Tartu starts transition to Estonian language only teaching in autumn

Tartu plans to start the transition to schools teaching only in the Estonian language and away from Russian language teaching this autumn. Last year, the new coalition agreed on a four-year transition phase.

The new Reform-Social Democratic Party (SDE) coalition caused some confusion among school managers when they announced their plan last year. It will see all schools teach in only Estonian in the future.

Over the last two months, schools and the coalition have been discussing the implementation of the plans.

SDE deputy mayor Lemmit Kaplinski said Tartu already meets the national goal of all schools teaching 60 percent of classes in Estonian, but exactly how it is met varies from school to school.

He singled out Annelinna High School and the Aleksander Puškin School, saying both schools have different needs. "In one case, the indicator might be that if we have complete and partial language immersion classes, we will move to complete language immersion in all parallel classes. In another case, it can be the difference in exams students take when moving education levels," Kaplinski said.

Hiie Asser, director of Annelinna High School, says half of the students in their basic school study in classes where up to half of the teaching is in Russian.

She expects most studies to be carried out in Estonian and that Russian language and literature will be taught in Russia. "From the next academic year, this transition will actually involve a change in the organization of studies in about three or four parallel classes. About 100 pupils," Asser said.

Alina Braziulene, the principal of the Aleksander Puškin School, said more support from the state is needed. She highlighted the need for more learning material and specialists.

"The salary of a speech therapist or special pedagogue is the same as that of a teacher - €1412 per month. Multiply by 12 months a year plus social tax," she said, estimating this would total €30,000 a year.

Kaplinski wants to allocate money to a budget in the spring for similar expenses. The city government will analyze schools' proposals in the coming months.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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