Since Estonian curriculum reform ensured that any foreign language could be studied as an elective, Chinese has been growing in popularity, and 2014 should bring the first Estonian language textbook for learning Chinese, ERR radio reported today.
After the implementation of the new nationwide curriculum in 2010-2011, schools are considerably more free in what foreign language they can teach as compulsory subjects, and the interest in Chinese has grown since that time. This year, Chinese is taught in eight Estonian general educational schools, ERR radio reported on Tuesday. At two of them, Chinese is offered as the second foreign language, and at six schools, as the third foreign language. Japanese is offered as the third foreign language in two schools.
According to the Ministry of Education and Research, schools have shown interest in Chinese for a few years, but there is a shortage of teachers and teaching materials. The Confucius Institute, a People's Republic of China led institution, has helped close that gap by supplying native speaking teachers, but that means the lessons take place via English. The ministry has commissioned an Estonian textbook for learning Chinese, expected by the end of the year.
Tõnu Tender, an adviser with the Education Ministry, says a greater spotlight on Asian languages would increase interest in studying the subject at the university level and would address the shortage of Asian specialists mentioned in a recent report from the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee. In that report, the committee instructed the ministry to develop programs for teaching Asian languages and cultures in Estonian public schools.