Private sector responds to taste for Russian

June 16, 2006

There is still demand for university courses taught in Russian in Estonia, and a new private sector is developing despite efforts to marginalise the language at school level.

Proposals to reform secondary education in the country include introducing Estonian as the language of tuition for some subjects taught in Russian-medium secondary schools.

The Russian-speaking population is made up of so-called Russian aliens and their children, who settled in the country in the Soviet era and declined to take the citizenship test, which is in Estonian, and a new generation of ethnic Russians who qualify as citizens but prefer to study in Russian.

After a significant drop in the early 1990s, when many Russians left Estonia, the demand for Russian-taught education has stabilised.

Nevertheless, the remaining Russians - and, according to Russian-language newspaper Molodezh Estonii , other minority groups of former Soviet incomers - see the use of Russian as a language of tuition as a major factor in preserving ethnic identity.

Official figures from the Estonian Education Ministry reveal that about 10 per cent of the country's students are taught in Russian.

About a third of these students attend state universities and state-run specialist professional institutes. The remainder study at private universities that teach their courses in Russian.

The number of the latter institutions is said to be on the increase in Estonia.

The percentage of students from Russian-taught schools ranges from about 10 per cent in Tallinn Technical University, Tartu Aviation College, the Theatrical and Music Academy and the Academy of Art to about a quarter at the University of Tallinn.

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