Up to 30% of teachers speak Latvian poorly, says authority

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Recent inspections by the State Language Center (VVC) have shown that 10% to 30% of teachers in Latvia do not know the official language at a sufficient level, Latvian Television reported on November 8.

As reported earlier by LSM, a law was recently approved that primary education in Latvia would transition to the state language only. The transition will be gradual:

  • from September 1, 2023, education will be fully in the official language for years 1, 4, and 7;
  • from September 1, 2024, for years 2, 5, and 8;
  • from September 1, 2025, for years 3, 6, and 9.

In light of this decision, the VVC has been carrying out checks at schools. For example, after a visit at Salaspils secondary school, five teachers had to be suspended from duties due to the inability to speak the state language properly. In Daugavpils, the second-largest and predominantly Russian-speaking city in Latvia, checks started in August and are still ongoing, with 24 teachers suspended so far.

“The checks are continuing. We have not yet received final reports from the State Language Center, but, informally, there are still establishments with problems. There, too, not all educators will have passed the tests of the Language Center," said Marija Bistere, representative of the Daugavpils Education authority.

In September and October, inspectors have spoken to around 300 teachers, 52 of whom have been administratively penalized. How many of them have been suspended couldn't be clarified at the center because the requirement has come in effect relatively recently. Previously, the teacher could pay the penalty and continue working.

“Around 10-30% of the educators of the establishment do not use the official language to the required extent. It depends on the head of the institution, on the location of the educational establishment, and on all other aspects. We are testing teachers with an interview,” said Madara Rēķe, head of the VVC Language Control Department.

The checks take place both on a pre-established schedule and in response to complaints. This year in September and October, VVC received 15 complaints about teacher language proficiency.

The requirements currently stipulate that if the teacher doesn't pass the test, the teacher should be suspended from office and given a period of up to three months to pass a language exam. But it's clear that some of them won't come back.

“When you see the results of the first tests, it will certainly affect a fairly large number of minority schools. And the learning process will be disrupted. I am asking indeed, please, as we say, to be loyal. Do not wait for the check, act yourself,” said Inga Vanaga, Chair of the Latvian Education and Science Workers Union (LIZDA).


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