Education and Science, Estonia, Society

International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Wednesday, 23.05.2018, 23:40

Estonian govt rejects Kolvart's claim that language requirements could be eased

BC, Tallinn, 01.12.2016.Print version
The leaders of all the three parties of Estonia's new ruling coalition on Thursday denied a claim made by Center Party politician Mihhail Kolvart that the requirements for Russian language schools to teach individual subjects in Estonian could be eased.

"This has to be a communication error. Quite the contrary - we wish to step up the language requirements," prime minister and chairman of the Center Party Juri Ratas said at the government press conference.

Ratas explained that in accordance with the agreements made at the coalition negotiations, the government intends to launch pilots to enable Russian language schools, on the basis of a request from the municipality, to have greater freedom in teaching Estonian, whereas by the end of high school students would have to take a test for C1 proficiency level instead of B2 level now.

"When the proficiency requirement is raised, we will be ready to support these schools with money to organize language teaching better still, be it related to teachers or various study materials," Ratas said.

The same was said by the chairman of Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL), Defense Minister Margus Tsahkna, who emphasized that the requirement for 60% of classes to be held in Estonian in Russian language schools, contained in the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act, will not be changed.

"And if you look at the coalition agreement, there are concrete amounts of money and deadlines in there namely with a view to teaching the Estonian language," the IRL leader said.

The chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Jevgeni Ossinovski, pointed out that when he appeared together with Kolvart on a live broadcast of Postimees a few weeks ago the latter did not express the opinions he did in an interview with Interfax.

"Kolvart said about the same things there as Margus Tsahkna did now. So you can check things over there," Ossinovski said.

Tallinn Deputy Mayor Mihhail Kolvart told Russia's Interfax news agency earlier this week that even though Russian language education in Estonia is today taking a backwards step, the new government led by the Center Party is ready to ease the rules now valid for Russian medium high schools. He said difficulties exist in the high school stage, where a requirement has been in effect since 2012 that at least 60% of subjects must be taught in Estonian. As a result, Russian teachers must teach complex subjects in Estonian in class.

Kolvart said that the new Estonian government led by Center Party chairman Juri Ratas is ready to ease these requirements. The government is prepared to review the requests to this effect filed by the school boards and municipalities, he said.

"We will look at each case separately, there can be no formal approach to this. Legally, this means an application from the school board, readiness of high schools and teachers," Kolvart told Interfax. He said that simultaneously other means have to be sought to enable pupils to master Estonian.

The Riigikogu in 2010 adopted a Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act which requires the transition to teaching at least 60 percent of subjects in Estonian in Russian language high schools to be completed by the academic year 2011/2012. The law allows exceptions to be made to this by a ruling of the government at the request of municipalities.

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