Important activities in the 2019/2020 academic year (excerpts), 2020

Summary of performance reports



13. While the share of students completing basic education at a Russian language-medium school and having achieved at least level B1 proficiency in Estonian15 has increased as compared with 2011 (56% in 2011; 61% in 2018), reaching the target for 2020 (90%) is not realistic. In order to best reflect the progress regarding the Estonian language skills of young people whose native language is other than Estonian, regardless whether they attend an Estonian-medium or a Russian-medium school or participate in an Estonian language immersion programme, we also monitor, besides graduates from Russian-medium basic schools, the Estonian language skills of those basic school graduates whose native language is other than Estonian16 – 69.2% of such students achieved at least level B1 in 2018.

15 Source: Innove and EHIS.

16 Source: Innove and EHIS.

14. After the partial adoption of Estonian as the language of instruction in Russian-medium upper secondary schools, 1. the language skills of school leavers have somewhat improved. While 23% of school leavers failed to achieve a B2 language proficiency level before the transfer, in 2018 the share of such students was 19% (data from EHIS and EIS). The share of students who achieve a high score in the level B2 test (over 75 points) and would be able to sit the level C1 test has also increased – in recent years, nearly two thirds of those who sat an exam of Estonian as a second language scored high marks.

In the 2018/2019 academic year, the number of general education teachers was 15,465; 94% of them have at least B2 and 88% C1 level language skills in Estonian. These indicators have not improved in recent years – in 2012, 93% of general education teachers had at least B2-level knowledge of Estonian and 87% at least C1. Estonian language skills among teachers of pre-primary establishments are somewhat weaker. In the academic year 2018/2019, there was a total of 1,929 (general education, vocational and preprimary) teachers (8% of total teaching staff) with inadequate Estonian language skills. Improving language skills is important not only for adopting Estonian as the language of instruction (e.g. in upper secondary schools) but also because in schools where teachers’ language skills are inadequate17, those of their students are also weaker.

17 Teachers using Estonian as the language of instruction or teachers teaching Estonian – at least level C1; all other teachers – at least level B2.


Estonian language and estonianness


5. English is the most popular foreign language in Estonian schools (as elsewhere in Europe) – the number of students learning English is nearly double those learning Russian, the second most popular foreign language (2018/2019 academic year)31. A survey on foreign language skills conducted in early 2018 showed that English is most beneficial in the labour market – in most fields a good command of English means a significant pay rise. More attention should be paid to improving the foreign language skills of people whose native language is other than Estonian. According to PIIAC 2012, only 4% of Estonians in the youngest age group (16-24-year-olds) did not speak English, but among people whose native language is Russian the share of such people was 27%. 80% of Estonians and 46% of non-Estonians have a good command of English.

31 Source: EHIS.

Document data: 2019. Link:

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