MP: Transition to Estonian-language schooling posing health risk to children with SEN

  • 2024-02-27
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Estonian MP Vadim Belobrovtsev from the opposition Center Party believes that the transition to Estonian-language instruction in schools and kindergartens could pose a significant risk to the health of children with special educational needs (SEN).

Starting from Sept. 1, instruction is provided in Estonian in kindergartens and school grades 1 and 4. According to amendments to the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act, the transition to Estonian-language schooling will occur gradually, by grade and academic year.

"Unfortunately, this move could be accompanied by a great risk and even a danger to the health of schoolchildren with special educational needs, requiring a significant increase in the volume of social services," Belobrovtsev noted.

Under the amended law, all children in special groups in kindergartens, small classes in general education schools, and even those with simplified curricula in special schools are required to start learning in Estonian. Parents are guaranteed the right to arrange a personal assistant for their child. 

"This means that instead of one teacher providing instruction in the child's native language, each child has to be provided with additional individual services," the Center Party MP added.

Belobrovtsev mentioned that he has received information indicating that a commission under the Ministry of Education and Research has been disregarding medical opinions regarding specific children and has not been granting exceptions that would allow these children to continue education in their native language.

"The issue here is not only about the quality of education but also about healthcare. Teachers are not authorized to assess the condition of people with health problems; it is not within their competence or their level of responsibility. People without medical education should not change medical instructions that have been provided to children, especially if there is a risk of conditions like epilepsy, enuresis, aggression, and self-aggression in children diagnosed by psychiatrists," he underlined.