LAShOR - Latvian Association for Support of Schools with Russian Language of Instruction








LAShOR documents

Information Note on the transition of minorities education to the state (Latvian) language

   Sixty-third session 4-22 August 2003

   Prepared and distributed by:
   Latvian Association for Support of Schools with Russian Language of Instruction (LAShOR)

   6th August, 2003

  1. In Latvia, as of 1995 the transition of minorities education to the state (Latvian) language is under way. The purpose of the transition as proclaimed by the State is the improvement of the education of minorities and the better competitiveness of them in the labour market by improving of their Latvian language. However, the real objective of the transition that is not concealed by politicians is to provide better conditions for the strengthening of Latvian at the expense of the Russian language in Latvia by means of contraction of the area of usage of Russian. The transition can deteriorate the maintenance of cultural identity of Russian-speakers in Latvia and their economic competitiveness.

  2. In the primary school, the bilingual education is used to provide for further instruction in Latvian in secondary school. The bilingual education is usually reduced to a mechanical substitution of the Russian language of instruction by the Latvian one. Public surveys and multiple claims of parents point out that it results in the aggravation of the quality of school education. In the secondary school, the new government standards of education for minorities stipulate that as of 1 September 2004 up to 40 per cent of study lessons may be instructed in the minority language. However, we consider this figure is low to provide for a qualitative secondary education.

  3. The same standards stipulate that the state exams should be taken only in Latvian (rather than in the native language). This provision still stronger limits the opportunity of the schoolmaster of determining subjects to be instructed in the native language of students.

  4. The state forces the reform upon the parents and children without any consultation with them and without any consultation with minority organisations. The Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Education and Science that politicians usually refer may not express the opinion of minorities as most of the Committee members are the state officers or municipal workers dependant on the state authorities. The civil society offers the alternative reform of minority education that can meet the demands of integration of the society. This proposal though formally accepted by the executive power is compromised by the Ministry of Education and Science and ignored.

  5. The activities of civil society that were democratically structured within parents conferences and public campaigns, that gathered thousands of supporters, were neglected and arrogantly ignored by authorities. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in its Resolution 1236 (2001) and other international organisations address the Republic of Latvia with appeal to keep a dialogue with parents. In the meantime, politicians and the governments ignore these demands and recommendations and refuse to keep an essential dialogue with organisations of parents.

  6. The restriction of instruction in the native language of minorities contradicts with the nowadays practices, standards of minority rights and the Accession criteria of the Copenhagen European Council, 1993. The transition of the education of minorities to the Latvian language is in collision with The Hague Recommendations of OSCE Regarding the Education Rights of National Minorities.

  7. It is the fact that the system of minority education already exists in Latvia. The reform is going to result in demolition rather than in improvement of it. A well-developed system of minority schools exists in Latvia, where 98,6% of students study in Russian. It was established as far back as in 1919 in an independent state of Latvia and kept on developing during the soviet period, though only Russian school remained open after 1940, and schools of other minorities were closed. As the independence of Latvia was restored, the Polish, Jewish, Byelorussian and Lithuanian schools were re-established as well.

  8. International standards of human rights for minorities stipulate a minimum of the rights that states should ensure. However, the education system that all residents of Latvia had equally benefited from before the regaining of state independence in 1991 offered opportunities that excelled the minimum then. Now, after Russian-speakers have become a minority in Latvia, these opportunities are in the process of gradual reduction for them. The international legislation accepts it as formally legal since these opportunities are still above the minimum, but people belonging to the minority regard it as the violation of their rights and vivid discrimination. Therefore the minority considers the state policy of the Republic of Latvia as undemocratic and unfair. It is getting to be the source of social tension and perhaps the most critical internal problem of Latvia.

Saita administrtors