On October 6, the Ministers of Education of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and Vice Ministers of Poland and the Czech Republic participated in a plenary meeting at the Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University in Western Ukraine upon invitation of the Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine to discuss the continued education of Ukrainian refugee children.

The participating ministers provided overviews of the current well-being of refugees and the aid being provided by the states. All parties confirmed their interest in continuing to improve bilateral communication with Ukraine regarding the education of refugees.

Tõnis Lukas, Estonian Minister of Education and Research, explained Estonia’s concern for compulsory education for refugees to his Ukrainian colleagues. The Minister also requested help from Ukraine to encourage the Ukrainian community in Estonia to enter the Estonian education system. “We have given the children temporary protection and with it we also protect their right to education and other developmental endeavours. All children in Estonia must be registered in a local educational institution. The level of education in Estonia is high enough to ensure that, if they wish, students can continue elsewhere after graduation. We know that there are children and youths who are continuing their studies in Ukrainian schools through distanced learning as well as in Estonian schools. They want to return home soon but their parents fear that Ukrainian schools will not recognise their studies here and thus they don’t want to stop their studies in those schools.”

The Ukrainian colleagues were open to cooperation to solve this problem. Lukas hopes that Ukraine will recognise the Estonian education of refugees. “We agreed that Ukrainian schools will recognise Estonian education and will transfer the results of the students regardless of whether they have studied in Estonia for a few months, a year or more.”

Serhiy Shkarlet, Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine, explained that many refugees have already returned to Ukraine and there have been no problems with recognising their studies in foreign countries so far. The parties acknowledged that the current situation is hopeful and refugees may start returning home soon. The parties are therefore ready to exchange information and to develop the system necessary to recognise studies on all levels of education.

Minister Lukas asserted in his address that Estonia is committed to the restoration of the Ukrainian education system. “Restoration has already begun in Zhytomyr Oblast and we are ready to contribute with our 30 years of experience in education reforms.”

The Minister also provided an overview of support measures for the education of Ukrainian refugees in Estonia on all levels.

Lukas: “After the meeting, it is clear that Ukraine is on the right path, winning the war, and the cooperation between both countries will continue.” In cooperation with the Ukrainian Embassy, local governments and schools, Estonia continues to raise awareness to ensure that the Ukrainians in Estonia know that their studies in Estonia will be recognised later.

The ministers of all parties agreed that student refugees will return home with new experiences and education, which will help them in the future.

Background information:

  • As of 6 October 2022, 7540 children/youths are registered in the Estonian Education Information System (EHIS).
    • The students are divided by level of education as follows: 1786 (23.7%) in early childhood education, 4905 (65.1%) in primary education, 406 (5.4%) in secondary education, 443 (5.9%) in vocational education.
    • By teaching language, students are divided as follows: 5758 (76.4%) in Estonian; incl. 758 (10.05%) in language immersion; 1747 (23.17%) in Russian; 35 (0.46%) in English.
  • According to a survey by the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research, as of 14 September, 94 Estonian schools employ 177 Ukrainian refugees.
  • According to the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, 2601 Ukrainian educational institutions have been damaged by bombing, of which 309 have been destroyed completely Source: http://saveschools.in.ua/en/