TALLINN - Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas in the parliament on Monday answered the interpellation on enabling Estonian children equal opportunities to acquire education that was submitted by members of the Reform Party on June 19.
The interpellators referred to the fresh report on Estonian human development which said that the fragmentation in the Estonian society starts from the school. The interpellators wished to know the government's stance on a suggestion given in the Estonian human development report on creating a joint Estonian-language school that would ensure all Estonian children and young people equal opportunities to acquire education and later find a job.
Ratas said that the aim of the government is to increase the Estonian language skill level of students studying in Russian-language schools. In specific, for the Estonian language skill level of students studying in a Russian-language school to reach the B2 level by the end of basic school. "This of course in turn means that the level should be at C1 by the end of high school. The B2 level is an unavoidable prerequisite for a smooth transition to secondary language in Estonian and achieved a C1 skill level by the end of high school," Ratas said. He clarified that the C1 skill level is an important prerequisite for acquiring higher education in Estonian and for equal competition on the Estonian labor market.
The prime minister said that in order to achieve the goal, contributions will be made to teacher training, updating study equipment and creating an environment that supports language learning, for example different language camps, extracurricular activities both on the preschool education and basic education level as well as supporting schools with advising. The government will also continue supporting and developing language immersion programs. "Its effectiveness has been proven with years of experience and we can see that it is to become even more popular, also on the kindergarten level," Ratas said. He reaffirmed that teaching Estonian and Estonian-language education are the clear priorities of the Ministry of Education and Research.
Ratas said that a multicultural school model is a good opportunity to develop the Estonian educational system and decreased the educational gap. When organizing studies, this kind of school will take into account in addition to that set in the national curriculum also quality criteria concerning cultural awareness and sensitivity, for example the skillful integration of subject studies and language studies in all subjects, the skill of all school staff to lead a dialogue between cultures, the cultural theory knowledge of teachers and the school management and much more.
Ratas said that the Ministry of Education and Research has for the past two years also been working on a project, which includes schools and kindergartens that already have experience in teaching in a multilingual and multicultural environment. This model will also be introduced to other schools at the end of this academic year and concrete suggestions and financing proposals will be developed to support students that speak a different language at home than the language they study in.
The prime ministers also answered an interpellation concerning the Azerbaijani money laundering scheme, banking supervision and the so-called caviar diplomacy.
Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps answered an interpellation about the ministry's regional policy plans and an interpellation about the Paide State Gymnasium.