Lack of specialists leaves more than 8,400 children without study support

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School. Source: Pixabay

On Monday, the Riigkogu's state budget control committee discussed a recently conducted National Audit Office (Riigikontroll) audit that showed nearly a quarter of Estonian school children and a third of kindergarteners do not have sufficient access to study support measures.

The National Audit Office found that there are more than 8,400 children in Estonia who are left with less support or without sufficient assistance whatsoever, ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.

Jürgen Ligi (Reform), head of the Riigikogu's select committee on state budget control, said the problem is self-inflicted: "We have brought this problem on ourselves by implementing inclusive education 10 years ago. That students would study to the brink in regular schools and from that situation a need to help some of them arose."

School and kindergarten managers estimate that Estonia is missing some 1,000 specialists for study support. As there is no way to train as many in the coming years, the existing system must be made more efficient, Ligi said.

The Auditor-General of the National Audit Office, Ines Metsalu-Nurminen, agrees with Ligi and offered up an area where it could be done. "Concentrating specialists at a local government level to competence centers, so that in smaller schools and kindergartens, where specialists have no work to do, they can go assist other schools in their region," Metsalu-Nurminen said.

According to Minister of Education and Research Jaak Aab (Center), 12 local municipality governments have already developed such support centers. "Support service centers, meaning the specialist can go to multiple schools and kindergartens each week to make the most of themself," he said.

The audit showed that the assessment and services of special needs children is not coordinated and should be changed.

Metsalu-Nurminen explained that the local government, school or kindergarten, the Social Insurance Board or doctors can all handle one child. "We would recommend a move toward one case organizer, where the child's assessment would happen at once. And this information would be made available to other support specialists in other areas," she said.

Jaak Aab said that the question of personal data protection and data collection needs to be solved first. "Firstly, we must receive the data, as the audit showed we do not have complete data for children in our database - what kind of support does the child need, what are the services," the education minister said.

Aab noted that the holes in data entry can be attributed to schools, kindergartens and local municipality employees.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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