has endorsed a reform of the secondary education system to teach the bulk of disciplines in non-Latvian schools in the official Latvian language as of 2020.
For Russian schools, instruction in Russian will be allowed only for classes of the native tongue and literature and for subjects linked to culture and history.
A gradual implementation of the reform is expected to begin as of September 1, 2019. For the bill on reform to take legal effect, the Saeima should discuss it at one more reading and the President should sign it into law.
The government’s striving to eliminate Russian as a language of instruction at schools has caused a wave of indignation in the Russian speaking community, whose massive vote in favor of secession from the Soviet Union thrusted Latvia to independence in 1991. Defenders of Russian schools have organized several rallies and marches in Riga.
Latvian is the only state language in the country and Russian is considered to be a foreign language. The first massive language reform in the school system that caused mass protests took effect on September 1, 2004. It resulted in the rise of a bilingual instruction pattern, under which the Russian schools can teach only 40% disciplines in Russian to high-school students.