Language learning, digital transformation and peace in schools highlight the new school and academic year, told Mailis Reps, the Minister of Education and Research today at the press conference marking the new school year. Kindergartens with Russian as language of instruction will have more Estonian-speaking teachers, number ways to learn Estonian online will be greater than ever and digital transformation will have comprehensive approach from the renewal of IT infrastructure and devices for creating digital learning materials to enhancing the digital competences. To ensure the peace in schools, the government will improve the implementation of anti-bullying programs and widens the possibilities for teachers to prevent the emergence of situations jeopardizing safety at school.
Minister Mailis Reps marked that one of the focus areas is teaching Estonian language in kindergartens and the successful pilot year will be enlarged by providing more Estonian-speaking teachers for kindergartens with Russian as the language of instruction. “We seek to create more ways to learn Estonian language online for people to learn it whenever and wherever,” said Reps. She added that satisfaction among students will be increased by enhanced learning environment boosted by the renewal of school’s IT infrastructure, additional smart devices and widened selection of digital learning materials. “The upcoming academic year will be overwhelming in terms of digital transformation in Estonian schools. Alongside, we will emphasize the importance of secure school and improve the peace in school in order to increase the well-being of students and staff.”
The Ministry supports the spread of programs for secure and value-oriented approach in educational institutions. Ministry has increased the allocations from central budget, exceeding half million euros for this and upcoming year. There is special focus on vocational education institutions and schools with Russian as the language of instruction. The Concept of Bullying-Free Education (In Estonian: kiusamisvaba haridustee kontseptsioon) is under renewal together with partner organizations.
Changes in the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act that enter in force from September provides teachers with greater rights to prevent the emergence of situations jeopardizing safety at school. Teachers have rights to check students’ bags or locker and take custody of objects that are not in accordance with the school’s internal rules.
The Ministry emphasizes the comprehensive approach on the digital transformation in education and upcoming actions include the renewal of school’s IT infrastructure, distribution of digital devices, creation of digital learning materials and development of the digital competences among students.
The IT infrastructure of 164 general and vocational education schools will be developed or renewed, rest of the schools will be updated in 2021-2022. Digital and smart devices were upgraded in cooperation with school owners during the previous academic year, those allow now to teach more complicated IT skills. The pilot year of digital learning materials, launched last autumn, was successful and the selection of materials will be widened. All learning materials can also accessed by parents. The Ministry will support educational technology companies to develop new learning and learning solutions.
The pilot project for the IT Academy in vocational education will launch in order to keep education in accordance to the needs of IT sector and supports pursuing of diploma in the field. The newly developed curricula in vocational education lasts for 4 years and has increased amount of general education, there is also close cooperation with employers.
The state strongly supports digital solutions that allow people to learn Estonian language whenever and wherever for free. Keeletee, the new advanced language course (B1) will be available from September. It allows for independent studies of Estonian language for native English or Russian speakers and it follows the popular Estonian language digital course Keeleklikk.
Other important topics and actions
- There are number of new and renovated school building.
Eight basic schools will start new school year in renovated building in Aseri, Jõgeva, Paide, Juuru, Viljandi, Tabivere, Põlva and Tartu. The Kohtla-Järve State Gymnasium will open. The new hall of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, student dormitory of Rakvere Vocational School and Delta Center of the University of Tartu will open. The building of the new Tallinn School of Music and Ballet will be started in early 2020.
- Teachers find their profession even more and more valued.
TALIS reports that the number of teachers who feel that their profession is valued has doubled over five years: 13% compared to 26%. Teachers are loyal to their profession, shows the study on teachers’ career path and mobility in general education schools. 40% of teachers who left schools start teaching again. Over past five years, there are more new teachers than those who left.
- There will be new curricula for the pre-primary education.
The new legislation for pre-primary education is also under preparation. The Ministry values pre-primary education teachers and additional funds have been allocated to the local municipal governments. The average salary of pre-primary education teachers has increased in Harju county from 736 euros in 2014 to 1147 euros in 2019 compared to Ida-Virumaa country where the salary has increased from 584 euros in 2014 to 1161 euros in 2019. The average salary of pre-primary education teachers in Estonia was 1145 in this spring. The number of applications for the studies of profession at the University of Tartu suggest the increase of popularity of the profession.
- There will be a new examination system in general education.
The draft legislation will be discussed in Riigikogu. Students in the last grade can take internationally recognized English language test for free. The discussions on homework will continue.
- Students in vocational education training get support for finding suitable path.
Pilot program of the Career Choice studies will be enlarged to other vocational education schools. Performance indicators will be taken into account for funding vocational education institutions.
- The new higher education legislation will be implemented.
The new higher education legislation will increase the flexibility for students as well higher education institutions, it strengthens the ties between society and universities, boosts inter-intuitional cooperation and provides researchers attractive career path.
- Adult education is popular than ever before.
Estonia has reached new heights: the participation in the life-long learning is 19,7% among 25-64-year-olds. The participation in adult education has increased from 373.000 to 420.000 people. People without special of vocational training is steadily decreasing.