Tallinn deputy mayor: New Estonian government to shift stance on Russian-language education ({{commentsTotal}})

Russian-language notices in the hallway of Pärnu Russian High School. June 5, 2012. Source: (Ants Liigus/Pärnu Postimees/Scanpix)

While Russian-language education in Estonia has taken a backwards step today, the new Center Party-led government is ready to ease the rules currently in force for Russian-language high schools, Deputy Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart told Russia's Interfax news agency.

"We are lacking several elements in Russian-language education now v there is no system, no people and no academic elite," said Kõlvart, the deputy mayor responsible for education, sports and youth affairs in the Tallinn city government. "The reproduction of teachers to begin teaching Russian is effectively non-existent.

"What is happening in Russian-language education now can be definitely described with the word regression," continued Kõlvart, who is also deputy chairman of the Center Party.

He said that difficulties exist on the high school level, where a requirement has been in effect since 2012 that at least 60 percent of subjects must be taught in Estonian, and as a result, Russian-language teachers must teach complex subjects in Estonian in class.

Kõlvart said that the new Estonian government, led by Center Party Chairman Jüri Ratas and sworn in last week, is ready to ease these requirements. The government is prepared to review requests to this effect filed by school boards and municipalities, he noted.

"We will consider each case separately; there can be no formal approach to this," Kõlvart told Interfax. "Legally, this means an application from the school board and the readiness of high schools and teachers." He did note, however, that other means must simultaneously be sought that would enable students to master the Estonian language.

"Our promise is to preserve Russian-language high school education while at the same time organize the teaching of Estonian at a higher level," said Kõlvart.

In 2010, the Riigikogu adopted the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act which required the transition to the teaching of at least 60 percent of subjects in Estonian in Russian-language high schools to be completed by the 2011/2012 academic year. The law allowed exceptions to be made to this requirement by government ruling at the request of municipalities.

Most recently, the Supreme Court of Estonia turned down an appeal on Nov. 7 by defenders of Russian-language education in which they sought permission for two of Tallinn's Russian-language high schools to provide Russian-language education to a greater extent. The request by the boards of the Haabersti Russian High School and Tõnismäe High School was backed by the Tallinn city government but the state government rejected it in September 2015, prompting the parties that drew up the request to take the matter to court.

From 2013-2015, similar requests by five Russian-language schools in Narva and ten in Tallinn were likewise turned down by the courts following their rejection by the state government despite being backed at the municipal level.

Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla

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