Picket protests against education language reform

Up to 400 people gathered outside the Education Ministry in central Riga October 23 to protest against plans to introduce the majority of education in the Latvian language at schools currently teaching in Russian.

It is far from the first time such demonstrations have taken place and indeed many of the banners had a familiar look to them.

Reporting from the scene, Latvian Radio's Annija Petrova said most of the protesters seemed to be elderly or children and chanted ''Hands off our schools'' in Russian and Latvian, while also playing Russian songs.

Participants object to plans to introduce Latvian language teaching in all subjects other than foreign languages, and instead say schools should be able to choose themselves how many lessons are conducted in lessons other than Latvian, which is the only official state language. 

Protesters at the Latvian Radio said they wanted their children to know Russian, Latvian, and English. The picket was organized by the Latvian Russian Union (LKS) political party and approved by Riga city council. Attendees included LKS member of the European parliament Tatjana Zdanoka and and other MEP, Andrejs Mamikins of the Harmony party (which is led by Riga mayor Nils Usakovs).

Education Ministry officials said they were willing to answer any questions the protesters might have, but had not received any. Minister of Education and Science Kārlis Šadurskis said in advance of the protest that it was politically-motivated and that the organizers of the protest wanted to retain as many young people as possible with "low-level knowledge of the Latvian language".

As has been reported previously, the Ministry of Education and Science intends that after three years in secondary schools all general education subjects, or core curriculum, will be taught only in the Latvian language. Minority students are expected to retain the ability to learn minority languages, literature and cultural and historical subjects in other languages, however.

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