Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis approved on Monday a reform on transition to education in the state language at the country’s ethnic minority schools, the presidential press service said.

“Education in secondary schools in the Latvian language will ensure equal opportunities for all young people to get good education and make a living in Latvia, to study and work here,” Vejonis said.

The Latvian president said children would still have the right to study subjects related to ethnic minorities, their identity, culture and history and develop their personality.

Latvia’s Saeima (parliament) earlier adopted in three readings a reform developed by the Ministry of Education and Science and approved by the government, according to which minority schools will start using the Latvian language for most subjects starting from 2020.

The initiative has caused a wave of discontent among the Russian-speaking residents of Latvia, who make up about 40% of the country’s population.

The defenders of Russian schools earlier held several mass rallies and marches against this reform. Various public initiative websites are collecting signatures against these plans.

Latvian is the only state language of the country, and Russian is considered foreign. Education reform at minority schools was launched in the Baltic state on September 1, 2004, triggering mass protests. A two-language education system was ultimately introduced, allowing the use of the Russian language for only 40% of subjects in high school.

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