TALLINN - The Estonian parliament passed on Monday a bill pursuant to which the Estonian language will be the language of instruction in schools and kindergartens across the country and a transition to Estonian-language schooling is to begin from the 2024-2025 school year.
Pursuant to the law, kindergartens and grades 1 and 4 in primary education will be the first ones to transition to Estonian-language schooling in the 2024-2025 school year. From 2024 until 2030, in upper secondary education the proportion of a language other than Estonian in educational activities can be up to 40 percent of the study volume
Schools will be obligated to ensure a transition to Estonian-language schooling in grade 10 by the 2030-2031 school year, in grade 11 by the 2031-2032 school year and in grade 12 by the 2032-2033 school year at the latest. In vocational education, the amendments concern students studying according to the curriculum for vocational secondary education.
Principals and head teachers of educational establishments will be required to have a proficiency of the Estonian language at level C1 from Aug. 1, 2023. Requirements for the qualification of educational staff will be updated with proficiency in the Estonian language from Aug. 1, 2024. In grades where instruction is to be provided in the Estonian language according to the schedule of the transition, the teacher must have a command of the Estonian language at level C1.
Pursuant to the bill, educational activities that are not held in Estonian in classes where the mandatory language of instruction is to be Estonian must have a permission from the government starting from the 2024-2025 school year. Other languages can also be used in tutoring and with students with special needs if an advisory team outside the school has recommended doing so.
The law lays down similarly to existing procedure that the school is to organize language and culture classes for basic school students whose first language is not Estonian and who do not speak Estonian at home if at least ten such students with the same first language wish to attend them.
Minister of Education and Research Tonis Lukas welcomed the transition to Estonian-language schooling having been approved at the legal level.
"I am pleased that various parties have reached a shared understanding that the transition to Estonian-language schooling must be implemented rapidly. It has been the primary objective of the government coalition to fully switch all schools and kindergartens in Estonia to Estonian-language instruction and it has been done in the interest of the future of children and young people. After all, we want that all children in Estonia, regardless of their native language, should be able to acquire good quality education in the Estonian language. It ensures a command of Estonian for the entire society and a shared information space, the necessity of which is obvious for understanding and combating the imperialist interests of Russia. The Ministry of Education and Research will provide comprehensive help to all local governments, schools and kindergartens to ensure a smooth transition," Lukas said.
The government-initiated bill geared at amending the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act and other relevant laws was passed with 62 votes for and 16 against.