- Minister of Education Ina Druviete will stimulate school directors to choose so-called first model of bilingual education
- Saeima’s Legal Committee supported the draft amendments stipulating punishment for public denial of USSR and Nazi German aggression
Yesterday, the Saeima’s Committee on Education, Culture and Science discussed with the Minister of Education Ina Druviete situation in education system, including language reform in ethnic minority schools. Replying to a question why the language reform in necessary, the Minister said that it is important to raise quality and level of state language proficiency in bilingual schools. According to Vesti Segodnya, the Minister also said that it is not planned to amend the Education Law yet, but to stimulate school directors to choose so-called first model of bilingual education where the proportion of education in Latvian and native language is 90/10% or 80/20%. Such model is used now only in 5% of schools.
Yesterday, the Saeima’s Legal Committee supported the draft amendments to the Criminal Law stipulating punishment for public denial of USSR and Nazi German aggression against Latvia, for justification, glorification or for malicious, rude or offensive attempt to question the fact of aggression. Against the draft amendments objected the MPs from the oppositional party Concord Centre and also representative of the Security Police (SP) who argued that the police officers and courts might face difficulties in applying such legal norms in practice because it will be hard to determine what was meant by possible defender, whether the denial was malicious, rude or offensive. The SP representative also said that such legal provisions might hinder scientific discussions and critical analyses of history. Latvijas Avize, Vesti Segodnya
- Activists for the defence of the Russian language schools discuss how to protest against reform 2018
- Member of the “Unity” Gatis Purins is planning to appeal to the ECHR about refusal to publish names of MPs signed for referendum about status of Russian language
- Vesti Segodnya reports about a publication “White Book of Nazism”
Vesti Segodnya reports about a meeting of the activists of the Headquarters for the Defence of Russian Language Schools which was active during the language reform 2004 in minority schools. The activists discussed the possibility to establish a platform for protests against the new language reform in minority schools planned for 2018. The activists planned to counter the planned reform, the only question is what methods to choose – dialogue with the government or protest actions. As reported, the governing coalition agreement stipulates that education in ethnic minority schools will be transferred into Latvian language starting with 2018.
The member of the political party “Unity”, political scientist Gatis Purins is planning to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights regarding to the refusal of the Central Elections Committee (CEC) to publish names of the Parliament members who signed for the initiation of the referendum on granting Russian language status of a state language. Mr Purins believes the MPs are public officials and people have the right to known about all their legal initiatives. Vesti Segodnya
Vesti Segodnya reports about a publication “White Book of Nazism” issued by an organisation World without Nazism. The publication analyses manifestations of radical nationalism in 18 European countries, including Latvia. The newspaper notes that authors or organisations who wrote the report about situation in Latvia are unknown and the analyses of the information provided is contradictory. According to the report, Latvia occupies third place among the monitored European countries for the level of intolerance (first is given to Greece, second to Estonia, fourth to Ukraine, fifth to Hungary).
- MPs elaborate draft amendments to the Criminal Law stipulating punishment for denial of occupation
- The Minister of Education Ina Druviete: everybody should study in common schools and those who want could learn native language and culture as additional subjects
Members of the Saeima’s sub-committee on Criminal Law Policy agreed to add to the Criminal Law punishment for “public denial of USSR and Nazi German aggression against Latvia, for justification, glorification or for intentional, rude or offensive attempt to question the fact of aggression.” The MPs propose to punish for such crime with imprisonment up to three years, community service or pecuniary penalty. Newspapers note that such draft amendments mean that it will be possible to punish a person, for instance, for denial of occupation of Latvia by the USSR. Vesti Segodnya, Latvijas Avize (7.02)
The Minister of Education Ina Druviete in an interview with Latvijas Avize says that she would not support the idea of full transition of national minority schools into Latvian language only. The Minister believes that it would not be possible to do that and ethnic minority children should have right to study subjects concerning their ethnic identity in native language after 2018. Regarding national minority schools, the Minister believes that “the segregation of schools should be stopped” and everybody should study in common schools and those who want could learn native language and culture as additional subjects.
