Lukas: Centrist turn in Narva to get in the way of study language change

Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa).
Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Kindergartens and basic school grades one through four will be switching to teaching only in Estonian a year from now. Both Minister of Education and Research Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) and former Education Minister Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) list attitudes and lack of will as the main problems, next to the reform's financial side.

Lukas told Vikerraadio on Tuesday that all conditions for switching to Estonian as the universal study language in Estonia have been met – the necessary laws, regulations, monitoring systems have been agreed and approved – to suggest the transition should go ahead as scheduled, and without a way back.

The politician said that a part of the population, who have not accepted Estonian society, do not want their children to get an Estonian education, though they are few in number. Most Russian-speaking families do want their children to be educated in Estonian, Lukas said.

"Political will is the other side of it. The Tallinn city government is clearly obstructing the transition, looking for ways to bypass prior agreements or simply say that the city cannot comply. There are other such local governments," Minister Lukas remarked.

The deputy chair of the Riigikogu Cultural Affairs Committee (also in charge of education – ed.) and three-time education minister said that Mihhail Kõlvart has opposed the switch to teaching in Estonian both as Tallinn mayor and before.

Lukas said that Kõlvart has been a board member of the Russian School in Estonia movement and opposed a fast and smooth transition.

He also deems it likely that the Center Party, set to seize power in the city of Narva (18 delegates of the new city council group Narva, made up of Center Party and former Narva Heaks delegates, introduced a motion of no confidence in Narva Mayor Katri Raik on Monday – ed.) will start throwing obstacles in the transition's pass, even though teachers in the city have been working hard on preparations under Raik. Lukas added that while he hopes he is wrong, Monday's power change in Narva is sure to hinder a smooth transition in the city.

Kristina Kallas: Teacher shortage greatest problem

Minister of Education and Research Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) told Vikerraadio that the shortage of kindergarten teachers who meet language requirements will become critical when the reform enters into force next fall.

"Tallinn has around 900 kindergarten teachers a third of whom speak good Estonian, a third will be able to achieve the required C-1 proficiency level by next fall and a third who will be forced to change jobs," the minister said.

There are 73 so-called transition schools in Estonia for which the Ministry of Education and Research has put together an activity plan for gradually achieving Estonian elementary and basic education by the year 2030.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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