Contact learning to be exception after school break not the norm ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Estonian language state exam.
Estonian language state exam. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

After the school holidays next week, not all children will have to go back to school and contact learning will be an exceptional solution rather than the norm. The Ministry of Education also supports the idea to not make graduating high school reliant on exams during the emergency situation.

Kristi Vinter-Nemvalts, deputy secretary general of the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research for general education, language and youth policies, said at a press briefing on Saturday: "If the epidemic starts to subside, we could think of it as a transition period will take place after May 15, where contact learning will be an exception and intended primarily for those who need it more: whether they are school-leavers, students preparing for entrance exams or students who need additional support -- those who have not done as well in distance learning. And it will definitely not be compulsory for all students to go to school, distance learning can be continued, if necessary."

She continued: "Ensuring the safety of students is crucial to moving towards more regular learning. Similarly, ensuring the safety of teachers. So, indeed, children can only be allowed to come to school if it is safe for them," the deputy secretary general said. "And before that, society must have received a message from experts that the situation in the country allows this to be done," she added.

"As contact learning will be rather exceptional, it is primarily intended for 12th grade students, 9th grade students and especially for those who have not seen the desired results through distance learning," Vinter-Nemvalts said.

The deputy secretary general added that all end-of-the-year trips, ceremonies, competitions between schools and the like must be canceled this school year.

Ministry supports separating examinations and graduating

Vinter-Nemvalts also told ERR on Saturday the Ministry of Education and Research supports the proposal of the Estonian Association of School Leaders to decouple state examinations from graduating from high school.

"Our position is that yes, in principle it is possible," she said. At the same time, she referred to the amendments to the Basic Schools and High Schools Act currently being processed by the Riigikogu, which would give the government the right to make a decision in a crisis situation.

"From our point of view, of course, the decoupling option would be conceivable, although it raises a number of issues, such as whether those who are considering going to university in the future will then have to take exams at another time," she said.

Amendments to the law pending in the Riigikogu give the government the right to change the conditions for graduating from school during an emergency situation. The amendments bill will face its third reading in the Riigikogu on April 20.

On Friday, the Estonian Association of School Leaders made a statement calling for the requirement of state exams to be waived upon graduating from high school in times of crisis.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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