Baltic Course Tallinn, 29.11.2016
While 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, Tallinn Deputy Mayor Mihhail Kolvart told Russia's Interfax news agency citing LETA/BNS.
"We are lacking several elements in Russian language education now - there is no system, no people and no academic elite. The reproduction of teachers to start teaching Russian is effectively non-existent," said Kolvart, who is responsible for education, sports and youth affairs in the Tallinn city government.
"What is happening in Russian language education now can be definitely described with the word regression," said Kolvart, deputy chairman of the Center Party.
He said difficulties exist in the high school stage, where a requirement is 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 Jüri Ratas that was sworn in last week 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.
"Our promise is to preserve Russian language high school education on the one hand and at the same time to organize teaching of Estonian at a higher level," Kolvart said.
The Riigikogu in 2010 adopted a Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act which requires that the transition to teaching at least 60% of subjects in Estonian in Russian language high schools must 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.
Most recently, the Supreme Court of Estonia on Nov. 7 turned down an appeal by defenders of Russian language education by which they wanted two of Tallinn's Russian high schools to be permitted to give education in Russian language to a bigger extent. The wish of the boards of the Haabersti Russian High School and Tonismae High School was backed by the city government but the national government rejected them in September 2015, prompting the parties that drew up the request to go to court.
In 2013-2015, similar requests by five Russian schools of Narva and ten of Tallinn were turned down by courts after they were rejected by the government despite being backed by the municipalities.
Kolvart: New Estonian govt to change attitude to Russian language education