Estonia's education response to the influx of Ukrainian students
Preschool and Basic Education
Access to pre-primary and compulsory education is free and open to all. Given Ukrainian families’ varying planned time-horizons for their stay in Estonia, the Ministry of Education and Research will provide children and young people from Ukraine with customized short-term and long-term options to continue their education. The goal of the long-term plan is to integrate children into the local education system. Indeed, for basic education, parents will be able to choose whether their child is taught in Estonian or Russian, with a preference given to the former. On 21 March 2022, it was reported that half the children of Ukrainian refugees registered in the education system joined Estonian-language schools, 30% language immersion schools and 30% went to Russian-speaking schools.
With the large influx of Ukrainian students in Tallinn, the Government stated it will probably have to create a new school for the children of Ukrainian war refugees where 40% of studies would be in Ukrainian and 60% in Estonian.
Secondary, Vocational and Higher Education
If learners complete their basic education they will have access to secondary education, vocational training, as well as higher education.
Foreign-language curricula in vocational schools are primarily in Russian. The Valga County Vocational Training Centre also has one English language curriculum (logistics).
The competent authority for assessing the qualifications of Ukrainian refugees without educational documents or with partial documents is the Estonian ENIC/NARIC Centre, in line with the Lisbon Recognition Convention.
All Estonian universities are ready to admit Ukrainian youth in the new academic year. The admission of the Ukrainian students is based, as always, on academic ability. The students who were forced to drop out of university in Ukraine will be helped to transfer credits. Currently, there are 274 Ukrainian students studying at 10 different Estonian universities. Universities in Estonia provide education in Estonian, English or Russian.
The Ministry of Education and Research has provided information and resources to support teachers, while the Education and Youth Board provides trainings on how to support students who do not speak Estonian and those who are traumatized in a classroom. Guidance is provided on how to discuss the Ukrainian war in schools and a school psychologists’ helpline was set up, offering support in Ukrainian, Estonian and Russian. The schools will provide the students with essential school supplies and teachers are instructed to give homework to students in paper format as Ukrainian families may not have access to internet or printing at home.
The Ministry of Education and Research is also mapping teachers from Ukraine, with the support of the local Ukrainian community and the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
Pre-primary and compulsory education is free to all.
Ukrainian studying in Estonian universities are all exempted from tuition fee for the spring semester 2022. Several universities have already decided to also exempt them from tuition fee for the autumn semester 2022. They can also apply for needs-based support. Finally, all Estonian universities have set up a scholarship funds to help Ukrainian students. Contributions to these funds are expected from the people from the universities, alumni and other Estonians.
The EU issued operational guidelines for the implementation of Council implementing Decision 2022/382, establishing the existence of a mass influx of displaced persons from Ukraine within the meaning of Article 5 of Directive 2001/55/EC, and having the effect of introducing temporary protection (2022/C 126 I/01). As such, EU Member States shall grant access to their education system to persons under 18 years old enjoying the temporary protection status under the same conditions as their own nationals and EU citizens.
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