MISA to discuss untapped potential of Estonian society at Opinion Festival
Everyone involved in the learning process contributes to guaranteeing academic success
The challenges of Estonian language studies for residents of Sillamäe
16th national culture festival to be held in Pärnu in August
Pärnu to host international festival of Slavic culture in August 

Opinion Festival 2016 – ‘State potential’ area

MISA to discuss untapped potential of Estonian society at Opinion Festival

During the Opinion Festival being held in Paide on 12 & 13 August, the Integration and Migration Foundation 'Our People' will be working with five of its partners to organise discussions in the ‘State potential area. On Friday 12 August, Paul Eerik Rummo, Mari-Liis Lill, Olesja Lagašina, Henri Laupmaa and Vladimir Svet will discuss the issue of so-called alien passport holders in a discussion entitled ‘People with undetermined citizenship – headache or untapped potential?' 

There are more than 80,000 people currently residing in Estonia – representing 6% of the population – whose citizenship is undetermined. They were born here or have lived here for decades, have started their families, acquired an education, have found jobs or become employers for themselves or others. But they are not Estonian citizens; nor have they chosen to become citizens of any other country. As such, they miss out on the opportunities that being an Estonian citizen provides. They have fewer opportunities to participate in political and civic life: they do not have the right to work in civil service or to take part in Riigikogu or European Parliament elections. Moreover, with their citizenship remaining undetermined, they are forced to ask themselves where they belong; which country they see as their own. According to the Estonian Human Development Report, the level of social exclusion among people with undefined citizenship is as high as 50% – 2.5 times higher on average than Estonian-speaking citizens of the country. This rate is also significantly higher than that of Russian-speaking Estonian citizens.

At the Opinion Festival we will be discussing what does such large number of people with undetermined citizenship say about Estonian society. Is the “alien” status and the challenges that accompany it, such asthe limited dialogue with the state, social exclusion and other,– solely the problem of the people who face it, or is it indicative of much broader untapped potential that concerns Estonia as a whole?

“We’re raising this issue at the festival because there’s currently little public discussion of how to reduce the number of people with undetermined citizenship, and what discussion there is –largely one-sided,” explained MISA director Dmitri Burnašev. “It’s been a problem for decades, and most of the solutions proposed have focussed on how to get people to apply for citizenship. But that’s only one way of resolving the issue. Over the years, MISA has implemented a range of activities that support people in applying for citizenship, such as providing free Estonian language courses and supporting preparations for the Estonian citizenship exam, as well as initiating discussions among young people about what it means to be an Estonian citizen and what values that status embodies. But at the same time we can see that if all this is going to bear fruit, Estonian society as a whole needs to get involved. According to feedback, many people with undefined citizenship feel they have no functional dialogue with the state, which makes them question whether the state is even interested in them as citizens. If the situation is to change, we need to deal with the issues in much more broad-ranging way than just educating and supporting people with undetermined citizenship –support involving Estonian society as a whole is required.”

The discussion organised by MISA will seek answers to a variety of questions. What changes are needed to ensure that everyone who lives in Estonia is more involved and feels like a truly valued member of Estonian society, in order to reduce the level of social exclusion and increase trust in Estonian society? What needs to be done in order for Estonian citizenship to become a value in itself that people are willing to strive towards? With the answers to these and many other questions, the panellists will seek to find ways of how to make non-citizens think of strenghtening their bond to Estonia and also make them feel that they are important to the state.

Apart from the discussion organised by MISA, during the two-day festival the visitors to the ‘State potential area will get to participate in discussions  on the future of the e-state and e-services, the administrative reforms being implemented in Estonia at present, as well as the prosperity of the state and the prospects of the Estonian nation.

‘State potential’ area discussions are being organised by the the e-Governance Academy, the Integration and Migration Foundation ‘Our People', the Estonian Cooperation Assembly, Statistics Estonia, the Estonian Youth Work Centre and the Estonian National Youth Council.

Posts from the ‘State potential’ area can be followed on the Facebook event page at The programme for the Opinion Festival 2016 is available online at

For further information please contact: Ann Asser | Head of Communications, MISA | E-mail: [email protected] | Telephone: +372 659 9039

Overview of international project SLT4AA

Everyone involved in the learning process contributes to guaranteeing academic success

July saw the final conference of the Erasmus+ KA2 strategic partnership project SLT4AA (School Leadership Toolkit for Accelerating Achievement) held in Hungary. One of the partner countries in the two-year project led by the University of Tartu was Estonia. Alongside staff from many Estonian schools, MISA’s head of language and cultural immersion Jana Tondi took part in the project, which focussed on school management and boosting academic success. 

