Experts: Lack of teachers, support staff limits Ukrainian pupils' education

Children at school.
Children at school. Source: Tairo Lutter/Postimees/Scanpix

According to the report "Ukrainian Children in the Estonian Education System", published by the Foresight Center, the Estonian schools and kindergartens are generally managing well the extra workload that came with the Ukrainian refugee pupils, but the shortage of teachers and support specialists is putting schools in a very unequal position when it comes to Ukrainian children.

In the opinion of the schools that have accepted Ukrainian children, the Ukrainian pupils have adapted well or fairly well.

"The largest number of Ukrainian refugee children have come to the municipalities where the number of pupils per teacher was already the highest, which is making the problem of teacher shortage and overburden more acute. The main challenges for teachers are the language barrier and teaching in bilingual classrooms, the big differences between the Estonian and Ukrainian curricula, and helping the Ukrainian students catch up with others," Eneli Kindsiko, expert of the Foresight Center, said.

The workload of Estonian teachers is eased by Ukrainian education workers and war refugee volunteers, who are helping translate teaching materials and give lessons or act as support persons for children. 104 war refugees have taken up work in the schools of Estonia.

As at mid-February, 8,463 Ukrainian children were studying in the educational institutions of Estonia, that is, on average, 3 percent of all pupils in Estonia.

Most of the Ukrainian pupils are in Harju County, where the children of Ukrainian war refugees are accounting for 4 percent. Nearly half, or 45.5 percent of Ukrainian children in Estonia go to school in Tallinn. Tartu, with 9.9 percent, and Pärnu, with 4.5 percent, come after Tallinn as regards the number of Ukrainian pupils.

63 percent of Ukrainian children are studying in Estonian. "However, it should be noted that even if the children are going to schools where Estonian is the language of instruction, they may still receive instruction in Russian or Ukrainian to some extent, and a large proportion of pupils are studying via the language immersion method," Kindsiko explained.

The highest proportion of the Ukrainian children studying in Russian or English is in Ida-Viru and Harju Counties. In Harju County, 33 percent of the Ukrainian children who have arrived in the county are studying in Russian, while the figure is 52 percent in Ida-Viru County.

The experience perceived by teachers and heads of school so far has confirmed that the easiest way to integrate Ukrainian children into the education system is in pre-school education, that is, at a younger age.

The more complex the content of a subject becomes, the more difficult it is to participate in studies in the Estonian language without having a basic level of language skills. However, the majority of the children who have arrived from Ukraine, 65 percent, are of a basic education age. 24 percent of all war refugee children that have arrived in Estonia are in pre-school education.

The brief report "Ukrainian Children in the Estonian Education System" is a part of the Foresight Center study "The Future for the Next Generation of Teachers."

The aim of the Foresight Center study is to develop scenarios of the need for teachers and the future of the teaching profession until 2040 on the basis of global and national trends.

The Foresight Centre is a think tank at the Riigikogu that analyses future developments in society and the economy.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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