The Latvian Ministry of Education and Science plans to replace the Russian language in foreign language lessons with official EU languages in schools from the school year 2026/2027, as confirmed by the ministry.
This means that it will no longer be possible to learn Russian as a second foreign language in schools. The ministry explains that this is because the language is not an official EU language, nor are there any interstate agreements in place to provide this option.
The ministry says these changes will motivate young people to fully join the European educational area, promote the teaching of official EU languages, which in turn will pave the way for wider job opportunities in the EU and beyond its borders.
Minister of Education and Science Anita Muižniece points out that the subject of the second foreign language in schools was discussed with President Egils Levits, adding that it was mentioned during the discussion that it is necessary to promote and ensure courses in the official languages of the EU as a second foreign language in all schools in the country. This, she says, will help residents to participate more easily in the general European cultural space.
“Now more than ever, we need to strengthen Latvia’s main value – the official language and Latvia’s place in the European Union,” said Muižniece.
The first foreign language is taught in schools from the 1st year in Latvia. It must be one of the official languages of the EU. It is most often in English. The second foreign language taught in Latvian education programs is taught from the 4th grade.
The regulations do not dictate which foreign language – French, Russian or German – schools must offer as a second foreign language. The choice is made by the schools according to their development objectives in collaboration with the council of the educational institution. The ministry notes that the opinion of parents and children plays a major role in deciding which foreign language to learn. Equally important is the ability of schools to provide teachers with appropriate qualifications.
According to the results of a 2021 school survey on language lessons, almost half of schools in Latvia do not offer a choice – more than 300 schools teach the Russian language as the only second foreign language.
The Ministry explains that as the demand for EU languages increases and the importance and use of the Russian language decreases, the Ministry and the National Center for Education (VISC) receive many complaints of parents offering to provide EU languages for second foreign language lessons.
In order to promote official EU language courses, the ministry will work out amendments at the primary education level. This will ensure that only official EU languages or languages whose teaching is regulated by intergovernmental agreements are taught in schools as a second foreign language in schools.
The transition period is planned to last three years. The Ministry has also started talks with the University of Latvia to discuss the issue of foreign language teacher training or retraining.
The topic of choosing the second foreign language was discussed at a seminar of heads of state and county education administrations and education specialists. The head of VISC, Liene Voronenko, invited education administrations to discuss the situation with educational institutions offering studies in foreign languages.