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The Riigikogu deliberated the issue of the sustainability of general education as a matter of significant national importance, with the main report by the Minister of Education and Research Jaak Aaviksoo. In the minister’s words, leaving out the issue of pre-school education, the organisation of education in Estonia is eclectic in some regards, and the division of responsibility between different partners does not satisfy the Estonian school or the Estonian society. Aaviksoo pointed out that the state and the local government must ensure education and also the financing thereof.

“One of the focal issues in the upcoming reconsideration of the Acts concerning education is the resolution of the question of with whom the full responsibility for ensuring general education lies. The first, crucial step towards that has been taken. The state has for the first time assumed the obligation, based on law, to sustain state upper secondary schools. I am convinced that we must move on in this direction,” Aaviksoo said.

The Minister rejected the opinion that the contribution of the state to general education had decreased. “This is not true. As recently as in 2006, the contribution of the state and local governments was 50:50, that is, every kroon or euro that the state gave was covered by an equal amount by the local government. By 2012, the correlation was 56:44, and in five largest cities the state contributed 63 per cent and the local government contributed 37 per cent. I underline that it is the wealthiest local governments of Estonia who regrettably contribute the least. This problem needs addressing and solution,” Aaviksoo said.

The Minister also highlighted the difference between schools which, as he said, is the greatest in Tallinn. “The educational stratification is again the greatest here in Tallinn, but also in Kohtla-Järve and Narva,“ Aaviksoo said. He specified that the difference between some schools in Estonia corresponds to more or less five years of study which is an inadmissible gap.

When speaking before the Riigikogu, Aaviksoo also touched upon the issues of the in-service training system, the maintenance of school buildings, the study programme and teachers’ salaries. The Minister said that to spend 6–7 per cent of the gross national product on education through the public sector is not a small expenditure, and if this level is maintained and structural reorganisations are done, then it will be possible to raise teachers’ salaries next year and later.

When Jaak Aaviksoo had answered to the members of the Riigikogu, a report by Member of the Board of the Estonian Education Personnel Union and head of Viljandimaa Education Personnel Union Kaja Land followed. She pointed out the problems with the remuneration and organisation of the work of teachers. Representing the positions of the Estonian Education Personnel Union, Land said that the Union opposed the elimination of the national standards of the hourly workload and the establishment of a single minimum remuneration rate for teachers nationally. She also pointed out controversies that had emerged upon implementation of Acts.

The third report was by Vice-Chairman of the Association of Municipalities of Estonia Vello Jõgisoo who pointed out as the main question the distribution of the education support allocated to local governments from the state budget. Representing the positions of the Association, Jõgisoo said that the capacity of a local government to perform its function must not become disproportionately dependent on the Government’s decisions. In his words, there are also problems with taking account of the special needs of regions and the “close to home” principle.

The last report to be made at the deliberation was by Deputy Chairman of the Estonian Centre Party Faction Mailis Reps who pointed out as three main topics the issues relating to teachers, the organisation of the school network and the financing of general education. Reps spoke about the growth of the real salary of teachers, their hourly workload, the school network and the financing model.

“As concerns changes and reforms, then they have indeed had a very clear positive impact during the last half year,” Reps said when answering to questions. “The positive impact is that probably – and I sincerely hope that – there is no one in the society who does not understand that the developments in the education are very important and the issue of teachers’ salaries is no longer an object of only political discussion but also fundamental discussion,” Reps continued.

Members of the Riigikogu Jaak Allik, Urmas Klaas, Tarmo Tamm and Andrus Saare took the floor during the debate.

The plenary assembly of the Riigikogu concluded the second reading of three drafts and passed a Resolution.

The Bill on Amendments to the Public Procurement Act and the Code of Administrative Court Procedure (474 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the second reading. The Bill ensures more specific regulation of this sphere so that contracting authorities would have an opportunity to make more effective use of the institutions of the dynamic purchasing system and framework agreement provided for by law. Ambiguities are eliminated and the regulation concerning the time limit for applying for review is specified.

The Bill on Amendments to the Insurance Activities Act, the Auditors’ Activities Act and the Investment Funds Act (475 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the second reading. The main aim of the Bill is to ensure effective functioning of the system of governance of insurance undertakings.

The Bill on Amendments to the Act on Granting International Protection to Aliens and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (509 SE), initiated by the Government, also passed the second reading. The Bill is motivated by a European Union directive and provides minimum standards for the qualification and status of third country nationals or stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection and the content of the protection granted.

On the motion of the Economic Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Motor Third Party Liability Insurance Bill (423 SE), initiated by the Government, was suspended. 41 motions to amend the Bill had been submitted in total. The Committee supported all motions with the exception of a motion to amend submitted by the Estonian Centre Party Faction. The new deadline for submission of motions to amend is 19 December.

The Riigikogu passed the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Appointment of an Auditor for Supervising the Activities of the National Audit Office in 2013–2015” (535 OE), initiated by the Finance Committee. With the Resolution, Grant Thornton Rimess OÜ was appointed to supervise the activities of the National Audit Office in 2013-2015.  48 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Resolution, nobody was against and nobody abstained.

The Resolution of the Riigikogu “Amendment of the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Formation of the Security Authorities Surveillance Select Committee”” (534 OE), initiated by the Estonian Centre Party Faction, passed the first reading. The Resolution provides for appointment of Enn Eesmaa a member of the Select Committee instead of Aadu Must, and Priit Toobal his alternate member. The term for submission of motions to amend before the second reading is 17 December.

The Riigikogu extended the time of the sitting from 1.00 p.m. to 2.00 p.m. and the sitting was adjourned due to the end of the working hours at the last item on the agenda, the first reading of the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Amendment of the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Formation of the State Budget Control Select Committee”” (540 OE), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction.

The verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)

The Riigikogu Press Service