A case initiated with respect norms that define the language of instruction in education
On 25 July 2018, the 2nd Panel of the Constitutional Court initiated the case “On Compliance of the First Part of Section 1, the Words of the Second Part of Section 1 “on the level of pre-school education and basic education, abiding by the provisions of Section 41 of this Law”, the words of the First Part of Section 3 “primary education” and Section 2 of the Law of 22 March 2018 “Amendments to the General Education Law” with the Second Sentence of Article 91, Article 112 and Article 114 of the Satversme of the Republic of Latvia”.
The Contested Norms
The first and the second part of Section 1 of the law of 22 March 2018 “Amendments to the General Education Law”:
“In Section 9:
to add to this Section part 1.1. in the following wording:
“(11) At private institutions of education, the general education and professional education on the level of primary and secondary education shall be acquired in the official language.”;
to express Para 1 and Para 2 of the second part in the following wording:
“1) institutions of education, which implement education programmes in accordance with bilateral or multilateral agreements of the Republic of Latvia;
2) institutions of education, which implement minority education programmes on the level of pre-school education and primary education, abiding by provisions of Section 41 of this Law.”
The first part of Section 3 of the law of 22 March 2018 “Amendments to the General Education Law”:
“In Section 41:
to substitute in the first part the words “in the respective standard of the state education” by the words “the state primary education standard”.”
Section 2 of the law of 22 March 2018 “Amendments to the General Education Law”:
“To express Section 43 in the following wording:
Section 43. The compulsory content of general secondary education programmes
(1) The compulsory content of general secondary education programmes shall be determined by the state general secondary education standard.
(2) Without exceeding the number of lessons per week defined in Section 44 of this Law and the number of lessons per week, an institution of education may additionally include in the programme of general secondary education study subjects which are not referred to in the state general secondary education standard, including learning content linked to the minority native language and minority identity and integration into the Latvian society.””
The Norms of Higher Legal Force
The second sentence of Article 91 of the Satversme: “Human rights shall be realised without discrimination of any kind.”
Article 112 of the Satversme: “Everyone has the right to education. The State shall ensure that everyone may acquire primary and secondary education without charge. Primary education shall be compulsory.”
Article 114 of the Satversme: “Persons belonging to ethnic minorities have the right to preserve and develop their language and their ethnic and cultural identity.”
The Facts of the Case
The Case has been initiated on the basis of an application submitted by twenty members of the 12th convocation of the Saeima (hereinafter – the Applicant).
The Applicant holds that the contested norms discriminate ethnic minorities since they restrict, without grounds, the use of native or family language in education. Allegedly, the contested norms envisage the same language of instruction in education both to persons who belong to the title nation and to persons who belong to ethnic minorities, without providing for any exceptions that would allow implementing reasonable measures for adjusting education to ethnic minorities. It is maintained that in the process of adopting the contested norms the legislator did not verify, whether these had been necessary, and had not taken into consideration the objections expressed by persons who belong to ethnic minorities and organisations representing them. Moreover, it is planned to establish by the contested acts the possibility to acquire education in a foreign language to ensure that the official languages of the European Union are mastered. Thus, a differential treatment of the ethnic minorities whose native language is not one of the official languages of the European Union had been allowed without grounds.
The Applicant holds that the contested norms significantly limit the possibility of the learners and their parents to choose the most appropriate, to their mind, form of education. They prohibit from using the minority languages in full to master the learning content and also are said to restrict the academic freedom of learners and teachers.
The Applicant holds that, in view of the possibilities of the State and the existing public demand for an education system of ethnic minorities, the contested norms do not ensure to persons who belong to ethnic minorities due possibility to preserve and develop their language and identity.
The Constitutional Court has requested the Saeima to provide a reply on the facts of the case and legal substantiation by 25 September 2018.
The term for preparing the case is 25 December 2018. The Court shall decide upon the procedure and the date for hearing the case after the case has been prepared.
Open in PDF: 2018-12-01_PR_par_ierosinasanu_ENG
Linked case: 2018-12-01