Mixed-language schools to receive state support in teaching in Estonian ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

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A sign on the door at Jõhvi Basic School in Jõhvi. Source: Rene Kundla/ERR

Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna (Reform) says she wants to improve the quality of teaching in Estonian to children from non-Estonian speaking families, in a way that doesn't happen at the expense of teaching native Estonian speakers. Ida-Viru County Russian basic school principals have said that for as long as studying Estonian at home is not considered necessary in a lot of homes, it is difficult for national support systems to otherwise help.

Parents of children with Russian as their domestic language are putting their offspring into Estonian language schools more and more, hoping that it will give them a better basis for entering a good high school. Nowadays, there are more non-Estonian students than there are Estonians in many schools, which means that Estonian basic schools (Põhikool) have in some cases transformed into Russian-language schools but with Estonian as the study language. Since the children of both nationalities are studying together, it is difficult for the teachers to ensure quality education, it is argued.

"When children with low Estonian language skills and children who speak it as their mother tongue study together, it has a negative effect on the Estonian children. And we want to change that," minister of Education and Research, Liina Kersna, said.

At the Ministry of Education and Research, work in rearranging the curricula in basic schools accordingly is already underway, ERR reports.

"At least in the schools where there are a lot of people with other mother tongues, there should be options for Estonians to study Estonian as literature as their mother tongue, while non-Estonian speaking children can use their mother tongue as the main language in literature study. This requires financial resources, however, and it requires changes in the basic school curricula," Kersna said.

The growing demand of non-Estonian children to enter Estonian schools is also largely related to reported low-quality teaching of the national language in many Russian schools.

Jõhvi Russian basic school principal Irina Šulgina admitted that several Russian schools don't have a serious attitude towards teaching Estonian. This is accentuated by the fact that in some Russian families, the problem is parents' negative attitude towards the necessity of studying the national language.

"There are families where parents say: 'I have managed to live without the Estonian language, and you will manage as well. You will find your niche and live calmly without speaking Estonian'," Šulgina said.

Minister Kernsa's aim is that the changes in teaching Estonian be implemented in the mixed schools from the next academic year.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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