Reform Party asks about influence activity in Russian schools in Estonia

Classroom. Source: Juhan Hepner/ERR

The opposition Reform Party asked the education minister about Russian influence activities reaching Russian schools in Estonia. Reform Party politicians find that history teachers of Russian schools prefer Russian trainings to Estonian ones. Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps said that just one history teacher working at a Russian school attended a training in Russia last year.

Reform Party MP Johannes Kert said that a generation given alternative information of Estonian history is being brought up in Estonia in the context of increasingly intense Russian propaganda. He gave the example of a national defense education class in an Ida-Viru County school.

"The subject was NATO and why Estonia is a member when suddenly half of the boys in class get up and leave the classroom, saying that is not what their history teacher has been telling them," Kert recalls.

Kert said Russia has invited history teachers of Estonian schools to participate in refresher training.

Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Center) said that a total of seven teachers attended trainings in Russia last year, one of whom teaches history. She said teachers attend Russian speech therapy courses that are unavailable in Estonia. Reps did not know why a history teacher preferred a refresher course in Russia.

"Such nuances are rather the business of the internal security service on the level of the person. I can see no objective reason to seek training outside Estonia, the need to go into such historic detail today," Reps said.

Johannes Kert said that more than one history teacher of a Russian school has received training in Russia and that only a few attend courses in Estonia. Kert added that teachers bring back textbooks from Russia that reflect Russia's treatment of history.

Dmitri Rõbakov, who teaches history and social education at two Russian schools in Tallinn and has received the European Citizen's Prize, admits using Russian materials from time to time.

"History is taught by the teacher and not the textbook, with everything depending on how professional the former is. Even if you use sources or materials from Russia, you should use them skillfully. That said, 90 percent of material used is from Estonia," Rõbakov said.

Mailis Reps said that participants of every refresher course include 10 percent teachers of Russian schools. Rõbakov said that poor attendance could be caused by teachers' modest Estonian proficiency.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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