Minister Outlines Grade School Education Plan (1)
The minister of education laid out the foundation of long-awaited reforms for the grade school education system at a conference dedicated to Education Strategy 2020 in Tallinn today.
Minister Jaak Aaviksoo's message carried a tone of urgency. “Something has to be done today or tomorrow. The day after would be too late,” said Aaviksoo. „The education system today is not sustainable. I believe some steps in education reform have to be taken immediately.”
He continued, "It will not be easy. In some instances schools are building barricades to defend against the ministry's officials who are harassing schools, teachers and students. The discussion in Estonia has been a complicated one.”
The minister is in the process of major discussions with the Cabinet that he said would conclude at the end of May. So far, the Cabinet has supported the following 12 policies:
1. Clear division of responsibilities between the state and municipalities. Administration and funding for mandatory basic education (grades 1-9) would be the responsibility of municipal governments, while high schools (grades 10-12) would be the responsibility of the national government.
2. National and local investments into education would be better coordinated.
3. Solutions for school transport and accommodation. The ministry has also suggested subsidizing a host family system as a cheaper alternative to building new student residences.
4. General high schools (the gümnaasiums) and vocational schools would be handled as a whole.
5. Funding for basic schools and high schools would be separated. Funding must be geared towards establishing high-quality secondary schools in regional centers, establishing state gümnaasiums if necessary.
6. Reforms would also overhaul special education.
7. Teacher pay would be dependent on qualification and results.
8. School directors would be given a larger role and more responsibility.
9. Education spending would give a higher priority to raising teacher salaries.
10. The procurement procedures and organization of teaching resources would be reviewed.
11. The student's and teacher's burden would be lightened.
12. Overhauling the education system and increasing teacher pay would be a focus in the next EU fiscal period.