School for 800 Ukrainian children set to open in Tallinn

Vabaduse School on Tallinn's Endla tänav.
Vabaduse School on Tallinn's Endla tänav. Source: ERR

The government has announced that the new Vabaduse School in Tallinn will provide 800 spaces for Ukrainian war refugees to continue their education in Estonia.

While previously the state had preferred Ukrainian war refugees to study in Estonian-language schools, it has now been decided that a school will be built on Endla tänav in Tallinn, catering specifically for the needs of Ukrainian children.

"Practically half of the war refugees in Estonia are in Harju County, with most in Tallinn, so there is a shortage of places in Estonian-language educational institutions there, so we agreed that schools in Tallinn would focus primarily on the first and second grades of general education," said Education Minister Liina Kersna.

This means that Tallinn will provide school places for pupils from the first to the sixth grade. For pupils in grades seven to 12, 800 places will be created at the new Vabaduse School, which is attached to the Tõnismäe State High School.

Two months ago, the soon-to-be-vacant Tallinn Music High School in Nõmme, which also has boarding facilities, was being considered as a possible location for a Ukrainian school if the need arose.

However, Kersna said, "The building on Endla tänav is in the city center, making it much more accessible than the music high school in Nõmme. And, unfortunately, we have to admit that, the physical condition of the music school in Nõmme is much worse than the building on Endla."

The Vabaduse School will operate as a language immersion school, with principles of late immersion applied, meaning at least 60 percent of classroom instruction will be in Estonian.

"We will begin with intensive Estonian language learning, and also with those skills that can be learned through activities conducted in Estonian – whether they involve creativity, technology or movement.

We will start with these and then slowly introduce more Estonian language instruction," said Olga Selištševa, director of studies at the Vabaduse School.

In other subjects, she said, the choice of language of instruction would depend on the pupils' mother tongue.

"We look at who these children are, what their mother tongue is, or what their language of instruction was when they studied in Ukraine. Based on that, we will start teaching them in either Ukrainian or in Russian," said Selištševa.

Applications for admission to the school will be accepted from June 1, with the academic year due to begin in September. More than 1,600 children from Ukraine are registered in Tallinn in the Estonian Education Information System, almost 500 of whom are in Russian-language schools, with the rest in Estonian-language schools.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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