Tallinn principals demand answers from minister on teaching Ukrainians

School.
School. Source: ERR

The Tallinn School Heads Association demands answers from Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna (Reform) on detailed plans for teaching children from Ukraine: will classes be bigger than previously allowed, why can't they be taught in Russian-language schools, who will provide special education needs for them, and how will this be funded?

The Tallinn School Heads Association sent a list of urgent questions to Liina Kersna, the minister of education and research (Reform), regarding the teaching of Ukrainian children in Tallinn starting the next academic year.

The school leaders demand answers whether Ukrainians will be taught according to the Estonian curriculum, or whether they will be taught by teachers from Ukraine at their own discretion and whether this means the end to monolingual Estonian schools.

"In Estonia there should be Estonian-language schools where secondary languages are being taught, not foreign-language schools where Estonian is also taught. I don't believe that in any other EU member state Ukrainian or Russian-language schools or classes are created using public funds," reads the letter from the association.

They also want to know why the minister thinks Russian-language schools are not suitable for teaching Ukrainians in Estonia.

"What exactly is the worry here? What is being done to address this concern? Has the minister thought about what is being signaled to Russian-language schools' teachers, when we are not letting Ukrainian children attend their schools?" the association asks.

The association is also concerned with the lack of space in current classes and if Ukrainians were to be assigned to the classes now, as statistics shows, this would add two or three students to a class of 30.

"Will Tallinn be given special permission to increase the number of students in classes, without needing the approval of the board of trustees?" they ask.

School leaders are asking the minister whether the ratio between the number of pupils and the square meters of the school building will be taken into account when assigning places to new pupils, and what admission procedures will be set in motion for pupils in upper secondary classes – will it be decided by schools or the state?

There is also concern for lack of deliberation process or making concrete plans on providing psychological and special need support to Ukrainian pupils. They also want to know whose task it is to evaluate the Ukrainian pupils' knowledge of the school program, so that they could prepare the study program for them.

Also, the association needs to know whether Ukrainians are expected to achieve the same learning results as their Estonian peers and what happens to those who fail the mandatory for graduation classes.

Highlighted as a separate issue was the support for the language learning capacity in Estonian schools. Will the Ukrainians have to take an Estonian language examination upon their graduation from basic or secondary school, and, in that regard, whether the teaching of Estonian language to Ukrainians in Russian-language schools is separately funded.

The letter suggests that summer activities for Ukrainian pupils be organized in cooperation with youth and recreation centers:

"Are there any Estonian language or interest-based summer camps planned for the Ukrainian pupils? Do we offer intensive Estonian language courses to them? Should they not be attending summer camps, therapy groups or counseling sessions to get the psychological support they might need in dealing with traumatic experiences?" administrators asks.

Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart pointed out last week on ERR's "Otse uudistemajast" webcast that if the city and the state open a school for Ukrainian children in Tallinn in the next academic year, there will be the problem of not having enough Estonian teachers, as they are in high demand right now even for Russian-language schools.

Kõlvart also said that it would be best if Ukrainian children, who are planning their lives in Estonia, get places in Estonian-language schools, even though there is already a shortage of places and not all the Russian-speaking children who would like to attend one are admitted.

If schools cannot admit all the Ukrainian children, he said, they could introduce evening shifts, but even then, the problem with the lack of teachers persists. And if Russian schools are not partaking in teaching Ukrainian children, the burden on Estonian schools will almost double.

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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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