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    LATVIAN PRESIDENT RESTRICTS RUSSIANS' RIGHTS OF EDUCATION IN NATIVE LANGUAGE

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    RIGA, February 13, 2004. (RIA Novosti) -- Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga signed the amendments to the law On Education adopted by the parliament. The law implies the transfer of schools of national minorities, including Russians, to the Latvian language.

    The law stipulates that since September 1, 2004 lessons will be conducted in the state (Latvian) language in the state and municipal secondary educational institutions, in which education programs of national minorities are carried out.

    This demand also concerns state and municipal professional educational institutions.

    The transfer of schools of national minorities to the Latvian language is carried out in accordance with the state secondary and professional education standards. Three-fifths of the annual teaching load, including foreign languages, fall on the state language.

    The law comes into effect on February 27, 2004.

    Vike-Freiberga's letter addressed to the Prime Minister and parliamentary speaker was published in Latvian newspapers. In this letter she expresses disagreement with statements that the amendments to the law On Education allegedly restrict the rights of national minorities.

    She also points out some articles of the law On Education, which need amending in the near future. According to her, the article implying state and municipal financing only of the Latvian-language private educational institutions is "unjust and groundless".

    The President believes that the Education Ministry should not decide what subjects at national minorities' schools should be taught in Latvian.

    She calls on the Education and Science Ministry to continue explaining the school reform and dialogue with the public. People who really want good education and possibilities for their children should not suffer from political actions, she said.

    According to observers, 40 per cent of the Latvian population is the so-called Russian-speaking people and many of them are not enthusiastic about the amendments to the law On Education.

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