News and press releases
April 16, 2008: Non-Estonians recognise importance of transition to Estonian-language studies
The results of a survey carried out by TNS Emor were presented at the Ministry of Education and Research today, revealing that almost all of the Russian-speaking population is aware of the transition to Estonian-language studies in Russian-language high schools and that the majority agree that the transition will have a positive influence.
More than 80 percent of respondents felt that students’ Estonian-speaking skills will improve as a result of their studies in Estonian and that their options for further studies will also improve. Approximately three-quarters of respondents feel that the competitiveness of students from Russian-language schools on the labour market will also improve as a result of their Estonian-language studies. The need for the transition is nevertheless generally seen as being required for the state, with little personal connection. At the same time, it is seen as more necessary for Russians than for Estonians, suggesting that Estonian-language studies are no longer viewed as a form of harassment by Estonians.
Regardless of the potential positive effects, the transition is viewed as added burden and psychological stress for students, although almost half of respondents admit that they are not aware of the influence of the transition on the level of the students’ knowledge or on how much they have to learn. Slightly more than half of those surveyed are concerned that Estonian-language studies will endanger the survival of Russian language and culture in Estonia, although almost half concede that they do not know what effect the transition will have on Russian language and culture.
People are generally aware of the details of the transition. Most frequently nominated as the subjects in which the transition to Estonian-language studies is compulsory were those whose teaching in Estonian is indeed mandatory according to the national curriculum. The majority of the Russian-speaking population likewise know that the transition is being implemented in stages over five academic years.
Around half of those surveyed have had personal experience of studying in a foreign language, of which the majority (almost 90 percent) considered the experience to be positive or very positive.
A little more than a third of respondents are critical of the availability of information related to the transition, while around half have noted positive changes in the availability of such information.
The survey “Estonian-language studies in high schools with Russian as the language of instruction: awareness and attitude of non-Estonians and the factors influencing these” incorporated one thousand Russian-speaking Estonian citizens.
The transition to Estonian-language studies in Russian-language high schools began last autumn with the teaching of Estonian literature in Estonian to Year 10 classes. “The transition to studies in Estonian has started well,” said Irene Käosaar, director of the Minorities Education Department of the Ministry of Education and Research. “A lot of methodically prepared and very involved work has been done and is continuing to be done. Students and teachers alike have taken to studying Estonian literature in Estonian. It may be too early to talk about the results of the development of their Estonian, but the students are certainly more willing to express themselves in Estonian and the teachers more confident teaching in the language.”
All schools will continue to teach Estonian literature in Estonian during the 2008-2009 academic year as well as introducing Estonian-language social studies or music (or both). 41 schools are planning to teach more than the two compulsory subjects in Estonian, with the most popular choices being physical education, art, people studies, Estonian history and computer studies. There are 63 Russian-language high schools in Estonia at present.