Reform of secondary education in post-communist Estonia: advancing or dismantling social cohesion
Garcia, Cassandra Jo
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The concept of integration in the most basic of senses refers to intermixing of groups of people that were previously segregated. Estonia, as the focal point of this study as opposed to another post-Soviet nation, is unique in that it is such a small country, and this state possesses a variety of traits that distinguishes it from other states in the process of reform and from other multicultural states. Over 25% of the population of Estonia speaks Russian as their mother tongue, and currently the youth of these Russian-speaking communities are feeling the weight of the integration process. Education reform has been put in place in Russian-language schools so that the students will speak Estonian better and therefore will have more opportunities than previous generations to become well integrated in society. This seems harmless, but a debate has arisen over the period of this reform’s implementation that questions the potential success of this integration. This thesis focuses on the implementation of the Estonian integration program, specifically through the educational reform and whether or not the measures enacted have been successful. By looking at the process of the education reform in two phases, visiting specific Russian-language and Estonian immersion schools, interviewing individuals integral to the process itself and cross-referencing this study with others done on similar topics in the past, the researcher is able to analyze the results of the Estonian integration program as it stands in 2011. Using models of multiculturalism and its critiques, the researcher brings a better understanding of the diversity of the country. One of the largest setbacks for this country and its attempts at reform is the uneven distribution of resources, be they qualified teachers, materials, textbooks, monetary funding or otherwise. With any integration, there are debates, and among the main reasons for success or failure of such integration programs, the researcher outlines that community involvement and a positive environment, as well as realistic expectations are all solid contributors.