In a recent article in Postimees, Sergei Metlev, an executive member of the Open Republic organization, explains why uncertainty and insecurity influence the goals and ambitions of Russian youth in Estonia. The following are his perceptions of the situation.
The underlying cause is the education provided by Russian schools in Estonia. A 2008 study conducted by the Open Society Institute indicated that 19% of Russian youth aged 15-29 want to leave Estonia permanently. Of this, 45% want to reside concurrently abroad as well as in Estonia, but only 5% in Russia while 40% prefer residence elsewhere. This goal is equally large among Estonian youth, but a 2007 study showed that 71% still desire strong ties to Estonia.
When expatriate Estonians return to their homeland they have a definite attachment to the land and people of their heritage – a motivation lacking in Russian youth.
Graduates of Russian high schools, deficient in the Estonian language and unable to adjust within Estonian society feel just as out of place as they would in a foreign country. To them an Estonian university would seem equally strange, as would one abroad.
Those graduates who can’t leave Estonia or compete for university entrance elsewhere have been the source of unskilled labour. Estonia has all but discarded its image of cheap labour and a return to the old status quo would be a mistake.
Most of the problem associated with poor Estonian language skills, a weak sense of citizenship and a lack of vital information can be blamed on Russian education in Estonia. Last year the graduates from Russian schools achieved approximately 15% lower grades than their equivalents in Estonian language schools. Russian graduates taking state exams in the Estonian language gained an average of 56 points, 4 points lower than the required 60 for graduate certificates – a serious barrier to entering university.
Even offering 60% of the Russian high school program in Estonian would help addressing the discrepancy and would aid Russian graduates in coping within Estonian society and in being better informed.
Russian schools are weak in instilling feelings of citizenship, which is necessary in developing a sense of social responsibility. Currently, many Russian students believe that the War of Independence was a fiction. Open discussion of the war or responsible citizenship is practically not permitted. The notion of citizenship should be also taught to Russian language teachers.
Russian schools require more openness and flexibility. Bringing bilingual teachers into the system would inject new energy.
A boost in the increase of student self realization skills could be achieved through discussion groups leading to student representation on pedagogical councils where democratic traditions preside. Initiative is often punished or severely regimented.
All youth, including Russians, are Estonia’s strategic resource. Without educated and tolerant Russian youth our nationality problems will simply be put off into the future.
Russian education in Estonia a barrier to a strong and cohesive society (5)