The Cabinet regulations provide for the release from the examinations of children who have the status of asylum seeker, refugee or alternative status, who have commenced learning in Latvian educational institutions the given year of the exam. But many Ukrainians, fleeing the war, arrived in Latvia in the spring of last year. Currently, more than 4,000 students from Ukraine have been included in the Latvian education system.
Olita Arkle, senior expert at the Education Department of Education (IZM) said: "Last year [Ukrainians] were relieved and did not pass exams in years 9 and 12. This year, we've changed the approach a little and the exams can be taken or not. If the pupils choose to take the exam, this means that it is possible to use the Ukrainian-Latvian dictionary, the pupils are in a separate room and it is possible to extend the examination time."
If a student chooses not to take the exam or fails, they have the option of staying in the same year or simply receiving the school report if, for example, they want to return to Ukraine. Arkle stressed that it was not that all Ukrainian children were in danger of failing their exams. There are reports from schools that these children have difficulties with Latvian, but there are students who have previously lived in Latvia and who have good knowledge of Latvian. Ukrainians show very good knowledge in math and science, but English is flawed. However, most Ukrainian pupils are very conscientious, many continue their evenings in distance learning at their Ukrainian schools, said Arkle.
The heads of education institutions called by Latvian Radio have not yet received a clear signal that Ukrainian children, even if they started training only in the autumn, could be granted exemptions from state tests.
Romans Tilleris, deputy director in education of Riga Ukrainian Secondary School, said: “No, it is not accepted that [the exams] may not be passed. That is what a meeting is currently about, it is not a decision yet. We have to look at how the Ukrainian civilian rules will be changed. But no amendments have been made."
Nataļja Kubasova, director of the 15th High School of Rīga, has not heard anything that Ukrainian pupils could be exempted from the exams. In her run school this year, there are no final-year Ukrainian refugees, but there are 12 in year 9.
So the exams will also have to be taken by them, Kubasova said: “Ukrainians, yes. We don't really know that. If they don't pass, I think there won't be a certificate for them about basic education.”
The IZM representative Arkle acknowledged that such uncertainties have occurred because Ukrainian pupils have not been mentioned in the Cabinet regulations regarding the procedures by which students are to be released from the specified state examinations, they are subject to a special law on the support of Ukrainian civilians, which should be changed at any moment.
According to the Ministry, 198 Ukrainian students in Latvia are in year 9 and nine in year 12.