Tallinn schools afraid state high schools will get the cream of the crop

Mustamäe State High School building construction site.
Mustamäe State High School building construction site. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Three state high schools are set to open in Tallinn from September 1. While municipal schools are afraid of competition for both students and teachers, state high schools and the capital's education department believe that around 4,000 new study places to be created in Tallinn will merely alleviate growing demand over the next 15 years.

Even though the Mustamäe State High School building is still under construction, it should be completed by the end of spring and 360 high school students go to school there from September. Tallinn should get an additional 3,000 high school study places once all three state high schools there are finished.

The Mustamäe, Pelgulinna and Tõnismäe state high schools will all open their doors this fall, the latter on temporary premises as construction hasn't even started yet on its building next to the National Library.

Around 1,000 students will attend 10th grade in the three schools this September. The Mustamäe and Pelgulinna high schools plan to open ten sets of classes, with 36 students in each. Just like municipal schools in Tallinn's city center, the state high schools plan to hold entrance exams and also pursue teaching cooperation.

"It is an important goal for us to create schools that aren't boring, to avoid duplicating existing and good schools. We will set aside a whole day for elective subjects where students can go all over the city and pick their favorites. They can spend the day in an economics school or a university. For example, we will be working closely with the Tallinn University of Technology," said Raino Liblik, principal of the Mustamäe State High School.

Tallinn municipal schools, especially those close to the new state schools, are afraid that the shiny new study buildings will attract the cream of the crop of both students and teachers.

"We have been planning an annex for some time, while it is not honest competition, and we can no longer say we're about to do something grand," said Rando Kuustik, principal of the Jakob Westholm High School.

There has been fierce competition for high school places in Tallinn in recent years, which is why Tallinn's education department believes more study places are needed and that competition will not ease up.

"Looking at population forecasts, the number of high school students will grow 2025-2030, which gap these three state high schools will be filling," the department's director Kaarel Rundu said.

But while schools are set to see more students, the same cannot be said of teachers. Tallinn's state high schools are in the middle of a joint recruitment campaign and want to offer better conditions that their municipal counterparts. This means that many municipal school principals will have to start looking for new teachers again this spring.

"We would like to concentrate on giving teachers a manageable workload. A teacher working full time, mentoring and supporting students should make at least €2,000 a month," Raino Liblik said.

"It is clear that teachers need to be found, and the only place to find them is the existing system. There will be headhunting and working conditions offered that ordinary municipal schools perhaps cannot match, while we cannot be completely sure of the latter either," Kuustik remarked.


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Editor: Marko Tooming, Marcus Turovski

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