Schools are hoping the whole year can be carried out without moving to distance learning due to vaccination and by following safety requirements. Last school year, the majority of classes were carried out online.
Distance learning has created many mental health issues and learning gaps, current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Sunday.
For example, the average result of the mathematics exam taken at the end of basic school has fallen by 8.5 points. Students have also said they experienced difficulties while distance learning.
"One-third of the students are saying that they had difficulties understanding the materials during distance learning and we can assume that this is the group of students who are now needing differentiated learning at school," Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna (Reform) said.
Speaking about the first few weeks of term, Kersna said: "There will be work, not for assessment, but for level identification, and we also have around 155 electronic tests in various subjects so that teachers can quickly and conveniently identify where someone has gaps."
General education schools have received €6 million or €40 per student from the ministry to fill gaps. It will be used by many to design additional courses or hold study groups.
Tallinn German High School's (Tallinna saksa gümnaasium) Principal Kaarel Rundu said the number of students with special educational needs increased by 120 percent.
Even though the schools know which areas have suffered the most, the first few weeks will be spent identifying knowledge gaps.
Rundu said the first weeks will be spent mapping the situation and starting to implement support measures.
"We have especially focused on the final year of basic school this year. For these, we offer one additional course in mathematics and physics and chemistry. We will pay more attention to them so that there are small groups, based on the language level, the same in mathematics. In the 4th, 5th, 6th grade, 9th grade, 10th grade, we have groups, a little smaller, so that we have time to dig deeper and the teacher can also deal with those topics that may have had to be covered a little too soon this year," Rundu said.
Anne Küüsmaa, head of studies at Tallinn French School, (Tallinna prantsuse lütseum) said they have created a small group in natural science subjects. "It is also obvious that students cannot be told to spend seven hours in school and then be asked to learn something else as well," Küüsmaa said.
The need to improve knowledge is great, especially in languages and natural sciences. Thus, students have also looked for additional courses outside the home school. For example, there is interest in mathematics courses at TalTech.
"Unfortunately, the contact groups for basic mathematics courses were already full by September 1, the interest is very high. Before the children went to school and really should have started thinking about school, the groups were already full," Head of TalTech Exam and Olympiad School Aet Karolin said.
In order for the new school year not to increase the gaps in students' knowledge, it has been decided that in case of infection, only sick students should remain in quarantine, not close contacts.
Hybrid learning is no longer seen as a solution this academic year.
"We may have the will, but we do not have the resources to provide hybrid learning. So whoever is at home certainly does not get exactly the same education, but there have been children at home before the coronavirus period and they have not been completely overlooked," Küüsmaa said.
Rundu said hybrid learning had a very low performance rate and a very high additional burden for teachers. "My hope is to avoid this. Rather, so that if the student is sick, they come to school and then we can offer them the additional consultations or support measures they need," he said.
Schools hope it will be possible to provide contact education for the majority of students this school year by following all safety measures.
"We are very pleased that 80 percent of the staff of general education schools have already been vaccinated and the level of vaccination of young people is rising the fastest right now. This also gives us confidence that we can keep schools open safely," Kersna said.
Küüsmaa said that the mood is positive. "Teachers still come to work happily in September or at the end of August. We have a tradition at the opening ceremony that we sing "Paris Street Boy" together, and I even thought during that the song it's nice that this school year is starting," she said.
Editor: Roberta Vaino