A classroom in Kiev Pierre Crom/Getty Images

An Inclusive Ukrainian Education

While minority languages are important and the rights of their speakers must be respected, it is the official language that unites a society and enables citizens to participate economically and politically. Ukraine’s government has the right – indeed, the duty – to ensure that all of its citizens learn Ukrainian effectively.

KYIV – Education is one of the few areas nowadays that is still considered a purely sovereign matter, an issue over which national governments – and, in many countries, even local authorities – should have control. But, in today’s world, it seems that no issue is immune to political manipulation. That is the case with Ukraine’s new framework law on education, which has become the target of harsh opposition not so much from within the country, but rather from some neighboring countries.

The law, adopted last month by Ukraine’s parliament, reflected a long and inclusive policymaking process. Among its provisions is Article 7, which specifies that students in schools and universities should study in the national language. Article 7 seems to be in accord with European norms. Perhaps more important, it will benefit all Ukrainian citizens, including minority-language speakers, who will be better equipped to integrate fully into Ukrainian society.

Under the previous education system, some students would receive their entire 11 years of schooling (to be raised to 12 under the new law) in a minority language, mostly Russian, but sometimes Hungarian and Romanian. About 400,000 students are currently on such a track, which has usually ended with students graduating high school lacking even a working knowledge of Ukrainian – the language in which the country conducts its business.

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