Teachers of Estonian schools abroad gathering in Tõstamaa

Children at the Lakewood Estonian School with their own
Children at the Lakewood Estonian School with their own "Sipsik" dolls. March 2016. Source: Private collection

Some 60 teachers of Estonian culture and language working in schools abroad are gathering in the small town of Tõstamaa in Pärnu County for the last few days of July to refresh their knowledge and exchange experiences.

The teachers will hear about new digital teaching aids, changes in the teaching of Estonian, history and civic studies, children's literature, outdoor and museum learning, folk heritage and dances, and handicraft.

Their schools and profession played an important role in the preservation of Estonian culture in exile during the Soviet Occupation. In Canadian and American Estonian schools, subjects like Estonian history, geography, literature, reading, writing, and grammar, in addition to folk dancing, choir and similar subjects were taught. Children of emigrants were taught to speak and write proper Estonian.

By now, the role of those schools has shifted and become an important inroads into the local diaspora community for new arrivals. For children from mixed families in particular, the schools help strengthen language skills, and give them a place and people with whom to speak their first language. Estonia has been free for decades, but flights are still expensive, especially for entire families.

Teachers from schools and Sunday schools abroad are expected to exchange experiences on a wide circle of topics, as the topics and issues coming up in the process of learning are often the same despite the teachers doing their everyday work in different countries, the most distant of which are Australia, the United States and Canada.

The participants will include both full-time teachers of regular schools and teachers of Sunday schools and children's hobby groups who mainly work without pay out of sense of mission.

This year's summer school for Estonian teachers abroad is the twelfth such event organized in collaboration between the Estonian Institute and the Ministry of Education and Research.

The summer school is financed from the Compatriots' Program.

There are in total over 4,000 children who are studying Estonian at general education schools, such as European schools, the Estonian schools of Riga and Stockholm, as an elective subject in Finland and Sweden, at a Sunday school or in a children's hobby group this year.

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Editor: Dario Cavegn

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