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Former Latvian premier calls for making Russian language compulsory in schools

November 10, 2014, 16:24 UTC+3 RIGA
Ainars Slesers believes that the Russian language should become compulsory in Latvian schools as Latvian in Russian schools
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© ITAR-TASS/Yuri Belinsky

RIGA, November 10. /TASS/. All Latvian schools should make the Russian language compulsory, Latvian ex-premier Ainars Slesers said on Monday.

“I believe that the trilingual system should be introduced in all Latvian schools. The Russian language should become compulsory in Latvian schools as Latvian in Russian schools,” Slesers said in an interview with Vesti Segodnya Newspaper.

Under the trilingual system, in addition to Russian and Latvian, a foreign language is learnt, he said.

The education reform, which was carried out in Latvia in 2004, did good to graduates of Russian schools. “Of course, the reform could and should be carried out by other methods. But in essence it was right because now graduates of Russian schools turned out to be more competitive than Latvian ones. Russians can speak at least three languages and Latvians know only two languages,” Slesers said.

Earlier, the Latvian government said it intended to prepare a legal, economic and social base to use the Latvian language in ethnic minorities’ from September 1, 2018. This aroused indignation among Russian-speakers. At least 40% of ethnic Russians live in the Baltic republic. Latvian is the only state language. Russian has the status of foreign 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% 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% and 20% minority. Russian-speaking children will learn Russian and study literature in the native language.

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