At today’s plenary sitting, deliberation of the matter of significant national importance “Transition to instruction in Estonian at Russian-language nurseries and schools” was held at the initiative of the Faction Isamaa. The reporters noted that transition to instruction in Estonian was possible, but it would take time.
Member of the Faction Isamaa Viktoria Ladõnskaja-Kubits said that it was clear that Estonia was moving towards a uniform Estonian-language education system, but it was important to avoid confrontation. She pointed out that both Estonian-speaking people and Russian-speaking people wished to give a good education to their children, but they feared for the preservation of their mother tongue. “It is necessary to give the Russians in Estonia reassurance that, in an Estonian school, a child will not lose his or her identity, will not be alienated from his or her mother or father, or the roots of his or her ancestors,” she stressed. The member of the Riigikogu also pointed to the problem that there were not enough teachers for the current system, and therefore she underlined that more teachers had to be brought into the education system. “And most importantly: Estonians must be reassured that the Estonian language will be preserved through the ages,” she added.
In his report, Director of Ida-Virumaa Vocational Education Centre Hannes Mets said that 207 of the 2350 students studying at the education centre were studying in Estonian, and the rest were studying in Russian, and 140 of the 180 teachers taught in Russian, while the rest were capable of teaching in two languages. In the director’s words, there is a great shortage of specialist teachers who would teach in two languages, and if we are to find more teachers, they must be trained already now. Mets said that, for the situation to change, a student should be able to understand Estonian when commencing studies, and be motivated to study in Estonian, and the need for the Estonian language should increase in Ida-Virumaa. In Mets’s opinion, that process would take 10–20 years.
Mart Rannut, Estonian linguist, Associate Professor at Narva College of the University of Tartu, said that the transition to instruction in Estonian was realistic, and the Estonian state was able to do it. In the scientist’s words, a change is needed in the basic school, and emphasis needs to be laid on nursery, too. “Up to now, we have had it vice-versa,” Rannut pointed out. As a faster option, he suggested transition to instruction in Estonian in all stages of study, as well as in nurseries, at the same time. Rannut added that a preparatory year was also needed. Ida-Virumaa should be regarded separately, the scientist said, because an artificial language environment must be created there at first, but the transition to instruction in Estonian can be resolved to the extent of 90 per cent right away. “If we set ourselves to the task, we will accomplish it, and in no more than four years.”
During the debate, Aadu Must and Oudekki Loone from the Centre Party Faction, Priit Sibul and Sven Sester from Faction Isamaa, Jürgen Ligi and Maris Lauri from the Reform Party Faction, Jevgeni Ossinovski from the Social Democratic Party Faction and Krista Aru from the Free Party Faction took the floor.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu (The recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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