Many Ukrainian children learning in two schools

Ukrainian schoolchildren.
Ukrainian schoolchildren. Source: ERR

Children who have escaped the war in Ukraine often attend school in Estonia while also remotely attending Ukrainian school. The increased workload might affect their performance.

Parents who have escaped the war in Ukraine often face the difficult choice of whether to have their child attend Ukrainian school remotely in hopes of returning home or enroll at an Estonian school and tie the family more closely to Estonia.

Because Ukrainian families' plans are often unclear, many children attend both schools, a recent survey by the Ministry of Education and Research found.

"Over 30 percent of fourth-graders, 45 percent of eighth-graders and over 60 percent of 11th grade students said they are still participating in Ukrainian remote learning," Liina Põld, the ministry's undersecretary, told ERR.

This applies to those more than 8,500 Ukrainian schoolchildren currently attending Estonian schools. Three-quarters of them are studying in Estonian and a little less than half in Tallinn. Among Ukrainian children whose families have found a permanent place of residence in Estonia, 45 are not attending school. Local governments and child protection authorities are looking into it.

There are another roughly 1,600 Ukrainian children in Estonia not attending school.

"We believe these are children in temporary housing as we lack more detailed data. We know they number 1,603, which is 200 more than on April 3," Põld said.

The children might also be studying remotely in Ukrainian or have graduated as school starts at the age of six in Ukraine. Still, Estonia will have to find school places for hundreds if not over a thousand students.

"Students who only study remotely and in Ukrainian lack opportunities for continuing their studies [in Estonia]. But Finland does not require it. Finland does not extend compulsory school attendance to refugee children. We have not created such an exception for them," Põld said.

Around half of the students of the Freedom School were still learning in Ukrainian on the side at the start of 2023, which Director of Studies Olga Selištševa said constitutes a massive workload. But the number of students attending two schools has fallen.

"There are still children like that in every class, but no more than a few," she said.

The study performance of Ukrainian students improves over time, the director said. Others find a way to return home. During this academic year, around 50 Ukrainian students have returned to Ukraine. The Freedom School has 573 students presently, while the end of the schoolyear is often when students and parents make relevant decisions.

"Summer is the time when many decide what to do next. Some know they will stay with us next year, others are not sure, while some have also said they will not be returning to the Freedom School," Selištševa said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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