Latvia to phase out Russian teaching

April 25, 2003

A plan by the Latvian government to phase out Russian language teaching could jeopardise the chances of a university education for many of the country's ethnic Russian population.

Russia's foreign ministry last week criticised the proposed phasing-out of Russian-taught secondary education. It claimed the move was contrary to European conventions on minority rights and could affect Latvia's chance of accession to the European Union, the ministry said.

Almost 30 per cent of the population is ethnic Russian, while the proportion who use Russian at home is at least 40 per cent.

The fears were voiced by Janis Urbanovics, a leftwing Latvian politician, in an interview published in the Russian-language newspaper Chas last month.

Rather than disadvantaging minority students, education and science minister Karlis Sadurskis claimed the change would help them to compete on equal terms in the job market and public life.

There will be a grace period of three years to ensure that students can compete on equal terms, the authorities said.

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