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Latvian president-elect says Russian schools may continue education in national language

June 26, 2015, 10:28 UTC+3 RIGA
Earlier, Latvian government said it wanted to prepare a legal, economic and social base to have all state-financed schools of national minorities use the Latvian language from September 1, 2018
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Latvia’s Defense Minister Raimonds Vejonis

Latvia’s Defense Minister Raimonds Vejonis

© EPA/MAURIZIO GAMBARINI

RIGA, June 26. /TASS/. Latvia’s Defense Minister Raimonds Vejonis, who will be inaugurated the country’s president in July, does not support the idea of having Russian schools educate pupils in the Latvian language.

"I do not support radical reforms in the education, moreover since the current system of bilingual education has proven its effectiveness," he said in an interview with a local newspaper. "Besides, any major changes should be prepared thoroughly. The problem is not that much whether pupils are ready, the problem is whether teachers are ready. If teachers cannot teach well certain subjects in the Latvian language, then how could we implement those reforms at once? In that case, education would not benefit from them."

"Everything should be done gradually," he said. "I do not rule out in future we shall have basic subjects taught in the Latvian language, but children of national minorities will be able to study their language, traditions, culture. Anyway, once again: this is not a current issue. We should be proud Latvia has schools of national minorities."

Earlier, Latvian government said it wanted to prepare a legal, economic and social base to have all state-financed schools of national minorities use the Latvian language from September 1, 2018. The decision caused a wave of indignation in the Russian community, which makes about 40% of the country’s population. The Latvian language is the only state language, and Russian is a foreign language.

From September 1, 2004, Latvia reformed the education system at schools of national minorities. Thus, the authorities implemented a bilingual system: in senior classes of Russian schools only 40% subjects may be taught in the native language, and 60% are taught in Latvian.

The plans were that from September 1, 2018, all Russian schools would be teaching in Latvian only, but later on the authorities refused the plan and now they will increase the share of subjects in Latvian to 80% in 2018. Russian-speaking pupils will study only the Russian Language and Literature in their native tongue.

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