Tartu Annelinna Upper Secondary School, one of the institutions where the faster transition plan will take effect, Source: Tartu Municipality / Silver Siilak

Tartu schools will exclude Russian language education ahead of national deadline

Tartu schools will exclude Russian language education ahead of national deadline

The city has drafted its own education language transition plan with the aim of ensuring equal opportunities for all students in the Estonian society

Estonia, which used to be one of the Soviet Union republics and still hosts a sizable Russian minority, has maintained a bilingual education system in the years since its 1991 independence. At the end of last year, however, and even before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the country’s education ministry completed an action plan to transition schools to Estonian-language curricula by 2035.

The City of Tartu, which is the second largest in the Baltic country, has taken the challenge to speed things up even further by developing its own education transition plan for the period 2022-2025. The argument behind this? Granting opportunities for self-realization in a country, which has increasingly turned away from its Soviet past and fostered a new national identity.

Tartu’s mayor, Urmas Klaas, describes the idea like this: “All young people must have an equal opportunity for self-fulfilment and participation in society. Estonian-language education helps children and young people to integrate into the Estonian cultural and value space providing them with equal opportunities to participate in society and working life, and to continue their studies at the next level of education entirely in Estonian. Tartu is in a relatively good starting position, as Estonian language teaching has been continuously developed in bilingual schools and kindergartens in Tartu.

Education forges the national identity

The goal of the action plan for Estonian-language education is to switch over to Estonian-language education in Tartu Annelinna Upper Secondary School, Tartu Aleksander Puškini School, and the Kelluke, Annike and Mõmmik kindergartens by the 2025/2026 school year.

It will be implemented in close cooperation with schools, parents, and experts. Estonian is taught through language immersion, which supports the development of multilingualism without harming the child’s mother tongue. In addition to the already successful exchanges of experience taking place in Tartu schools, in the coming years, the education network within Tartu will focus more broadly on supporting foreign language learners in the existing cultural and linguistic space.

Around EUR 350,000 will be earmarked each year for the implementation of the Action Plan, to be used for new job creation, teaching resources, training, and activities to support language and cultural learning. 

The issue of Estonian language education is very important throughout Estonia, and society clearly expects this issue to be actively addressed. The Tartu Action Plan serves as a guide for the rest of Estonia,” added Tartu’s Deputy Mayor Lemmit Kaplinski.



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