Ida-Viru County heads: Switch to Estonian-only kindergartens unrealistic

Kindergarten.
Kindergarten. Source: ERR

One of the coalition government's goals is to start the transition to all-Estonian kindergartens in the autumn of 2024. However, the objective for kindergartens should be scaled down to children acquiring the state language at a level necessary to enter primary school, say heads of education in Ida-Viru County's mostly Russian-speaking towns.

Education specialists in Ida-Viru County say that the idea to fully switch to Estonian in Russian-speaking kindergartens within two years, as is being discussed now during the government negotiations, is underdeveloped.

"The specific goals, objectives, dates, and the type of support we will receive are still not clearly explained. It is difficult to judge now about the feasibility of this plan; however, I think that in cooperation, anything is possible," head of the department of culture at the Narva city council Larissa Degel says.

In order to transition to an all-Estonian schooling, it is considered that a child should have fully mastered the state language already in kindergarten.

"Should it be our goal that all kindergarten groups work only in Estonian? Rather, it is important that by the end of kindergarten, the child has gained a foundational level of language proficiency in Estonian and is prepared for the next level of education," says Anneli Rants, head of the city of Sillamäe's Education and Culture Department.

It is considered unrealistic that all kindergartens and primary schools in Ida-Viru County transition to all-Estonian speaking in the coming years.

"I do not believe that all parents will agree with this idea; they should have a choice. Of cause, we will provide support and do everything we can to ensure that our children learn Estonian," says Kohtla-Järve Deputy Mayor Kristiine Agu.

Three of the fourteen kindergartens in Kohtla-Järve are Estonian-speaking. In Narva and Sillamäe, there is one Estonian-language preschool, in addition to seventeen and four kindergartens, in each town respectively.

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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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