Head of a Russian-language school in Kiviõli, Aarne Piirimägi, said it is still difficult to find teachers who speak Estonian for Russian-language schools and a third of young Russian-speakers leave school without sufficient Estonian language skills.
Schools with a teaching language other than Estonian must still teach at least 60 percent of lessons in Estonian, a requirement with which many schools in the predominantly Russia-speaking north east of the country struggle to comply with.
The main problem is finding teachers who speak enough Estonian. Piirimägi said giving lessons in Estonian is still a challenge in the region and the problem lies in the system, not in teachers.
He said teaching in Estonian should begin earlier than on a secondary-school level. He also said working in Russian-language schools is not an attractive job prospect for teachers who do speak Estonian.
“The transition was started from the wrong end, which means on a secondary-school level, the process was destroyed and the requirements were inflexibly filled,” Piirimägi said, adding that the transition to the 60-percent rule led to the worsening of grades in some places.
He said young Russian-speakers do have an interest in learning the Estonian language but language lessons alone won't get people to the required level. He said common activities between ethnic Russians and Estonians have shown to improve language skills more than lessons.
Irina Käosaar, head of the General Education Department at the Ministry of Education, said Estonian language exam results have shown an improvement trend, adding that education is a field where results are hard to see quickly.
She said the solution is not in the re-evaluation of the system, but in people who are in charge of implementation. The ministry's task is to train teachers and school heads, and work out new methods. Schools falling behind also receive individual counseling.
Editor: J.M. Laats