Parties negotiating the new coalition are planning for the transition of Estonian language education but there is a shortage of teachers, 40 percent are nearing retirement age and salaries need to be raised.
Reform, the Social Democratic Party (SDE) and Isamaa have already agreed changes should be made from 2024 in preschool and 2026 in basic schools.
SDE is advocating for a unified school model to support the transition to Estonian language teaching. This calls for Estonian and Russian speakers to be taught together and to take part in extracurricular activities at the same school.
Eduard Odinets, the secretary general of SDE and member of the Riigikogu, said on Tuesday this model allows for Russian to be taught as a native language and to improve the quality of Estonian language immersion. It takes into account the national and cultural identity of all children and is best for fostering an environment where children of different nationalities come together.
"This does not mean the convergence of Estonian and Russian-language schools," said Odinets, adding this constitutes the transition to all-Estonia teaching which should be seamless and trouble-free for both students and teachers alike.
"In the future, all schools in Estonia will be teaching in Estonian, and after attending an Estonian-speaking kindergarten, children will attend a unified school regardless of their native language."
The Social Democrats also emphasize that regional characteristics in Estonia must be taken into account during the transition. Each county has to be responsible for determining the specifics of schooling in their area.
Additionally, there should be enough teachers for this transition agreement to be actually implemented, as "36 percent of today's teachers will reach their retirement age by 2029."
"The transition to Estonian-language education requires the hiring or retraining of thousands of teachers. According to our estimates, there is a need for about 5,000 Estonian speaking teachers in the coming decade," said Odinets
"Our objective is not to enshrine in the law promises that, in reality, can have extremely dire consequences for the competitiveness and viability of the educational system. We should aim to raise teachers' salaries up to 120 percent of the average Estonian as fast as possible."
Editor: Kristina Kersa