Latvia: row over Russian being mandatory at schools

Many schools in Latvia offer only Russian as a compulsory second language from the fourth grade on. Parents are now demanding more options, but schools say they lack the teachers for other languages. State education plans envisage discontinuing Russian as a second language, but not until 2026.

Diena (LV) /

Let’s learn Lithuanian and Estonian!

When choosing a foreign language Latvians should look at who visits their country, Diena urges:

“It’s time to put an end to the myth of the special role of the Russian language in Latvia — naturally without denying that knowledge of any language is valuable. In addition to Russia and Belarus, Lithuania and Estonia are also neighbours. Long-term tourism statistics show that most of the foreign visitors to Latvia come from Lithuania, with Estonia in second place. This mean at least basic conversational skills in Lithuanian and Estonian would be good. What’s more, a large number of German tourists come to all the Baltic States, so knowledge of German is also extremely useful in the tourism industry.”

Magda Riekstiņa
Neatkarīgā (LV) /

No backbone

Neatkarīgā criticises the system and the schools for doing nothing to address the problem:

“Yes, in many places they are speaking the truth when they say: ‘we don’t have teachers who can teach Spanish or French, for example, so we take Russian.’ You could just as well say: ... We don’t have a history teacher, so we’ll teach Marxist dialectical materialism because we happen to have found a teacher who can do that. And then perhaps wait until there are normal teachers? Unfortunately, it’s been clear for some time that many Latvians simply don’t have the backbone to say: ‘No, we won’t learn Russian.’”

Elita Veidemane