Latvian parliament endorses ban on Russian language education

Latvia’s Saeima has endorsed the finalized version of a bill that bans tuition in the Russian language at private universities and colleges as of the beginning of 2019.

As many as 57 deputies out of the 100 deputies having seats in the Saeima voted in favor of the amendments to the law on education authored by the country’s ministry of education and science.

The amendments force the private universities and colleges, along with the state ones, to switch the process of tuition over to Latvian or to one of the official languages of the EU, where Russian is off the list.

“Exceptions are possible for certain cases,” the Saeima said in a press release. “EU official languages will be possible for the programs that foreign students studying in Latvia enroll for, as well as for the programs implemented under international treaties and EU projects.” 
“Not more than one-fifth of the curriculums covered by loans can be taught in a foreign language,” the Saeima said. “Foreign language will be admitted for the study programs where a foreign tongue in question is essential for achieving its main objectives, that is, language or cultural programs.”

The ministry of education and science came up with explanations earlier, saying the amendments would affect about 7.5% students who are getting tuition at private universities and colleges in Russian.

 The ministry designed an education system reform earlier that will push the ethnic minority schools into teaching the bulk of disciplines in Latvian. The Russian language will be admitted only for a handful of classes [the language proper and Russian literature – TASS] and the subjects linked to culture and history.

Gradual implementation of the reform begins in the coming new academic year and is supposed to be completed by September 1, 2021.

These plans caused a wave of indignation among Russian-speaking Latvians who make up about 40% of the country’s population. Defenders of Russian schools have held numerous mass rallies and street marches in protest of the reform. Gathering of signatures under petitions against the education ministry’s plans is underway at the websites of various public associations.

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