After it emerged that young people were being taught in Russian at a vocational training center in Ida-Viru County, Education and Research Minister Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) said the ministry officials responsible for the situation could not continue.
Despite the fact that Estonian schools are required by law to provide secondary vocational education in Estonian, Ministry of Education and Research monitoring revealed that a vocational education institution in Ida-Viru County predominantly teaches in Russian. The school's director, Hannes Mets, had to resign after describing Russian-language instruction as an asset.
According to Mets, the school admitted 1,500 new students in the autumn, of which 1,350 did not speak Estonian. He claimed that the purpose of a vocational school is to teach a trade, not a language. Minister of Education and Research Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) said that young people are going to struggle in the labor market if they do not learn Estonian.
"Specialized Estonian language instruction is available for those who have fallen behind in the language. Classes at various levels are available," Kallas said. "I understand the difficulty, but giving up entirely, as was the case with the vocational school, and saying we will not even try is simply wrong," Kallas said.
By the end of the school year, students should achieve a B2 language level. It was attained by around 6 percent of students at the Ida-Viru County vocational education institution. Kallas was taken aback by the monitoring results. "I had not anticipated such a large-scale violation of the law," she said.
"However, I understand that for ministry officials who have worked in the field of vocational education for a long time, this came as no surprise," the minister continued. "And it is up to ministry officials to accept responsibility. If this has been going on for years without their knowledge, they also have to accept responsibility."
The Ministry of Education and Research, according to Kallas, would be reorganized. "It is clear that the people who have actually known about this situation for a very long time cannot continue," she added.
Dozens of specialists at the Ministry of Education and Research are directly involved with vocational education and training. "I won't name names at this time, but it's clear that people must take responsibility there as well, and we are working on that," Kallas said. "They should all look in the mirror; I cannot say that a single individual is solely responsible for this."
"The ministry cannot say that only the school principal is responsible," she said.
On the objection that the minister's options in shaping the ministry's recruitment policy are rather limited, Kallas reiterated, "We have already talked to the officials, but now we have to talk to them again, and I hope we can reach an agreement."
Editor: Mirjam Mäekivi, Kristina Kersa