National defense education is set to become compulsory in Estonian upper secondary schools from this fall. Defense education will be introduced to the curriculum in 40 Estonian schools for the first time, while in others it has already been offered as an optional subject.
Aare Jamnes, head of the Defense Resources Agency's Voluntary Contribution Department, said that up to now, national defense education has been either compulsory or optional in nearly 135 of the Estonia's upper secondary schools. The changes to the curriculum will see it taught at a further 40.
According to Jamnes, schools are ready for the new compulsory course to be introduced and there should be no shortage of defense teachers. Those with previous experience of teaching defense as an optional subject in schools would continue to do so, he explained.
"If schools have problems finding teachers, the Defense Resources Agency will certainly support them," Jamnes explained. "We've received confirmation from about 20 teachers that they are either ready to begin teaching defense or to take on higher workloads, so the buffer is there."
Mare Oja, general education adviser at the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research, said that if necessary, schools could apply for financial support to run a national defense camp, as currently only the theoretical component is compulsory. "The camp will remain voluntary and optional, but now that everyone will have to study national defense theory, we expect interest in the camp to grow," Oja said.
Oja added, that a new national defense curriculum was also in the process of being prepared and would be made available to schools via the digital learning portal e-koolikoot.
Valjo Tooming, a defense teacher at Tallinn Secondary School of Science (Tallinna Reaalkool), said the need for new teachers was not overwhelming, as most schools already have some form of defense education on the curriculum. "Whether you teach defense to 15 young people or 115 young people, it makes no difference in the grand scheme of things, because it takes the same amount of time," Tooming said.
At Tartu's Kristjan Jaak Peterson High School, defense education has been offered as an elective course since the school opened, nearly nine years ago. According to head teacher Merike Kaste, the course has always been popular with students.
Kaste added, that the school is now ready to make defense a compulsory subject. "We have a teacher, who taught it in previous years, whose workload may increase simply because of the subject now becoming compulsory," said Kaste.
At Tallinn Nõmme Upper Secondary School (Tallinna Nõmme Gümnaasium), defense education has so far only been available to those who choose to study it. However, director Riho Uulma confirmed that interest in defense education has also previously been high and that making the subject compulsory will not cause any additional difficulties for the school.
"Defense is a very necessary and fundamental subject, and it should be compulsory for everyone," Uulma said.
Editor: Michael Cole