Estonia – new law banning mother - tongue education 2023

March 7, 2024

On 12 December 2022, the Estonian Parliament adopted, The Amendment Law to the Basic School and Gymnasium Law and Other Laws (Transition to Estonian-Language Education) 722 SE”,[1] which establishes that the full transition to Estonian-language education will start in 2024 and would be finalised by 2030.

The law seems to violate the rights to language, culture, and identity of 20% of Estonian citizens who are of Russian ethnic origin and/or Russian speakers who belong to the Russian minority community but have no Estonian citizenship. Furthermore, the United Nation speakers say that it breaches the European Union TEU (Article 3) and the commitments to the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of the National Minorities (FCNM), to which Estonia has been a State-party since 1997.

The transition to the Estonian language at pre-schools and schools becomes a subject of concern for human rights activists in the United Nations. The recent legislation to restrict the education in the Estonian minority language and its transition to the Estonian language is to become compulsory including the bilingual institutions. The human rights activists concern that it’s a violation of human rights of the minorities.

The legislation on transition to Estonian-language education adopted by the Estonian parliament “Riigikogu” on December 12,2022 introduces restrictive and potentially discriminatory measures affecting the rights of ethnic and linguistic minorities. In other words, the minority language has been effectively eliminated as a medium of instruction.

There are wide concerns that however, this new legislation might affect the members of the Russian linguistic minority, who make up a significant proportion of the country's population.

However, the foreign minister Marcus Tsahkna expressed his views that Estonia has been preparing for the transition to Estonian-language education in schools for a long time in order to offer all children, irrespective of their native language, the opportunity to acquire quality education in Estonian, create uniform opportunities on the labor market and increase the cohesion of society.

The law also stipulates that Estonian will be the only language of instruction in schools and childcare facilities.

Sign Up For News Updates / Enquiries and Registrations

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Sign Up For News Updates/Enquiries and Registrations
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.