Reps: Reform plan calling for Estonian from kindergarten 'not credible'

Estonian Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Center).
Estonian Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Center). Source: (Jaanus Lensment/Postimees/Scanpix)

Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Center) reacted to the Reform Party's proposal to begin with Estonian-language education in kindergarten already, saying that it was "not credible."

Chairman of the Reform Party’s Tallinn section and likely candidate for mayor in the upcoming local elections, Kristen Michal, said on Wednesday that his party’s platform in Tallinn was going to include a call for all instruction to be in Estonian beginning with kindergarten.

Reps said first off that she was sorry to see that Reform brought up education only immediately before the elections. “The party that has directly influenced life in Estonia for 17 years, and as the prime minister’s party was the defining force for most of that time has never once taken up this topic. Political slogans a few months after losing political responsibility simply aren’t credible,” Reps told ERR’s Estonian online news on Thursday.

The minister added that it was “particularly sad” that both Jürgen Ligi and Maris Lauri had personally had the possibility to deal with the issue, but failed to come up with any suggestion in the matter that would have been taken seriously.

The ministry was currently dealing with study materials, methodical help for teachers, better pay for teachers, and more money for people able to offer support. “These are just the steps that make it possible to put a law into practice that guarantees Estonian instruction starting from the third year.”

But up to this point, the local governments had been left to deal with the matter, Reps added.

The likely mayoral candidate of the Social Democrats, Rainer Vakra, said it was sad that the Reform Party deemed it appropriate to aim its campaign at kindergarten kids. “But it’s probably no surprise to anyone anymore that Michal wants to stir up provocations between the different ethnic groups. This is their cold calculation they have been using for many years, but I predict that it won’t quite be enough in these elections,” Vakra said.

Vakra added that already now Estonian was taught throughout Russian-language kindergartens. There were also free full immersion groups in kindergartens, and though there was always room for improvement, the Reform Party could at least have participated in the round table on the issue the Social Democrats had called in early March. “They did receive an invitation,” Vakra said.

Michal said on Wednesday that the Reform Party’s platform in Tallinn provided for the entire education system being in Estonian, beginning in kindergarten.

"We want a fundamental change in the education system — the entire education system should be unified and Estonian-language beginning with kindergarten," Michal told ERR. "Thus the Center Party's grounds used for opposing Estonian- and Russian-language people and saying different things to different audiences would disappear as well."

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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