Foreign Language Teaching Policy in Estonian Schools

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1 Foreign Language Teaching Policy in Estonian Schools Tõnu Tender Jyväskylä,

2 Legend about disputation between Cicero and Zenon: about inborn features Few people are tasteful > copycats > so came into existence fashion Few people are tactful / delicate > politeness Few people are brave > recklessness

3 Few people are polyglots (= they have to know at least 5 languages). Most people are mono- or plurilingual (bilingual) Every person who knows (studies) many languages is not plurilingual in the meaning of CEFR, e.g. Russian so-called scientist from 19 century Platon Lukashevitch supposedly knew 220 languages (!!!)

4 The best language skills are found in relatively small Member States with not widely spoken national languages. (Eurobarometer Study, 2005) : 99% of Luxembourgish, 93% Latvians & Maltese, 90% Lithuanians & 87% Estonians know at least one other language than their mother tongue.

5 Respondents (in EU) able to participate in a conversation in another language than their mother tongue. % Country (Eurobarameter 2005, Europeans and languages P r o t s e n t v a s t a n u t e s t, k e s o n v õ im e lis e d v e s t le m a lis a k s e m a k e e le le k a m õ n e s m u u s k e e le s LU LV MT NL LT SI DK SE EE CY BE SK FI DE CZ AT EU25 EL PL FR IE ES IT PT UK HU 50% 49% 49% 45% 41% 36% 36% 36% 30% 29% 72% 71% 69% 66% 62% 60% 58% 99% 93% 93% 91% 90% 89% 88% 88% 87%

6 Fact sheet million native speakers of Estonian in the world. The population of Estonia is ~ inhabitants, 68.5% identifying themselves as Estonians and 31.5% as representatives of other nations.

7 The Foreign languages skills in Estonia (Vihalemm & Masso, 2005) Language(s) (%) Monolinguals 14% Users of 1 foreign language Users of 2 foreign languages Users of 3 or more foreign languages 34% 30% 22% Russian/ Estonian English Finnish German French Swedish Total

8 Estonia & EU Monolinguals 14% (in EU 44%) - they can communicate only in their mother tongue. Users of 1foreign language in Estonia 34% they can communicate in one foreign language Users of 2 foreign languages in Estonia 30% (in EU 28%) Users of 3 or more foreign languages 22% (in EU 11%).

9 Some facts & figures about Estonia and the Estonian language (1): The Estonian language belongs to the group of Fenno-Ugric languages. The Estonian language is the most important part of Estonian identity. The Estonian Language is the state language of Estonia (Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, Language Law/Act) and since May 1, 2004 the official language of EU. All other languages are foreign languages.

10 Some facts & figures about Estonia and the Estonian language (2): The Language Law/Act and related legal acts regulate the knowledge and use of the Estonian Language (and the possibilities to use foreign languages). The Language Law/Act allows in certain conditions the use of foreign languages and the languages of national minorities. Language policy belongs to the competence area of the Ministry of Education and Research (and to National Examination and Qualification Centre that is subordinated to the Ministry).

11 1. Where and how has the Estonian foreign language teaching policy been formulated? 2. What are the main problems in foreign language teaching in Estonia?

12 The Estonian foreign language teaching policy has been formulated in the current: Estonian National Curriculum for Basic Schools and Gymnasiums (Secondary Schools), 2002 (Põhikooli ja gümnaasiumi riiklik õppekava) & Development Strategy of the Estonian Language (Eesti keele arendamise strateegia) 2004

13 Estonian National Curriculum for Basic Schools and Gymnasiums, 2002 Compulsory: 2 foreign languages A-foreign languages (first foreign language) and B-foreign languages (second foreign language); every school can choose between English, French, German, and Russian. In schools where Russian is the language of instruction the A-language is Estonian.

14 Estonian National Curriculum for Basic Schools and Gymnasiums, 2002 (2) C-foreign language (third foreign language) every language The targets of the foreign language studies are fixed in the NC, too: - the school-leavers of the basic school are to attain level B1 in A-foreign language and close level (~ A2+/B1) in B-foreign language; the school-leavers of secondary school are to attain level B2 in A-foreign language and a level close to it (~B1+/B2) in B-foreign language.

15 Language proficiency levels (from A1 to C2) have no clear meaning in the NC 2002 the new national curriculum is being developed. Common European Framework of Reference for Languages draft-version in Estonian Euroopa keeleõppe raamdokument: õppimine, õpetamine ja hindamine (2003)

16 Development Strategy of the Estonian Language (2004) (Some) tasks: to work out a foreign language policy that will take into account the development needs of the Estonian state; to ensure such level in the teaching of foreign languages that it will enable: a) the school-leavers of the basic school to attain level B1 in at least one foreign language; b) the school-leavers of upper secondary schools to attain level B2 in at least one foreign language; c) the graduates of higher schools to attain the level B2 in at least two foreign languages; d) the teachers of foreign languages to attain the level C2 in the language that they teach; / /

17 DSEL (2004) (2) to organize in-service training in the field of major languages that consists of a) coordinated system of in-service training, b) market research for the identification of target groups and their needs, c) academic supervision; to update the teaching materials and curricula in the field of foreign language teaching and to publish bilingual dictionaries;

18 DSEL (2004) (3) to improve the framework of levels of language proficiency: a) to apply the language portfolio for recording the course of learning foreign languages and Estonian in Estonia since the school year 2006/2007 / /

19 Some Actions The project groups in the MoE&R co-operated with externalexperts: - to work out a foreign language policy strategy (Feb, 2007); - To develop ELP for grades 6-9 of the basic school (age 12-15) (validation in May 2007)

20 What are the main problems in foreign language teaching in Estonia?

21 Chart 1. Percentage of students studying the four principal foreign languages in Estonian schools 90,0% 80,0% 70,0% 60,0% 50,0% 40,0% 30,0% Saksa Inglise Vene Prantsuse 20,0% 10,0% 0,0% 1990/ / / / / / / / / / / / /2005

22 Some problems in foreign language teaching in Estonia: A growing tendency for foreign language learning to mean simply learning English The small number of students studying German and French as first foreign language. (Need to promote language awareness and multilingualism.)

23 The old Estonian proverb: Saksa keel ja hõberaha käib kõik maailma läbi You can manage with the German language and silver coins everywhere in the world.

24 Some problems (2) Unequal possibilities for schools to teach and students to learn different foreign languages. The tendency of learners to overestimate (underestimate) their language skills. Need to promote the idea of self-assessment; CEFR, ELP, The European Indicator of Language Competence. Lack of qualified teachers. The language examinations are not yet related to CEFR.

25 Other legislative documents: The Constitution and several legislative documents of Estonia recognize the national minorities and their languages. Estonia has signed The Framework Convention for the Protection of the National Minorities. There is a Jewish Gymnasium, Finnish School, international English-medium school etc.

26 About CLIL The Estonian Language Immersion Program (kind of CLIL) is popular in Estonia. Target group: the population of Estonia of non-estonian origin (approximately one third of the population) (http://www.kke.ee/). There are a few schools (24, two VET institutions included) in Estonia (in the biggest cities of Estonia) where the CLIL method is used.

27 Unrecognized plurilingualism A Government Commission was set up in 2004 to examine the possibility of extending existing legislation on the right to use South-Estonian (Võru) dialect/ variety. The commission has presented some proposals to support and widen the opportunities for South-Estonian (Võru) dialect/variety in Estonia.

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