School education switches to Estonian


The Riigikogu has adopted the legislative projects required for the transition to universal education in Estonian. The Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act, the Preschool Education Act, the Private Education Institutions Act and the Vocational Institutions Act now clearly state that the language of instruction is Estonian.

Minister of Education and Research Tõnis Lukas said that the transition to Estonian-language education has now been approved by law.

School education switches to Estonian
Photo by Madis Veltman /

«Thank you to everyone who has contributed! I am pleased that the various parties have come to a common understanding that the transition to Estonian-language teaching must be done quickly. Switching the teaching and learning activities of all Estonian schools and kindergartens to Estonian is the main goal of the current government coalition, which is in the interest of the future of children and young people» said Minister.

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«We want all children in Estonia, regardless of their mother tongue, to be able to receive a quality education in Estonian. This will ensure that we have an Estonian-speaking society and thus a common information space, the need for which is obvious if we understand and oppose Russia’s imperialist interests. The Ministry of Education and Research will certainly give plenty of support to all municipalities, schools and kindergartens to ensure a smooth transition» promises Minister Lukas.

The transition to Estonian will be implemented first in kindergartens and in the 1st and 4th grades during the academic year 2024/2025. The full transition to Estonian-language education will be completed by the beginning of the 2029/2030 school year. The curricula of upper secondary schools and vocational education institutions may comprise up to 40 per cent of the total teaching in other languages by the academic year 2029/2030. Schools are obliged to ensure the transition to Estonian-language teaching in 10th grades no later than 2030/2031 and in 11th grades no later than 2031/2032.

In the 12th grades, fully Estonian-language teaching is to be organised by the academic year 2032/2033. In vocational education and training institutions, the changes will affect students studying in secondary vocational education and training.

In order to continue to provide instruction in a language other than Estonian in all classes in the academic year 2024/25, permission must be obtained from the Government, which may grant a one-year exception to an institution or an individual group at the request of the rural municipality or city council.

Schools with advanced European language teaching that have already received government permission before 1 September 2024 can continue to operate under the current conditions. This means that they do not have to apply for a new permit every year. Non-Estonian language schools may also use the IB curriculum in some classes. For teaching children and young people with special needs, another language may be used alongside Estonian, if necessary, or only the other language.

As now, for pupils whose mother tongue is not the language of instruction or who speak a language other than the language of instruction at home, the school will continue to offer mother tongue and culture lessons if at least ten pupils with the same mother tongue so wish.

The qualification requirements for teachers are supplemented by the Estonian language proficiency requirement, according to which teachers must have a command of Estonian at the C1 level. Compared to the original draft act, the language proficiency requirement for heads of educational institutions was postponed by one year earlier at the request of the Ministry during the procedure in the Riigikogu. They will have to meet the Estonian language proficiency level C1 as of 1 August 2023.

School leaders will become leaders and role models for their staff throughout the transition period. For teachers and support staff, proficiency in Estonian will be introduced as a qualification requirement from 1 August 2024.

The state will support the transition to Estonian-language instruction with planned activities and financial support. As of September 2023, a minimum wage coefficient of 1.5 will be introduced for all teachers of Ida-Virumaa and 1.3 for nursery school teachers.

All educators will be offered language and in-service training courses and school leaders will be able to participate in various professional development projects. An increase in teachers’ salaries will also make a significant contribution to the professional development of teachers.

Schools and kindergartens can also receive various state subsidies for teaching in Estonian and acquiring teaching materials. New language tests and teaching materials are being developed, and a new electronic platform for teaching materials is being created in pre-school education.

Existing teaching and learning materials will be systematised. New linguistic tools are being added to facilitate the teaching and learning of Estonian as a second language. The supervision of the teaching of Estonian and in Estonian has already been expanded, and the Language Board will be involved in the supervision of pre-school, general and vocational education institutions. As of the academic year 2023/2024, the state will offer counselling services to support the transition to Estonian-language education.

Data source:

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