“Superficial” is how the think tank Praxis described the new Cabinet’s integration policies, having studied political campaign promises and the coalition’s activities program.
“Integration, the openness of society and tolerance are viewed as tools for strengthening Estonia’s economy and international competitiveness,” a fresh study by the group concludes.
The coalition’s main talking point has been that success in Estonia demands proficiency in the official language as a prerequisite; the most notable reform has been in Russian-curriculum upper secondary schools, which are mandated to begin a shift to teaching 60 percent of their materials in the Estonian language in the fall.
Praxis generally agreed with these principles, but said the approach is outdated, that the competitiveness of youths on the job market can be bolstered in more ways than just learning Estonian. This has been a common critisim of the opponents of school reforms, who argue that the education of Russian-speaking students will suffer if they are forced to study difficult materials in a non-native language. Praxis asserted that there has been a lack of youth outreach and access to career counseling specifically for native Russian speakers.
“That could be one of the reasons that a large portion of native speakers of other languages wish to or plan to continue their studies and work abroad. To use the Reform Party’s rhetoric, Estonia is every year losing a significant amount of human capital,” the authors wrote.
Other areas of integration have been left in the dust, the study found. Neglect has been a common sentiment, Praxis said, for the parents of Russian-curriculum students. The coalition has not communicated enough with the parents and has failed to incorporate them into the transition, the study concluded.
The coalition has also abandoned innovative and flexible language teaching methods, according to Praxis, that lie outside of the formal education system – such as children’s summer camps specializing in language, family exchange programs, and cultural excursions.
“[These] activities have all given very positive results,” wrote Praxis. “But the Cabinet’s activities program plans to review the funding cuts only when ‘financial opportunities arise,’ which does not ensure a secure future.”
A positive attribute of the Cabinet’s policies, Praxis found, was the promise to give more attention to the integration of freshly naturalized Estonian citizens.