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Latvian PM promises to preserve Russian language in schools

May 12, 2014, 18:56 UTC+3 RIGA
On September 1, 2004 Latvia enacted an education reform that caused uproar, as it introduced a bilingual system in ethnic minorities’ schools
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 Laimdota Straujuma

Laimdota Straujuma


RIGA, May 12. /ITAR-TASS/. Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma has promised to preserve education in Russian language in all state-funded Russian-speaking schools. This refers, however, only to the disciplines connected with language, culture and history.

“We have never talked about changes in the law on education. We are going to boost lessons in Latvian, but, as I said, teaching will never be wholly in Latvian. Classes connected with language, culture and history will be taught in Russian, while others should be gradually switched to Latvian. It is not necessary to change the law for that,” Straujuma told Latvijas Avize daily on Monday.

“The issue of enhancing Latvian language teaching capacity should be resolved through teacher training,” the newspaper quotes her as saying, adding that teachers would be provided with language training opportunities to make education in Latvian more professional.

“The education minister wants to improve the quality of education in bilingual schools,” the article goes on. “We have more than 100 schools with two languages of teaching. As the minister told me, the level of teaching there requires greater professionalism. That is why we will arrange Latvian language courses for teachers and develop guidance manuals.”

The previous Latvian government headed by Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis has announced plans to switch all state-financed Russian-speaking schools to instruction in the Latvian language by 2018 — a second attempt to enforce such change.

Meanwhile, the Russian-speaking population accounts for about 40% of Latvia’s two-million population, yet Latvian is the republic’s sole national language and 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% of disciplines were allowed to be taught in Russian in senior schools.

At present, the Education Ministry wants to change the language of teaching in minorities’ schools to a composite of 80% Latvian and 20% 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% of the votes counted, 75% were against the proposal.

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