Transition to Estonian-language instruction in Estonia: interpretations and actions of the teachers of Russian-medium schools
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Educational reform in Estonia has proven to be a time-consuming and complicated process. In the school year 2007/2008, the step-by-step implementation of the transition to Estonian-language instruction was started. By 2011/2012 this transition resulted in 60% of the curriculum being taught in Estonian language in the upper secondary grades. On a classroom level this meant that both teachers and students in Russian-language schools had to adapt a different language of instruction, from Russian to Estonian. Central in this study are the roles, believes, and actions of teachers during the, still ongoing, implementation of this transition. In order to investigate this, the framework of street-level bureaucrats is applied as a potential explanation for the roles of teachers during the implementation. In this research twelve teachers from Russian-medium schools participated, teaching subjects, Estonian language, and English language. Firstly, this research focussed upon the teachers, their attitudes, the changes that occurred in their classrooms, and the impact of the language transition. Secondly, the framework of street-level bureaucrats was applied to investigate whether teachers defined themselves as street-level bureaucrats, used their discretional space to change the policy, and were influenced by external relationships. Finally, some theoretical adjustments were suggested in order to make the theory of street-level bureaucracy fit better to the context. This study will conclude that teachers from Russian-medium school can be perceived as street-level bureaucrats to a certain extent depending on which aspects are taken into account.