Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Centre) has introduced a goal for kindergartens to not just teach Estonian in the future, but to be at least partially Estonian-language.
"At least one teacher per group should work in Estonian," Reps told reporters on Wednesday.
According to the minister, the ministry is prepared next year to provide this head-start to all kindergartens and local governments who are interested.
"In order to do so, we are planning on refining the curriculum and creating additional positions for Estonian teachers in kindergartens — one per Russian-language group," Reps said. "It is crucial that children who wish to do so are prepared to go on to attend Estonian-language schools."
Additional Estonian language teacher jobs will be established in kindergartens from 2019-2022. Kindergartens will be provided with refresher training and modern study materials. The goal of the measure is to support the professionalism of Estonian language teachers in Russian-language kindergartens in order to support the children learning the Estonian language to at least an A1 level by the time they graduate kindergarten.
Reps added that this initiative had been supported during state budget strategy talks already.
Aune Valk, head of the Analysis Department at the Ministry of Education and Research, said that all teachers in just ten percent of Russian-language or immersion kindergartens currently meet Estonian language requirements, and that in a quarter of kindergartens, half of teachers do not speak the Estonian language at the required level.
"The idea behind the change is not for a teacher who speaks Estonian poorly to speak to the children in Estonian, but rather that an additional Estonian-speaking teacher is brought in," Valk explained.
Currently, nearly half of children who speak Russian in the home attend language immersion or Estonian-language kindergartens. 82% of children to attend Russian-language kindergarten go on to study in Russian-language schools, compared to 52% of children from immersion kindergartens. Parents of both Estonian- and Russian-speaking families are willing to increase cooperation, however.
According to Valk, nearly 80% of residents find that Estonian-language instruction should begin at the kindergarten level. Of Russian-language residents, 43% would support fully Estonian-language kindergartens and another 26% would support language immersion. One in four Estonians and half of Russians, meanwhile, would prefer to see mixed groups, which are made up of half native Estonian- and half native Russian-speakers.
Editor: Aili Vahtla