Venice Commission publishes official opinion on Ukraine's education law
The European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) has officially published its opinion on provisions of the Law of Ukraine on Education of September 5, 2017, which concern the use of the state language and minority and other languages in education.
Opinion No. 902 / 2017 was officially posted on the Commission's website on December 11.
"The present Opinion is limited to the assessment of the provisions of the new Education Law which concern the use of languages in education, namely 'Article 7. The language of education' and Article 3 paragraph 18 of the Concluding and Transitional Provisions," the Commission said.
Read alsoUkraine not to amend language provisions of language law: Parliament Speaker"The Venice Commission wishes to underline, in the first place, as it did on previous occasions, that it is a legitimate and commendable aim for states to promote the strengthening of the state language and its command by all citizens, and to take action for its learning by all, as a way to address existing inequalities and to facilitate more effective integration of persons belonging to national minorities into society," it said.
The Commission says many concerns may, however, also be immediately addressed through other legislative acts and when implementing Article 7 as adopted, especially through the Law on General Secondary Education.
"In this respect, the Venice Commission recommends in particular: to fully use, when adopting implementing legislation, the possibilities provided by paragraph 4 of Article 7 to ensure a sufficient level of teaching in official languages of the European Union for the respective minorities; to continue ensuring a sufficient proportion of education in minority languages at the primary and secondary levels, in addition to the teaching of the state language; to improve the quality of teaching of the state language."
It also recommends that Ukraine amend the relevant transitional provisions of the Education Law to provide more time for a gradual reform; to exempt private schools from the new language requirements in accordance with Article 13 of the Framework Convention; to enter, within the framework of the implementation of the new Education Law, into a new dialogue with representatives of national minorities and all interested parties on the language of education.
It says Ukraine should ensure that the implementation of the Law does not endanger the preservation of the minorities' cultural heritage and the continuity of minority language education in traditional schools.
However, paragraph 4 of Article 7 provides no solution for languages which are not official languages of the EU, in particular the Russian language, as the most widely used language apart from the state language. The less favourable treatment of these languages is difficult to justify and therefore raises issues of discrimination.
"Having regard to the above considerations, the appropriate solution would certainly be to amend Article 7 and replace this provision with a more balanced and more clearly worded one. In particular, the issue of discriminatory treatment of other minority languages – which are not official languages of the EU – would have to be addressed in this context," it said.