Deputy chairman of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) Lauri Läänemets said that the Ministry of Education and Research should not promote the contraction of the school system, which will lead to marginalization in the future – instead, opportunities should be found for the balanced development of the school system.
"At the end of August, the Ministry of Education and Research sent the Õpetajate Leht newspaper to 1,729 local government representatives across Estonia, promoting the contraction of the school network. The purpose of the Ministry of Education and Research is allegedly to raise the awareness of local governments in matters of the school network and the field of education and to increase cooperation for the reorganization of the school network," Läänemets told BNS.
"I am definitely not opposed to raising awareness among local government leaders on education issues. It is unfortunate that the ministry has chosen a political direction in its information activities and has started to promote the contraction of the school system, which, in the long run, will deepen marginalization. The ministry only looks at regional development from its own perspective and with that once more highlights the problem that no one is in charge of regional policy and each ministry looks at its own field," he added.
"There are alternatives to school closures but no desire to consider them today. To address the shortage of teachers, it would be possible to increase their salaries," Läänemets said. "We do not have a shortage of educators in Estonia, we have a shortage of well-paid teacher positions. In addition, instead of combined classes, one could move towards learner-centered learning, for which topic-based or project-based learning is suitable. This ensures the greatest possible social exposure in learning with other students in a small school, which is often considered a concern and allows more flexibility with existing teachers. Large school buildings can be rebuilt, finding money is always a place of political choice. In this case, there is no desire to stand up for the Estonian rural school, instead there are calls to cut it," he added.
"So far, the distribution of European subsidies has added to regional inequality rather than reduced it, as applicants are stronger where there are more human and financial resources. Estonia will receive a record amount of support from the European Union in the new period. The Ministry of Education and Research should advocate that these funds be used to adapt school buildings for fewer students," Läänemets said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski