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Latvian PM promises to leave Russian schools intact

February 26, 2014, 18:44 UTC+3 RIGA

Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma said the education system in the country will remain bilingual

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RIGA, February 26. /ITAR-TASS/. Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma has promised not to switch all state-financed Russian-speaking schools to the Latvian language.

“The education law will not be changed,” she said. “We have a bilingual education system in Latvia today. There are more than 100 schools for ethnic minorities, which are free to choose one of the possible modules.”

Straujuma said she had a meeting with Latvia’s minister of education and science the day before.

“We will prepare new educational materials to improve teachers’ skills and to make instruction in the Latvian language more professional,” she added. “There will be no changes in the law under my government.”

Earlier, the Latvian government, headed by Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, announced plans to switch all state-financed Russian-speaking schools to instruction in the Latvian language by 2018. It was a second attempt to enforce such change.

Meanwhile, Russian-speaking population accounts for about 40 percent of Latvia’s two-million-population, yet Latvian is the republic’s sole national language and it is considered the only language for communication with local authorities. The Saeima - Latvia's parliament - has repeatedly rejected any attempts by the Russian speakers' movement to change the situation and make Russian the country's second official language.

On September 1, 2004 Latvia enacted an education reform that caused uproar, as it introduced a bilingual system in ethnic minorities’ schools - only 40 percent of disciplines were allowed to be taught in Russian in senior school.

At present, the Education Ministry wants to change the language of instruction in minorities’ schools to a composite of 80 percent Latvian and 20 percent minority.

In a previous attempt at language change, The National Alliance “All For Latvia!” and “For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK”, part of the governing centre-right coalition, had also proposed that Latvian be used in publicly financed minority schools and kindergartens, but the initiative gained no support at that time.

Protesting against the move, human rights activists announced the idea of making Russian an official language alongside Latvian and forced a referendum in February 2012. Officials said that with more than 90 percent of the votes counted, 75 percent were against the proposal.

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