- The Ombudsman Juris Jansons: the majority of national minority school directors do not understand why the education system in which the students more or less learn Latvian language should be changed
- The Mayor of Riga Nils Usakovs: governing coalition plays the ethnic card to draw attention away from important social economic problems
- The Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs does not support transfer of education in national minority schools into Latvian language only
- Prominent figures are ready to support the protests
- Miroslavs Mitrofanovs: it is important to improve education quality
- The most popular parties in January were the Concord Centre, the Unity, the Union of Greens and Framers and the nationalists’ union All for Latvia!/FF-LNIM
Latvijas Avize reports about a meeting of the Ombudsman Juris Jansonswith directors of national minority schools. The aim of the meeting was to discuss the directors’ opinion on how to solve problems which the Ombudsman believes exist in the bilingual education system. The discussion with directors was conducted behind the closed doors so that they feel free to express their opinion. According to the Ombudsman, the majority of the school directors do not understand why the education system in which the students more or less learn Latvian language should be changed. The Ombudsman also said that directors have different opinion on how language proportion in schools should be increased – whether to increase proportion of the state language or of native language. Two of the directors stated that Russian children should study in schools only in Russian. The directors also criticized the fact that the idea to conduct language reform in national minority schools was announced before asking the opinion of the school directors. The Ombudsman and the directors also discussed what problem the schools face. The directors mentioned that there is a lack of good quality education materials, there are disproportional requirements for Latvian language proficiency at exams instead of requirement for analytical skills, and that in order to improve state language proficiency and teach in a class where children have different levels of state language proficiency, teachers need better motivation, which also requires more state funding. According to the Ombudsman, it was concluded that state language proficiency of national minorities has improved, however, there should be additional actions in order to draw together ethnic Latvians and minorities.
Vesti Segodnya publishes opinion of the Mayor of Riga Nils Usakovs regarding the plans of the governing coalition to transfer education in minority schools into Latvian language. Mr Usakovs believes that every time when the governing politicians fear of losing popularity and want to draw attention away from important social economic problems they play the ethnic card. Mr Usakovs calls this "cheap and powerful" trick for politicians – as soon as one side raises an issue such as minority schools – people on the other side immediately mobilise and both sides have their pre-election campaigns laud and ready. Nils Usakovs believes that the new generation of Latvian Russian speaking young people has no problems with Latvian language proficiency. But, at the same time, graduates of Latvian and Russian language schools have low results, for instance, in maths. Therefore, Mr Usakovs considers that it is very important to raise the alarm about the quality of education and low wages of teachers.
The Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs does not support transfer of education in national minority schools into Latvian language only. Mr Lembergs believes that ethnic Latvians themselves should take care about the usage of Latvian language instead of laying that responsibility on the others. Vesti Segodnya
Vesti Segodnya publishes opinion of 21 public figures on whether they are ready to support protests against the transfer minority education into Latvian language and in what form. The majority of interviewees stated that they would be ready to take part in the protest actions and believe that it is impermissible to close Russian language schools. Media expert Sergejs Kruks says that he would be ready to take part in the protests as a manifestation of civil activities. Mr Kruks also says that he supports schools by publications and research and believes that the plans to change the existing education system has no any scientific grounds. The TV journalist Andrejs Mamikins also says that he would support schools by any democratic means and believes that by such reform politicians will blow up the situation.
One of the organisers of the protest action against the transition of Russian language schools into Latvian language Miroslavs Mitrofanovs (the Union of Latvia's Russians) is pleased with the first protest action held on 4 February. Mr Mitrofanovs is also satisfied that he had chance to speak with the Minister of Education Ina Druviete about the planned changes and to agree about further meetings and discussions. Mr Mitrofanovs says that it is very important to analyse the situation in national minority schools, to receive objective data, and after that to take measures in order to improve the education quality. Vesti Segodnya
According to the latest public opinion survey conducted by “Latvijas fakti”, the most popular party in January 2014 was the Concord Centre - 21,2% of respondents said that they would support this party at the Saeima’s elections. The Concord Centre’s popularity has grown by 3% since December 2013. The popularity of the Unity also has grown by about 1%, reaching 14,5%. Popularity of two other major parties decreased - from 10,5% down to 9,8% for the Union of Greens and Framers and from 6,8% down to 6,2 for the nationalists’ union All for Latvia!/FF-LNIM. Latvijas Avize
- Vesti Segodnya: rigorous inspections of usage of the state language in Russian minority schools
- Valdis Dombrovskis: Latvia needs to elaborate immigration policy
Vesti Segodnya reports that following public protest against the government announced intention to switch minority schools to education in the state language only, the representatives of the Ministry of Education started rigorous inspections of the usage of the state language in Russian minority schools. According to unofficial information of the newspaper, representatives of the Ministry attend the classes and record how much teacher speaks in Latvian and in Russian, ostensibly in order to identify the teachers to dismiss. The inspectors also interrogate children about what is the language they speak during the lessons.
Latvijas Avize reports that an Estonian newspaper published an interview with the ex-Prime Minister of Latvia Valdis Dombrovskis in which he said that Latvia needs immigrants for further development and praised the system on granting residence permits to foreign investors. However, in an interview with Latvijas Avize, Mr Dombrovskis stated that the journalists imprecisely interpreted what he has said. According to Mr Dombrovskis he just said thatLatvia needs to elaborate immigration policy with an aim to attract qualified labour force as other countries do. Regarding granting residence permits to foreign investors, Mr Dombrovskis said that about 6,000 foreigners received residence permits using such system which is only 10% of all persons who were granted residence permits in Latvia. Therefore, Mr Dombrovskis questions why there are so many debates about these 10% but no interest about the rest.