Bilingual education in Latvia: The decisions and timeline of implementation of the bilingual education


1995 – 1996 The initial goal - «to facilitate the integration in the society by improving the Latvian language skills among the inhabitants of Latvia» Decisions and events: establishment of LLLSP, two subjects in Latvian in minority primary schools and three in secondary schools, experiments at implementing bilingual education in some Russian schools.
May 1998 The government approves the «National program for gradual transition to secondary education in state language» written by MES /transition period until 2004/.
November 1998 The Latvian parliament Saeima passes the Education Law, containing minority education programs, including bilingual education (BE) as a method.
1998 – 1999 Shaping of the program «Social integration in Latvia» - a collaboration between national and NGO experts.
1999 The Soros foundation – Latvia (SFL) approves the project «Open School», which has been developed in correspondence with the goals of the state program «Social integration in Latvia» chapter on education and culture. As a part of the project, the need for BE in the Latvian minority schools is evaluated and four BE models are created in which the proportions between mother tongue and Latvian are adjusted according to the student’s initial level of language skills and the dominating linguistic environment. In 2000, parents and students start receiving information about BE and the reform.
December 1999 The government passes the state program «Social integration in Latvia», which includes the general viewpoints of education and language policies. Apart from the Latvian language skills, civic education is mentioned as a tool for attaining integration.
2001 A new version of «Social integration in Latvia», including a plan for action and a short summary of the results of the program.
2001 The Social Integration Foundation is established with financial support from Phare. Both LLLSP, education institutions, municipalities and NGOs that work with implementing BE receive funds.
2001 Education and sociolinguistics professors start using the phrase «BE in Latvian schools».
2002 Creation of the Secretariat of the Special Assignments Minister for Social Integration. The office starts planning the implementation of cross-cultural education in order to decrease intolerance in the Latvian society.
2003 Political party For Human Rights in Independent Latvia and the newly created Russian school defense headquarters start protesting against a shift to secondary education «exclusively» in Latvian.
2003 MES has formulated a sample program for minority secondary schools.
February 2004 The Education Law is changed, and the result is that 60% of education in minority secondary schools should be in Latvian, the rest in the mother tongue.
1st of September 2004 The minority schools implement this proportion: 40% of the subjects are taught in the minority language, the remaining 60% in Latvian. The choice of subjects is left to the school.

So everything is settled – human rights have been implemented, although the rough way, and there is no reason to complain about the role of Russian language being decreased. But a discussion with Russian and other minority groups and educational workers reveals a more detailed picture.