Government approves Estonian language transition education bill

Estonian language dictonary
Estonian language dictonary Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The Riigikogu on Monday approved the law laying out the transition to Estonian language teaching in schools and kindergartens.

The first changes will apply to kindergartens and grades one and four in the 2024/2025 school year.

Until 2029/2030 high schools and vocational schools will be able to teach a maximum of 40 percent of the curriculum in another language.

Education institutes must ensure the transition to Estonian-language education in grade 10 takes place no later than the 2030/31 school year, for grade 11 by 2031/32 and grade 12 by 2032/2033.

The new law also lays out rules for school principals who will be expected to know Estonian to C1 level by August 1, 2023.

Teachers and support staff will have until August 1, 2024 to reach the same level.

Schools will need an exemption from the government to teach in another language from the 2024/2025 academic year. Special allowances can be made for specific groups of students, such as those with additional educational needs.

The law also includes a basic school regulation, which is similar to one already adopted, that states if 10 more pupils have a home language that is not the language of instruction, schools can organize additional language and culture education for them in that language if requested.

Sixty-two members voted to adopt the legislation changing the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act and 16 against it.

Under the current law, schools and kindergartens can currently teach in languages other than Estonian.

The law is aimed at reducing the number of schools teaching primarily in the Russian language. Many schools have a 60/40 split.

The amendment has been met with criticism by some politicians who argue there are not enough Estonian teachers to implement the changes. The government has said it will double salaries to attract teachers to Ida-Viru County, a majority Russian-speaking area, from next year.


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Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright

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