According to the Syrian Minister of Education, Hazwane al-Wazz, schools would be ready to start offering Russian as soon as next year. Until now, Syrian students have not had a choice when picking foreign languages to study at school. English is offered as a first foreign language since the first year they enter school, while French used to be the only second foreign language available for those in the last years of education. French is given in schools mainly due to Syria’s former standing as a French mandate during the World Wars, but with a growing Russian influence in the country, the Ministry of Education is reassessing the situation.
Reasons behind the Decision
Russia, together with Iran and China, has been a strong supporter of President Bashar al-Assad, who has held his position since the year 2000. The support is materialised in arms and investments from Russian companies which help to boost the country’s economy. The close relationship between the two countries is also evidenced by the Russian naval base placed in the Syrian town of Tartus. In spite of the debate that arose after the decision, there have not been further repercussions on social media, neither in Russia nor in Syria and its surroundings.
The Quality of Syrian Education
The change in educational policies has brought about many questions about the quality of Syrian education, which has been severely affected by fighting around the country. According to UNICEF, approximately 2,400 schools have been damaged already, 772 of which are located in the province of Idlib. UNICEF representative Youssef Abdel-Jelil has stated that the situation is a direct consequence of violence in the region, with more than 70,000 deaths over the past two years.