Comment of the week

Albert Einstein

Theoretical physicist

All of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking.

The Government approved a detailed action plan prepared by the Ministry of Education and Research for the transition to Estonian-language education, which outlines the necessary activities, deadlines and resources until 2030.

Minister of Education and Research Tõnis Lukas noted that the most extensive point of the action plan concerns ensuring the availability and motivation of competent teachers and school leaders. "Teachers are the key to learning in Estonian. We can clearly see that the proficiency of primary school teachers in Estonian as a second language is closely linked to the proportion of their teachers who have the required level of proficiency in the official language," Lukas said. "To ensure that we have enough teachers with good Estonian language skills, we will increase the number of places for teacher training at universities, create more flexible forms of study, offer language training to educators and motivate teachers to start and stay in the profession." said Minister Tõnis Lukas. "It is in the interest of children and young people themselves that all Estonian schools and kindergartens in Estonia are converted to Estonian. The state will provide all parties involved with a wide range of support to ensure a smooth transition."

Starting from September 2023, a basic salary coefficient of 1.5 will be introduced for all teachers in Ida-Viru County who teach in Estonian, and 1.3 for teachers in primary education. Incentive packages are being developed for those moving to Ida-Viru County to become teachers: a targeted scholarship for students, a starting grant with a coefficient of 1.3 and an extension of the starting grant for support specialists in primary education, preferential housing, etc. Language training and refresher courses on language teaching methodology, integrated subject and language learning, etc., as well as training to raise awareness of multicultural learning, will be offered to all educational staff. Various professional development projects are targeted at school leaders. The Coalition Agreement, which foresees an increase in teachers' salaries, will also make a significant contribution to ensuring the succession of teachers. Next year already, the average estimated salary of teachers will rise from 97% of the current average to 111% of the Estonian average. The aim is to reach at least 125% of the Estonian average.

Schools and kindergartens will have access to various subsidies for both Estonian language and Estonian-language teaching, and support for classes outside Ida-Virumaa for teaching in Estonian. The state also supports kindergartens and schools in purchasing teaching materials for pupils whose mother tongue is not Estonian. New language proficiency tests and teaching materials are being developed, and a new e-platform for teaching materials is being created in primary education. Existing methodological and teaching materials will be mapped and systematised. New linguistic tools are being added to facilitate the teaching and learning of Estonian as a second language.

From this academic year onwards, the monitoring of language teaching and the language of instruction will be extended and the Language Board will be involved in the monitoring of primary, general and vocational education. From the academic year 2023/2024, the state will offer counselling services to support the transition to Estonian language learning.

In line with the objective of supporting Estonian-language learning, we will enter into management contracts with local authorities to transfer schools to the state. The state took over Narva Estonian Gymnasium in September 2021, Kohtla-Järve Järve School in September 2022 and negotiations are ongoing with the city of Sillamäe and have started with Lüganuse municipality.

The action plan for the transition to Estonian-language education also includes an assessment of the existing legal provisions and, if necessary, amendments and additions to the legislation. The national curricula of pre-school, basic and upper secondary schools are in the process of being amended.

Today, the Government approved and sent to the Riigikogu a draft law making the necessary amendments to the Basic School and Upper Secondary School Act, the Pre-School Childcare Institutions Act, the Vocational Education and Training Institutions Act, the Private Schools Act and the Language Act.

The transition to the Estonian language of instruction will take place in kindergartens and will start in the 1st and 4th grades in 2024 and will be completed by the beginning of the 2029/2030 school year. In vocational education institutions, the change will apply to students following the upper secondary vocational curriculum.