State high schools in Tallinn see other schools dial back class sizes

Classroom. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

While Tallinn used to be short on high school places to a point where even students who graduated basic school with high marks were having trouble finding a school, the opening of three new state high schools has not only alleviated the problem but reversed it.

This fall, three state high schools opened in Tallinn and admitted close to one thousand students between them. While this alleviated the shortage of student places, the pendulum swung too far in the other direction, forcing some existing high schools to hold a second round of admissions and still fail to reach their student targets.

Margit Timakov, head teacher at the Tallinn Coeducational High School, told ERR that the school opened two sets of classes instead of the planned three this year but managed to keep all fields of study.

Timakov said that the waning interest is mainly tied to the opening of the new state high schools.

But she added that the number of high school students fluctuates from one year to the next, and schools' different admissions systems could also cause problems.

"If a person tries to get into ten different schools, there might be confusion as to which one of them they will attend at the end of the day," she explained. "Students agree to attend several schools and only cancel at the last minute."

The lack of a common system means students can have a hard time finding schools that still have room, while the latter have no certainty in terms of who will actually attend them once the schoolyear starts.

Fewer students means less funding for schools and forces them to find ways of cutting costs. Timakov said that it constitutes a new situation for a lot of schools and it's difficult to decide something based on a single year.

"We are experiencing an educational experiment," Timakov said, adding that the situation is similar in more than a few Tallinn schools and those in neighboring municipalities.

The Tallinn Nõmme High School said it managed to find enough students for three class sets instead of the planned four. The school missed its student target by around 30 people.

Principal Riho Uulma said that while state high schools likely have an effect, it is difficult to measure directly. He suggested that next spring will give a better indication of how state high schools are doing, and that Tallinn should have enough students for everyone.

Tenth grade admissions down 100 students from last year

Data from Tallinn's Education Department suggests around 3,600 students started tenth grade in the capital's municipal schools this year, down more than 100 students on year.

Head of the department Kaarel Rundu said that the opening of state high schools in Mustamäe, Pelgulinn and Tõnismäe is the reason. Among municipal schools, the Mustamäe High School, Mustamäe Humanities School and Jakob Westholm High School had to hold additional admissions to find students.

Forecasts put the total number of high school students in Tallinn at 10,380, down from 10,509 last year. That figure was 9,760 for the 2018/2019 schoolyear and 9,190 a year later.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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