As part of a very ambitious reform scheme to be implemented across a number of sectors in Ukraine, the 2017 Law on Education (new education law) replaces the legislation adopted in 1991 immediately after independence which reformed the Soviet era regulations. The 2017 Law on Education is supposed to bring “the education system up to EU standards,” as the Ukrainian Minister for Education stated. It will increase compulsory education to 12 years and provide a degree of autonomy for schools. An educational quality body will be established, and the law also foresees the establishment of an Education Ombudsperson. In order to support the reform, the government has promised to increase funding for education.
However, the 2017 Law on Education has also engendered criticism by minorities living in the country and the international community: Whereas the previous legislation provided the right to receive instruction in a minority language in both primary and secondary education, the new law (Article 7) only supports minority language education up until and including primary level. In its opinion on the Law, the Venice Commission has found that (the 2017 Law on Education, Article 7) is too vague and has recommended amending Article 7 through an inclusive process that will enable participation of representatives of national minorities and other experts on the topic.
This week, ECMI Director Prof. Dr. Tove H. Malloy elaborated on the topic at the European Parliament. In her presentation she put the focus on Ukraine`s diversity, its international obligations and legal framework regarding (minority) languages and the international and bilateral dimension to minority protection. Referring to Article 7, Prof. Dr. Tove H. Malloy emphasised its imprecision and violation of the Ukrainian Constitution in respect of non-discrimination. Coming to the conclusion that the law in Article 7 breaches also the European standards on minority education, she pleaded for amending the Law. Furthermore, the establishment of the Education Ombudsperson and the process of developing the new legal framework in respect of minority issues and minority languages should be carefully monitored through different and independent authorities. Finally, Professor H. Malloy tackled the issue of minority participation and suggested that national minorities in Ukraine are stronger and more effectively involved in the consultation process, especially at the reginal and local levels.