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








LAShOR documents

Meeting Mr. Alvaro Gil-Robles, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights

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

Prepared by Igor Pimenov, Chairman of Latvian Association for Support of Schools with Russian Language of Instruction (LAShOR)

2nd October, 2003

  1. In brief
    In Latvia, as of 1995 the transition of minorities state-financed education to the state (Latvian) language is under way. The transition impacts mainly the system of education provided in the Russian language now.

  2. Violation of human rights of people belonging to minorities
    This reform has been forced by the state upon the parents and children without any consultation with them and without any consultation with minority organisations. The reform does not leave a choice for those taxpayers who want their children to be taught in Russian. Those who want to study in Latvian or predominantly in Latvian or agree with studying in Latvian have such an opportunity. Those who would like their children to keep on studying in Russian - they dont. The state pushes the last to private schools. However there are few private schools in Latvia, and making use of them means making an extra payment for education as taxes have been already paid for the education system kept by the state.

  3. Political background of reform
    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, some politicians do not conceal the real objective of the transition. It is to provide better conditions for the strengthening of Latvian in Latvia by means of contraction of the area of usage of Russian. The whole of the reform impacting the young generation of Russian-speakers is grounded by politicians as the necessity of eradication of ramparts of totalitarian regime and Russian occupation.

  4. Essence of Reform
    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. There are some schools with a fairly good level of bilingual education, but they do not mean the general case. 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. 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.

  5. Reasons of discontent of Russian-speakers
    The transition of education in the schools with the Russian language of instruction to the state (Latvian) language results in deterioration of maintenance of cultural identity of Russian-speakers in Latvia and their economic competitiveness.

  6. International Recommendations have been ignored
    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. 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. The authorities while trying to demonstrate the dialogue with minorities usually refer to The Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Education and Science. However the Consultative Committee may not express the opinion of minorities as most of the Committee members are the state officers or municipal workers dependent on the state authorities.

  7. The activities of civil society have been ignored
    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. The activities of civil society that were democratically structured within parents conferences and public campaigns which gathered thousands of supporters, were neglected and ignored by authorities.

  8. Disintegration of Society
    The forceful accent on the Latvian language causes arrogance against it and pushes Russian-speakers to self-segregation in a community. The reduction of usage of Russian in school in areas with a dominant ethnic Latvian population can lead to a marginalisation of young people. So, the transition of education minorities to the state language results in disintegration of society rather than in integration of it.

  9. The system of well-developed minority education already exists in Latvia. The reform is going to result in demolition rather than in improvement of it
    The system of minority education 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. In the time being about 99% of students belonging to minorities study in Russian. International standards stipulate a minimum of rights that states should ensure for minorities. 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 this reduction 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 many Russian-speakers consider the education policy of the Republic of Latvia as undemocratic and unfair. It is the source of social tension and perhaps the most critical internal problem of Latvia. It cannot be solved in the court due to the reason mentioned above but needs a political solution.

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