MOSCOW, January 7 (RIA Novosti) – Syrian school students will be able to pick Russian as a second foreign language starting next academic year, the war-torn country’s education authorities said.
English is the mandatory first foreign language currently taught to children in schools in the Arabic country.
Students can add French as a second language in the fifth grade. France controlled Syria in 1923-1943.
But now Russian will be available as an alternative to French, the Syrian Minister of Education, Hazwane al-Wazz, was cited Sunday by the ministry’s website as saying.
The statement did not elaborate on the reasons for the decision beyond saying that students will be responsible for building “the future of the nation.”
Since March 2011, Syria is immersed in bloody civil strife that cost at least 120,000 lives to date, according to UN estimates.
Russia, which has ties to the Syrian leadership since Soviet times, emerged as the main international backer of the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
About 4 million of Syria’s total population of 22 million attend schools, according to the Ministry of Education.
Syria has a Russian diaspora estimated at several tens of thousands, the majority of them Russian wives of Syrians who studied or worked in Russia.