Nonprofit against broader teaching of Estonian in kindergartens

A language immersion group in Tartu's Kelluke Kindergarten.
A language immersion group in Tartu's Kelluke Kindergarten. Source: Sille Annuk/Postimees/Scanpix

The nonprofit organisation Russian School in Estonia has expressed concerns over a plan of the Ministry of Education and Research to expand the teaching of the Estonian language in Russian-language kindergartens.

"At a time when the effect from experiments like this has not been determined and the outcomes may turn out to be far from unambiguous — up to and including the emergence of logopaedic and psychological problems — the ministry is making thoughtless decisions without subjecting this topic to a comprehensive review and consulting with international national minority organizations as recommended by international acts on human rights," Russian School in Estonia said in a press release forwarded by CEO Mstislav Russakov on Friday.

"It is also not comprehensible why Russian children from age three are again becoming a target of experiments by Estonian politicians," the nonprofit continued. "The interests of the children and their parents are being overlooked again. References to unspecified survey outcomes cannot serve as a basis for cardinally changing the entire preschool education system. Experimenting with children may happen only with parental consent, not based on the wishes of participants in a mysterious survey."

According to the statement, the unhealthy trend of subjecting all Russian children to a single standard imposed by the Ministry of Education and Research and speaking at the same time about the broader application of an individual approach are inconsistent with one another.

"It also deserves to be mentioned that experiments with language immersion and similar that have taken place during the 27 years of Estonia's independence are taking place only in Russian-language schools and kindergartens," read the statement. "The ministry will not touch Estonian-language schools and kindergartens."

The Ministry of Education and Research on Wednesday presented a plan according to which one new teacher per kindergarten group would be Estonian-speaking beginning 1 September, 2020, and that kindergarten curriculums would be updated to enable Russian-speaking children to obtain sufficient Estonian language skills by the time they graduate kindergarten to allow for the opportunity to enroll in an Estonian-language primary school according to their parents' wishes.

When presenting the initiative, the ministry cited the findings of a survey according to which a large portion of the population, including Russian-speaking residents, would like to see Estonian language instruction expanded. Nearly 80% of the population, including Estonian- and Russian-speakers alike, found that Estonian-language instruction should begin at the kindergarten level, the ministry said.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS

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