The mayor of the eastern Estonian town of Narva has called for several leading educators there to improve their Estonian language level, including two who are also council deputies.
Narva lies on the west bank of the river of the same name, which also forms up the border with the Russian Federation, while the bulk of the town's inhabitants speak Russian as their native language.
The city's mayor, Katri Raik, justified the requirement in the light of legislative amendments relating to the nationwide transition to Estonian-only education, adding that any director or high-level educator who cannot speak Estonian at a proficient level could not as a consequence assemble a roster of teachers at the required level.
Furthermore, the educators must by now be aware of the language requirements, Raik added.
Raik said that: "It would be wrong state say that the principals were unaware that they were expected to master the national language at a proficient level. We can't forget the goal of education, which means quality, but if a principal doesn't know the language at the required level, they won't be able to find colleagues who do or can do likewise."
The level required is C1 in the Common European Framework (CEF), which refers to a proficient user.
The educators in question are required to reach this level by August 1.
They are Jelizaveta Tšertova, director of Narva Peetri School, and Jelena Kavrus, director of an adult education school, along with two kindergarten directors.
Tšertova and Kavrus are members of the Narva Tulevik electoral alliance, which recently entered office in the city government coalition.
Both received a letter from Raik on the matter.
Narva Tulevik's council group chair Vadim Orlov said that the move could potentially harm the balance in the town's education system, and has already led to an "ambiguous emotional reaction" and may continue to do so.
"So far, it is not clear what is behind [Raik's decision]. Clarification is needed," he went on.
Narva Tulevik has 13 deputies at the 31-seat council chamber, who ran as part of Raik's electoral list at the 2021 local elections.
While Raik is still mayor, Narva Tulevik signed a new coalition agreement with Eesti 200 and the Center Party last month.
The CEF has six levels, from A1, essentially beginner level, to C2, essentially a fluent speaker.
Naturalized Estonian citizenship requirements include Estonian at the comparatively simple B1 level.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots