On Thursday, the government approved the Ministry of Education and Research's comprehensive action plan for the transition to teaching in Estonian. For example, the state will motivate teachers who relocate to Ida-Viru County with higher salaries and provide them with inexpensive housing.
Minister of Education and Research Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) said that the most comprehensive aspect of the action plan is ensuring and motivating competent teachers and school leaders.
"Teachers are essential for learning Estonian. We can clearly see that the proficiency of general school teachers in Estonian as a secondary language is correlated to the proportion of their students who are proficient in the national language at the required level," Lukas said.
"We will raise the number of teacher training places at universities, offer more flexible modes of study, provide language training for educators and encourage teachers to enter and remain in the profession in order to increase the number of teachers with strong Estonian language skills," Lukas explained.
"All schools and kindergartens in Estonia should begin schooling in Estonian language for the benefit of our children and young people. To be sure this transition will be as smooth as possible the state devised extensive support measures to all actors involved," he added.
Beginning in September of next year, a basic salary increase coefficient of 1.5 will be introduced for all teachers of basic and general secondary education and a coefficient of 1.3 for teachers in pre-school education in Ida-Viru County who teach in Estonian.
Among the incentives for those moving to Ida-Viru County to teach are: a targeted scholarship for university students, a starting grant with a coefficient of 1.30, an extension of the starting grant to support specialists in elementary education and the provision of inexpensive housing.
All educational staff will receive language training and refresher courses on language teaching methodologies, integrated subject and language learning, etc., as well as training to improve awareness of multicultural learning. Moreover, professional development initiatives are also geared toward school leaders.
The coalition agreement, which includes a raise in teacher pay, will also help to keep teachers in the classroom. Already next year, teachers' average income is expected to rise from 97 percent to 111 percent of the Estonian average. The goal is to achieve at least 125 percent of the Estonian average.
Schools and kindergartens have a number of subsidies for both Estonian language teaching and Estonian-language instruction, as well as support for teaching in Estonian language also outside of Ida-Viru County. The state also helps kindergartens and schools purchase instructional materials for non-Estonian-speaking students.
Beginning this academic year, the Estonian Language Board (Keeleamet) will begin extended monitoring of language learning as well as the language of instruction in pre-school, basic, general secondary and vocational education.
The state will provide counseling services to ease the transition to Estonian language study beginning with the upcoming academic year.
"We sign management contracts with municipalities for the transfer of schools to the state in order to promote the transition to Estonian-language education. The state took control of Narva Estonian Gymnasium in September 2021, Kohtla-Jarve Jarve School in September 2022, and negotiations with the city of Sillamäe and Lüganuse municipality have begun," the minister said.
The government authorized and forwarded to the Riigikogu on Thursday a proposed bill amending the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act, the Preschool Child care Institutions Act, the Vocational Educational Institutions Act, the Private Schools Act and the Language Act.
The shift to Estonian as the language of instruction will begin in kindergartens in 2024 and continue in basic education through the first and fourth grades by the start of the 2029/2030 school year.
In institutions of vocational education, the change will have an impact on students enrolled in the upper secondary vocational curriculum.
Editor: Kristina Kersa