Russian lawmakers move ahead with controversial ‘freedom to choose’ language legislation
The State Duma has adopted the third and final reading of legislation that will shore up families’ freedom to choose their children’s language of instruction and studied native language. The head of the Duma’s Education Committee admitted that implementation of this right could be limited by the available resources at specific schools in particular regions.
The reforms should consolidate students’ right to learn in their native languages (so long as it’s one of the languages of a people formally belonging to the Russian Federation), as well as the study of their native language or the official language of their region. Sources in Yakutia and Tatarstan told the newspaper Kommersant that they fear many students won’t risk studying their native languages, because college-entry standardized testing is only in Russian.
Language study became a national policy issue last year, after Vladimir Putin said publicly that regional governments shouldn’t force students to learn national languages (other than Russian). The debate was especially heated in Tatarstan, which has its own fiercely held identity: local officials accused schools of imposing the study of Tatar as a native language. Teachers, on the other hand, started complaining about class-load cutbacks and layoffs.