Maarja Vaino: Education shapes the cultural image of every new generation
The state does not seem overly concerned about the volume and content of Estonian education, as if we were the only people on Earth who are born fluent, Maarja Vaino finds in Vikerraadio's daily comment.
Studies seem to be taking a turn for the remote again, with parents once again faced with the prospect of becoming part-time teachers. Despite the fact this has been a great burden on many mothers and fathers, I would like to hope that this new look at our children's school program will not be without benefits.
I have been left with the impression that people often do not know or do not care about what their children learn in school. Parents often believe that it must be much the same they were taught back in the day. While it is true to some extent, as the multiplication table is still the multiplication table, a lot has changed over the years.
Curricula have been changing constantly since 2014, with changes "taking place" often without parents knowing what is changed, how and to what end. Additionally, we must admit that the field of education is a rather close one.
It is difficult for the outsider to understand the nature of relevant documents, who wrote them and what purpose they serve. This has gradually facilitated changes in the volume – also as concerns Estonian language and literature classes – and content of education.
I recently happened to read pedagogue Urve Läänemets' book "Ratio Studiorum. Õppekavadest ehk kuidas korraldada kooliharidust" ("Ratio Studiorum. On curricula or how to organize school education") and found the following ideas thought-provoking. Läänemets writes:
"If the goal is to put together a meaningful and professionally culturally integrated curriculum, we would first need to seriously discuss and agree on the ideological basis and subsequent values it should be placed on, for example, on the level of the Riigikogu. /---/ Estonian curricula need to include culturally and socially compatible contents."
The contents of education shapes every new generation's cultural understanding. What is worth learning and what do we need to know if we hope to make sure the preamble of the Constitution remains relevant?
I cannot think of too many examples of the Riigikogu debating fundamental accents in curricula. There have also been few such debates in the public sphere. I suppose that is why parents are posting images of study materials they find downright startling either in terms of contents or presentation on social media.
Therefore, we can ask who has added these accents and why, as well as whether we should, from time to time, have a public debate on what our children are being taught.
Education was not much of a topic at recent local elections. And yet, local government heads have a lot of say in matters of education, while parents make a considerable voter group. Perhaps we should acknowledge this to a greater degree.
In any case, I would very much like to see developments in the field of education merit more public attention. For example, work is being done on the Estonian education activity plan that the Ministry of Education and Research should present inside the month of November based on the government's activity plan. One of the main topics of the plan is the switch to universal Estonian education.
The document seems to carry the so-called common Estonian school ideology, while there is no social consensus on whether the transition should happen based on this particular project's ideas. While so-called concerned parties have been able to send in proposals, documents put together in quiet offices have a tendency to follow their own path.
Does the public really know anything about the document? But it should. Especially since the activity plan seems to overlook Estonian students of Estonian schools just as the education and research strategy for 2021-2035 in which Estonian culture and language studies are treated predominantly in the context of non-Estonian-speaking and foreign students.
The state does not seem overly concerned about the volume and content of Estonian education, as if we were the only people on Earth who are born fluent.
Repeated proposals sent to the education ministry for more Estonian language and literature classes at the expense of elective subjects and for an Estonian cultural history course have not merited an activity plan.
Once again, the situation is best summed up in the words of Anton Hansen Tammsaare:
"We have perhaps allowed ourselves and our pupils to be influenced by wannabe and actual Germans, Estonians become Russians, optants and all manner of underground elements for too long; just as we can always find an explanation for why we need to speak English, French, German, Russian, Swedish, Finnish, Latin and Greek, while we find precious few words and actions to protect our native tongue."
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Editor: Marcus Turovski