The education influences the process of integration through all levels of education – above all through the study of the national language, the socialisation of the young, and helping to form contacts between nations. In order to integrate different nationalities into society with the support of the education system, one option would be to create mixed kindergartens and classrooms when the children are already young. But to make this option work, there has to be prior knowledge about the attitudes and readiness of the people.
The 2015 survey reaveals that both Estonians and other nationalities are in favour of kindergarten groups and classes, where the children do not have the same mother toungue, but different nationality groups have different opinions about the organisational side. While Estonians prefer to have only a few children whose mother tongue is not Estonian per group or classroom, then other nationalities prefer a situation where the division is equal. Both nationality groups are unanimous that the most suitable time to start teaching in Estonian is already in kindergarten.
The graph shows the willingness to agree to mixed groups and classrooms under different circumstances. (Integration monitoring 2011 and 2015)
Eve Mägi, the education analyst at Praxis, says that the systematic learning of Estonian should begin already at kindergarten and continue all through the school years. Teachers’ readiness and their ability to teach groups and classrooms with different mother tongues should be supported and developed.
To create better possibilites for further education and better job opportunities for children who do no speak Estonian, in 2007 Russian secondary schools were initiated to switch to partly teaching in Estonian. The Estonians’ evaluation of that process shows that they think teaching in Estonian improves the Estonian skills of the Russian students, makes the graduates of Russian schools more competitive in the job market, and widens their opportunities for further education and learning. But the last thing was less agreed upon by the representatives of other nationalities (3.5 vs 2.8), and compared to 2010 their evaluation of this point has significantly declined.
The graph evaluates the possible influences of switching to teaching in Estonian in Russian speaking schools (Integration monitoring 2015). Note: the evaluations are given on a scale of 1-4, where 1 stands for „do no agree at all“ and 4 „agree completely“.
Representatives of other nationalities thought that it is positive that the switch helps to form contacts between Estonians and the Russian speaking society – the result has grown significantly compared to 2010.
The more important conclusions from other fields from the monitoring of 2015:
- The Estonian skills of other nationalities improve and the positive symbolic meaning of the Estonian language grows.
- Younger people from different nationalities trust Estonian national institutions as much as the youth of Estonia does, significantly more than the older Russian speaking generation.
- Markers that measure the strength of Estonian national identity are good, they are connected to the Estonian Russians’ sense of belonging and the Estonians’ willingness to include them.
- Compared to earlier monitorings, Estonians’ views on citizenship demands have softened. The majority thinks that Estonian citizenship should be given to all children born in Estonia, regardless of their parents’ citizenship, and also all other people born in Estonia.
- The amount of people with an undetermined citizenship is decreasing slowly, and among them are also young people born in Estonia. And according to their own evaluations, 23% of those with an undetermined citizenship speak Estonian well enough.
- Estonians from different nationalities feel the socio-economic and political inequality more, their feelings have increased, and the results of the reform of Russian speaking schools are also sensed in a negative way.
- Other nationalities still trust Estonian national institutions significantly less than Estonians do.
- The integration in Ida-Virumaa county is still weaker compared to other areas in Estonia.