Amendments to the Law on Education and the Law on General Education that will introduce a graduate transition to instruction primarily in the state language in secondary schools by the 2021/22 were approved by the Parliament in the third and final reading on March 22, 2018 and proclaimed by the President of Latvia on April 2, 2018.
The reform seeks to promote consolidated society and equal opportunities for all school graduates, avoiding any form of discrimination. The principal aim of the reform is to ensure that all school graduates have equal command of the Latvian language for a successful and competitive entry into labour market in Latvia or for the continuation of their studies.
The Ministry of Education and Science has proposed significant changes in the approach to general education in Latvia. These changes include a review of the curriculum and teaching methods, leading to teachers at all levels of the education system organising and managing learning on a daily basis, including for minority students, in a unified system and a successive manner. The transition to instruction in the state language in general secondary education institutions will contribute to the introduction of the new general educational curriculum and learning approach.
At the same time, during and after the reform, the national minority education programmes will continue guaranteeing that the national minorities can preserve and develop their language and their ethnic and cultural identity, in accordance the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia.
The government will continue to support state-funded national minority education programmes in seven minority languages (Russian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Estonian, Lithuanian, and Hebrew) at primary school level; at the secondary education level the government will continue to support teaching in the mother tongue of those subjects that pertain to national minorities’ culture and history. The state support for education in minority languages in Latvia will continuously exceed that of many other European countries.
The proposed reform meets Latvia’s international obligations, which determine:
- the obligation to ensure equal rights and opportunities for all children to acquire education;
- the obligation to ensure that national minorities are able to study minority language, literature and other subjects related to their culture and history in their native language.
Latvia will continue to guarantee the support for the preservation of culture and identity of minorities according the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
The Ministry of Education and Science will introduce targeted support measures to improve the professional competence and Latvian language skills of teachers. Teachers will be provided with improved teaching aids and methodological materials, while their professional and language skills will be upgraded.
Steps for the introduction of changes:
- As of the 2017/18 school year, central examinations in the 12th grade will be taken in Latvian only;
- In the 2018/19 school year, new educational guidelines for preschool will ensure significant increase in the role of the Latvian language in the learning process from the age of five. This will encourage more successful integration of minority children in primary education.
- In the 2019/20 school year, a transition will begin from the five existing minority education models to three new models of minority education at the basic education stage.
- In the 2019/20 school year, transition to the new model of bilingual education in grades 7-9 will start; not less than 80% of the curriculum , will be taught in the state language.
- As of the 2019/20 school year, all state examinations in the 9th grade will be taken in Latvian.
- As of the 2020/21 school year, all general subjects in grades 10-11 in general education institutions will be taught in Latvian. Subjects related to the respective minority’s language, literature, culture and history will continue to be taught in the students’ mother tongue.
- Starting with the 2021/22 school year, all general subjects throughout secondary education will be taught in Latvian. Subjects related to the respective minority’s language, literature, culture and history will continue to be taught in the students’ mother tongue.