Minister of Education and Research Tõnis Lukas has approved the activity plan for switching to Estonian education complete with deadlines and funding until 2030.
The government was presented with the plan in October and has given it the go-ahead. Lukas said that approving the plan is the logical next step after Riigikogu passed relevant amendments on December 12.
"By amending the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act, we created the legal framework necessary for the switch to teaching in Estonian. At the same time, we have put together an activity plan that facilitates feedback from the Riigikogu Cultural Affairs Committee, Estonian Language Council, the government and many other partners for the bill, its implementation and the signed activities plan," Lukas said in a press release, adding that the latter supports the transition in cooperation with schools, kindergartens, homes, local governments and the cabinet.
The minister said that the plan's focus is on finding and motivating qualified teachers and heads of schools. "We will be ramping up teacher training in universities, creating flexible forms of study, offering education workers language training and motivating teachers to take up and stick with the profession.
One part of efforts is laying down a minimum salary coefficient of 1.5 for teachers and 1.3 for preschool teachers who teach in Estonian in Ida-Viru County from September 2023.
Motivational packages for those willing to teach in Ida-Viru County are being put together that include a targeted scholarship for students, a relocation benefit with a salary coefficient of 1.3 and expanding the latter to also apply to preschool education support specialists, special housing offers etc. All education workers will be offered language classes and additional trainings on the methodology of teaching languages, integrated subject and language training, as well as trainings for boosting multicultural education awareness.
Various professional development projects will become available for heads of schools.
The minimum salary of general education teachers will be hiked to €1,749 from January 2023. This will make up 111 percent of the national average salary by then, with the goal of reaching at least 125 percent.
Schools and kindergartens can apply for support for teaching in both Estonian and Russian, with one instrument aimed at classes switching to Estonian outside Ida-Viru County.
The government will also help schools procure new study aids for students who are non-native Estonian speakers.
New language proficiency tests and curricula are being developed, with a new study materials online platform in the works for preschool education. Existing methodological study aids will be mapped and systemized.
New language technologies to make it easier to teach and study Estonian and other languages are being adopted.
The switch to teaching in Estonian is underway in kindergartens and set to begin in elementary school grades 1 through 4 in 2024. The transition should be completed on the basic school level (grades 5 through 9) by the beginning of the 2029/2030 school year. On the high school and vocational high school levels, 40 percent of lessons can be in another language until the 2029/2030 school year. Schools are obligated to switch to teaching exclusively in Estonian in 10th grade by the 2030/2031 study year, in 11th grade by 2031/2032 and 12th grade by 2032/2033. In vocational education, the change concerns students following vocational secondary education curricula.
Editor: Mait Ots, Marcus Turovski