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8 May, 2024 14:55

Hundreds of teachers face axe over EU state language law

Educators have been ordered to learn Estonian after the government effectively banned the Russian language in schools
Hundreds of teachers face axe over EU state language law

Hundreds of educators in Estonia face losing their jobs after the government effectively banned Russian language schooling. Estonian Education Minister Kristina Kallas has been left “disappointed” after only 46 teachers passed language proficiency exams in March. 

Last year, the Baltic state’s government introduced legislation that outlawed minority language education in the country, despite ethnic Russians making up nearly a quarter of its population. Starting from August 1, teachers who do not have B2 Estonian language proficiency certification will be unable to continue working.

According to Ingar Dubolazov, head of transition to Estonian language education, 518 teachers who do not have the certificate are working in schools, and 414 in kindergartens. 

Anticipating that many of these teachers will not be able to obtain the necessary proficiency by August, Dubolazov stated that some local councils are planning to use a ‘1 teacher and 2 assistant’ system in kindergartens, where staff shortages arise. 

Dubolazov also suggested that teachers who are demoted to the position of assistant while they learn the language and try to obtain C1 certification could be allowed to maintain their salary as “additional motivation.” 

The education minister has also suggested that Estonian youngsters should stick to using their native language when communicating with Russian children during breaks between classes. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, no relation to Kristina Kallas, also suggested on Wednesday that all citizens should avoid using Russian and only speak Estonian, even if those they are talking to don’t understand the language. 

Estonia’s elimination of minority language education has been regarded as a violation of human rights law by UN experts, who have stressed that the new legislation causes “grave concern.” 

Last year, the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published a report surmising that Estonia’s new education law introduces “restrictive and potentially discriminatory measures affecting the rights of ethnic and linguistic minorities in education” and “effectively eliminated” minority language as a medium of instruction. 

They also decried the closure of a large number of Russian-language schools in the country, despite ethnic Russians making up “a significant portion of the country’s population” and protests from parents and children. 

Moscow has also repeatedly accused Estonia of pursuing blatantly Russophobic policies as Tallinn has sided with Kiev in the Ukraine conflict and has cracked down on the Baltic state’s Russian residents.