Tartu to transition to Estonian language education over four years

Renovated Tartu Annelinn High School.
Renovated Tartu Annelinn High School. Source: Silver Siilak

An action plan to ensure a smooth transition from bilingual education to Estonian-language education in five Tartu educational institutions over four years has been prepared by the city's council.

The changes will be made at Tartu Annelinna Upper Secondary School, Tartu Aleksander Puškini School, and the Kelluke, Annike and Mõmmik kindergartens by the 2025/2026 school year.

Schools, parents, and experts will work together in close cooperation and Estonian will be taught through language immersion, which supports the development of multilingualism without harming the child's mother tongue, the council said in a statement published Wednesday.

In the coming years the education network within Tartu will focus more broadly on supporting foreign language learners in the existing cultural and linguistic space, it said.

Approximately €350,000 will be earmarked each year will be to create new jobs, teaching resources, training, and activities to support language and cultural learning. 

All young people must have an equal opportunity for "self-fulfillment and participation in society", said Mayor of Tartu Urmas Klaas (Reform).

"Estonian-language education helps children and young people to integrate into the Estonian cultural and value space, provides them with equal opportunities to participate in society and working life and to continue their studies at the next level of education entirely in Estonian," he said.

Klaas said Tartu is in a relatively good starting position, as Estonian language teaching has been continuously developed in bilingual schools and kindergartens.

Deputy Mayor Lemmit Kaplinski (SDE) said the objectives of the City of Tartu Action Plan are in line with the National Action Plan, which foresees the transition to Estonian-language education by 2035.

"The issue of Estonian language education is very important throughout Estonia, and society clearly expects this issue to be actively addressed. The Tartu Action Plan serves as a guide for the rest of Estonia," said Kaplinski.

Starting with the 2022/2023 academic year, all five educational institutions will also pay an additional beginner's allowance to teachers and support specialists coming to their first job who meet the qualification requirements and possess a C2 or higher level of proficiency in the Estonian language. The exact conditions for the additional beginner's allowance will be developed in autumn 2022.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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