With over half of the Estonian-language students at Narva's upper secondary school leaving for schools in other towns, the state has expressed support for a merger between the city's Estonian gymnasium and the language immersion school.
Narva's Estonian gymnasium is the city's only school that teaches solely in Estonian, and has 230 students. There has been concern from some parents that merging it with the state-run language immersion school, which is twice as big, would dilute the importance of Estonian in the town, where more than 95 percent of residents are Russian-speaking.
But others have pointed out that as it stands, many students at the Estonian gymnasium come from Russian-speaking homes. The ministry argues that establishing a larger school (in a freshly renovated building, to boot) and providing separate programs for the native Estonian speakers and speakers of Estonian as a second language would in fact benefit Estonian-language education.
"It would help reinforce an increase in the Estonian-language community of Narva and slow the departure of Estonian-speaking students from Narva," said Tarmu Kurm, an official with the Ministry of Education and Research, emphasizing that it was Narva City Council's decision to make.
"The Ministry has proposed to Narva city to combine the strengths of the two schools so that there would be one strong school as a basic school and the other as a secondary school, where children whose home language is Estonian would have separate Estonian-language instruction and other children could study under an immersion method," said Kurm.
According to Kurm, this would allay "groundless" concerns that Russian would be the primary working language at the post-merger school, and Russian-speaking parents who want their children to be educated in Estonian could also get their wishes without holding up the progress of native Estonian speakers.