Thursday, August 30, 2007

Back To School

Russia Today is a 24-hour news channel, the English-language arm of Kremlin wire service RIA Novosti. The channel's website boasts:
"Millions of viewers switch on to Russia Today to learn what other media are not likely to have".
Feel free to giggle.

The reason I'm mentioning it is this video, a segment about Estonia's school reform. According to the anchor, "Russian-speaking children in Estonia are in for big changes when the new school year starts next month. Fresh laws mean all lessons have to be taught in Estonian, the country's only official language."

This is, quite simply, not true. I've talked about this before: the current plan is to gradually introduce more and more classes taught in Estonian, up to 60% of the entire curriculum over the next few years. I've also talked about why it's a stupid idea and what would be the right way of doing it. But that's not the point today.

The point today is yet another tired effort at pointing out the Russian media's blatant lies about Estonia, and specifically about the "abuse" of Russian-speakers here. The partial transcript conveniently omits the part of the segment that talks about a gradual fade-out of Russian in schools, and the local citizen and mother of a small girl* saying she sent her daughter to an all-Estonian school because she, herself, was not confident in the quality of education that would be available in Russian schools in the future. Despite being a school history teacher herself. (Saw a statistic the other day, apparently some 17% of Russian-speaking kids are going to Estonian-speaking schools this year.)

Really, I'm only posting this because it was mentioned in my LiveJournal feed. Official Russian media lying through the teeth is not news. Nor is it surprising to see them make such an obvious blunder.

But it does still raise a chuckle.


Giustino said...

I saw that too. I also agree that it is a dumb idea to introduce it in the 10th grade. I am wondering if that is a constitutional issue -- minority schools can determine their own language, the Education Ministry interprets that it can determine the language of instruction after grade 9 (median education level) is completed --

I should go back and read the constitution, but there might be some foundational reasoning there. If you go to the Education Ministry's website -- -- you can see they have FAQs in english as the first page.

By the way, I was looking at the Statistical Office's monthly publication. Twice as many people died in Ida Viru county than were born. In Tallinn and Tartu the population grew. In all other counties there were slight decreases. This begs the question, how big exactly will the Russian minority be in 10 or 15 years, especially with kids going to Estonian school?

The Social Dem in me thinks itw ould be great to 'guarantee' a percentage of minority language instruction, but this situation is hard to get a grip on. You're a better 'expert' -- I'll take your word.

antyx said...

The constitutional/minority question is long and possibly interesting, but it's irrelevant for now: cultural minorities have to be expressly declared and recognized for the provisions to apply, and Russians have not been declared an official cultural minority.

AndresS said...

The consitution says the following:
Chapter 2, § 37: Igaühel on õigus saada eestikeelset õpetust. Õppekeele vähemusrahvuse õppeasutuses valib õppeasutus.

In English:

Everyone has the right to receive instruction in Estonian. The language of instruction in national minority educational institutions shall be chosen by the educational institution.

Now, the question is how you define Russian schools. Since they are setup, funded and managed by the Estonian government it would seem to me that the government is within it's right to determine the language of instructions.

Russians are to be free to set up their own schools and teach solely in Russian if they so choose.

antyx said...

Again, this pretty much depends on how you interpret vähemusrahvuse õppeasutus. Russians are not officially recognized as a vähemusrahvus.

But I agree, if there were non-government-funded Russian schools, those would probably be tolerated. (There have been attempts at private schools teaching in Russian, they never produced any good results.)

klx said...

...the Education Ministry interprets that it can determine the language of instruction after grade 9.

well i guess this explains why they aren't starting at the other end of education (kindergarten), which would seem a much more effective/obvious/easier choice for language instruction.

antyx said...

There may be some legal trick there that I'm not aware of, but I think the grade 9 cutoff has more to do with the fact that kids don't have to stay in school after it. The law guarantees everyone an education up to grade 12, if they want it, but the kid can choose to leave school after grade 9.

Giustino said...

Russians are not officially recognized as a vähemusrahvus.


Article 2 of the Law on Cultural Autonomy for National Minorities states:

(2) National minority cultural autonomy may be established by persons belonging to German, Russian, Swedish and Jewish minorities and persons belonging to national minorities with a membership of more than 3000.

I would interpret then that Germans, Russians, Swedes, and Jews are considered 'national minorities' in Estonia to some degree.


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