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Tallinn approves Estonian-language education transition plan

C1 English exams are on track to replace Estonian state English exams.
C1 English exams are on track to replace Estonian state English exams. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Tallinn City Government approved its Estonian language education transition plan for municipal kindergartens and schools on Thursday. The council plans to give additional help to teachers to increase their language skills.

The action plan covers the 2023/24 and 2024/25 academic years and focuses on five priority areas.

These include supporting education institution leaders and teachers to attain the necessary proficiency in Estonian, providing training for teachers on teaching multilingual students, creating legal clarity at both the state and city levels, ensuring educational materials and language learning support for students, and offering support for the recruitment of new teachers.

Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) said the transition is a "lengthy and multifaceted process".

He said it will be implemented under challenging circumstances, given that the initial situation with teachers is very complex, and the state budget for implementing the reform falls short of actual needs.

"Tallinn's action plan to support the transition to Estonian-language education does not duplicate the state's plans but includes measures to support teachers and students in Estonian-language schools and those schools transitioning to Estonian-language education," Kõlvart said.

As the plan will be carried out with the existing teachers, Tallinn's main goal is to offer "maximum support" to help them reach the C1 level required.

"We've already started with this but now we're directing additional resources toward it. The city will organize courses for teachers to achieve a C1 level of proficiency in Estonian," Kõlvart said.

Mihhail Kõlvart Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

"To recruit new teachers with the necessary qualifications to kindergartens and schools, the Tallinn Education Department offers centralized support, launching the project 'Spetsialist õpetajaks' (Specialist-to-teacher program)."

Starting this month, a language exchange project will begin, where teachers from Russian-language educational institutions will have the opportunity to improve their professional language skills in Estonian-language schools or kindergartens.

Estonian-language kindergarten teachers, in turn, will enhance the Estonian language skills of children in Russian-language kindergartens.

Individual language lessons for teachers will also be supported with the help of a language app.

 To support first- and fourth-grade students in their Estonian language studies and to improve their learning outcomes, a concept for a curriculum-supportive full-day school is being developed and will be implemented, primarily with fourth-grade students in mind.

Before the transition to Estonian-language education, children were only studying Estonian according to the national curriculum for two hours a week, which now hinders their ability to acquire knowledge in Estonian in other subjects.

 The action plan was developed by the City Government's temporary commission for the transition to Estonian-language education.

Schools across the country must make the change to Estonian language education from September 1, 2024, starting with first and fourth grades. Teachers must have obtained C1 level Estonian by this time.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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