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Teachers left confused by lifting of school restrictions

Empty classroom.
Empty classroom. Source: Juhan Hepner/ERR

Teachers have expressed confusion over the government's plan to allow children to go back to school in May and believe this will increase their workload as they will be expected to teach both in the classroom and online.

Last week, the government endorsed plans to allow some, but not all, children to go back to school on May 15. The plans would allow them to return in small groups and sticking to social distancing rules.

Teachers are now questioning how this plan will work in practice. ERR spoke to several schools around the country to find out how these rules would impact them. 

Ain Iro, the director of Läänemaa Joint High School, told ERR the order will impose a double burden on teachers. 

Iro said the school's management and teachers have not yet come up with a more detailed implementation plan as the situation is still hypothetical. They will not discuss the issue until the end of April.

Katrin Jõgeva, director of the Friedjabert Tuglas Ahja school in Põlva County, told ERR the school is sympathetic to the plan but it is difficult to imagine a substantive reorganization in the current situation. 

The school has not yet decided on an action plan but Jõgeva said 9th grade students who will sit entrance exams later this summer should be able to come back school first. 

Aimar Arula, the director of Põltsamaa Joint High School, also has no idea what the changes would look like in practice. Arula said the changes should be aimed primarily at students who need an individual face-to-face approach or may sit entrance exams later this summer.

One idea is to stream lessons online so some students would be in the classroom and some at home, but Arula fears the school does not have sufficient IT capacity for this.

Arula said the current situation has shown well how students manage their time, and he believes that self-learning will play an important role in education in the future.

He also pointed out the contradiction between the government discussing extending the emergency situation while planning for children to return to school.

Epp Välba, the principal of Suure-Jaani School in Viljandi County, said the government's plan seems beautiful but is difficult to organize. Välba said transport is also an issue in rural areas as some bus lines have been halted.

Välba said she could not imagine how teachers would be expected to teach both in the classroom and online at the same time. "For me, this is the weakest and most ill-considered side of this plan," she said.

Välba added she is looking forward to seeing how other schools will react to the plan.

Mehis Pever, the principal of Tallinn Joint High School, said it is not possible to admit small groups of students to school. Pever said he also did not understand exactly what the plans would look like in reality.

Pever said students with special educational needs need direct contact with teachers, and that in his opinion, the change should be aimed at them.

He said the school is currently discussing how to end the school year without students returning to school. He said the emergency situation is a great challenge for Estonian educators but it has been well managed.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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