Russian will no longer be taught as second language in schools in four years - Education Ministry

  • 2022-11-21
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - From the school year 2026/2027, the Ministry of Education and Science plans to require all educational institutions to teach one of the European Union (EU) languages as a second language or a language the acquisition of which is regulated by intergovernmental agreements in the field of education, the ministry informed LETA.

This means that it will no longer be possible to learn Russian as a second language in schools, as this language is neither an official language of the EU, nor are there any intergovernmental agreements in force that would provide such an opportunity.

According to the ministry, these changes will contribute to integration of young people into the European Education Area, facilitate the learning of official EU languages, which in turn opens up a wide range of employment opportunities within and outside the EU.

Minister of Education and Science Anita Muizniece says that teaching of a second language in schools has been discussed with President Egils Levits, accentuating the need to promote and ensure teaching of one of the official EU languages as a second language in all schools. "Right now, we need to strengthen the fundamental value of Latvia more than ever – the state language and a strong Latvia in the common family of the European Union," says the minister.

Children learn the first foreign language at school from the 1st grade. It must be one of the official languages of the EU which most often is English. The second foreign language in schools with educational programs in Latvian is taught from the 4th grade.

Regulatory documents do not determine which foreign language, such as French, Russian or German, the school should offer its students to learn as a second language. The choice is determined by the educational institution itself in accordance with its development goals and in cooperation with the council of the institution. The Education and Science ministry points out that parents, students, and teachers also play an important role in the choice of a second language.

According to a survey of schools conducted in 2021 on the choice of languages, almost half of Latvian schools do not offer a choice – in more than 300 schools, only Russian is taught as a second language.

The Education Ministry explains that currently, due to a significant increase in demand for EU languages and a decline in the importance and use of Russian, both the ministry and the National Center for Education are receiving requests from many parents that one of the EU languages be offered as a second language in schools.

In order to promote learning of the official languages of the EU, the Education Ministry will develop amendments to primary education standards, stipulating that all schools must teach one of the EU languages as a second language or a language the acquisition of which is regulated by intergovernmental agreements in education.

Schools will be offered a transition period of three years to be able to have teachers for teaching a second language – both by employing new teachers and providing opportunities for existing ones to retrain and obtain the right to teach another subject. The Education Ministry has also started discussions with the University of Latvia about training and retraining of foreign language teachers.

Questions regarding the choice of a second language were also repeatedly highlighted by representatives of the Education Ministry and the Center for Education at a seminar for heads of education administrations and education specialists. Liene Voronenko, head of the Center for Education, and educational institutions called on education administrations to discuss the current situation and planned changes in the teaching of foreign languages to find the best solutions in the interests of every child and to move together towards the goal of strengthening the use of EU languages in education.

Cooperation partners will be involved in the development of amendments to the primary education standards, and a draft Cabinet regulation will be submitted for public discussion, inviting all the parties involved to participate in evaluation of the document and to make proposals for improving it.