The main aim of SLT4AA was to enhance academic success by streamlining school management processes. It took as its example the reorganisation of British schools into academies and the management of these schools. Estonia’s role was to provide a critical overview of the development experiences of schools from the five countries taking part in the project, among other things comparing them with the situation in Estonia and contributing to resolving their problems. Involvement in the project gave the participants the opportunity to look at similar processes in different countries and weigh them against one another.

70 people attended the final conference, including teachers, interest group leaders, practitioners, academic advisers, school directors and lecturers from Estonia, Bulgaria, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Hungary.

One of the points made at the conference was that Estonian education is in a very good position compared to a number of other European countries and that students are looking to come here to study. “At the same time, considering the issues we face, there are ideas we can cherry-pick from other countries’ practice and use in the Estonian context, albeit in a slightly different situation and perhaps a little differently, to make our education system and school management even better,” said Hasso Kukemelk, SLT4AA’s project manager and a lecturer on the organisation of education at the University of Tartu.

Fellow project contributor Jana Tondi is involved in the organisation of non-formal education and language studies in her everyday work, implementing them in cooperation with a variety of schools and project partners. “I also promote non-formal education opportunities to Russian- and Estonian-language schools,” she explained. “During the project I learnt about the non-formal education opportunities offered in other countries, as well as how they go about managing their schools, and I’ll be able to use examples of both in implementing activities related to Estonian language and culture studies in future.”

Tondi says that the quality and results of studies are not only dependent on the material being taught, the people teaching it and those learning it, but on a wide range of nuances that were discussed during seminars and at the final event of the project. “In a school, or any other educational institution, responsibility for the success of the learning process is shared among everyone who works there, not just the (language) learner or the teacher,” she said. “If you want to ensure quality, you need systematic analysis of the entire process – whether that’s a satisfaction survey or a simple discussion – as well as agreements you stick to and regular reviews of results. It’s also important what you analyse: grades, attendance, the number of groups or classes, exam results or fulfilment of the curriculum. You also have to take into account each other’s wishes and goals. You have to ask whether students are even aware of what teachers expect of them, and whether teachers know what students hope to get from lessons. Expectations aren’t always entirely clear, so you have to talk about them.”

The project also highlighted the fact that it is necessary to support students’ own initiative and to encourage them to organise and do things themselves. “Any day at school or excursion or the like that breaks kids out of their normal routine helps resolve issues that the students bring to the lessons,” Tondi explained. She added that it is no less important for students and teachers to have the same understanding of values and a sense of fairness. 

Also attending the final conference were Suure-Jaani Upper Secondary School director Evald Sepp, Alatskivi Juhan Liivi High School Estonian language teacher Helen Paju and Suure-Jaani School interest group leader Siivi Tõnuri, who remarked that the event left them very encouraged by the knowledge that the Estonian education system is given as a good example to others. “A number of issues that other schools are still struggling with, such as the fulfilment of school attendance requirements and the involvement of pedagogues in the entire learning process, have long since been resolved in our education system” Tõnuri said.

Sepp felt that participating in the project had been very useful in forging new contacts, sharing new ideas and developing new solutions. “When I talked to people from schools in Bulgaria, Hungary and Portugal I realised that you can start from the same idea when implementing development activities in different countries,” he said. “What you need is the impetus to make changes. The main thing you want to achieve in introducing these changes is to get people thinking differently, and not just within a small group of school workers either – your entire community should be aware of the need for change.” He added that the theoretical basis of development work is suited in general to every school, but the starting position is very different. “Whereas our schools are dealing with things like the dynamics of the updated approach to studies and the most effective amount of technology to use in the learning process, for other schools in Europe these are issues they’ll only face further down the track,” he said. “Giving teachers more freedom in terms of lesson planning could prove successful for some schools. But it’s difficult to introduce technological changes in classrooms where the only way of visualising something is with chalk on a blackboard.”

More information about the project can be found online at

For further information please contact: Jana Tondi | Head of Language and Cultural Immersion, MISA | Telephone: +372 659 9069 | E-mail: [email protected]

Master’s degree on studies of Estonian

The challenges of Estonian language studies for residents of Sillamäe

In May 2016, University of Tartu Narva College student Anna-Olga Luga defended her Master’s thesis, entitled ‘The Estonian Language Studies of the Residents of Sillamäe’. Her goal was to identify the main challenges in the town related to language studies and to present a new language-learning paradigm incorporating a variety of support systems and enabling learners to develop their language skills independently.

In the thesis, Luga provides an overview of key legislation concerning language studies and language use. She also outlines the language-learning opportunities that are available in Sillamäe and the support structures that exist in the town in terms of language studies. As imperial input for the thesis, more than 50 residents of Sillamäe who had undertaken language courses at different times between 1990 and 2015 were interviewed. Extracts from the interviews provide examples of their language-learning experiences, enabling changes in the organisation and methodology of language studies to be traced on the basis of feedback. Interviews conducted with Estonian language teachers in Sillamäe also provide an overview of the organisational challenges of language studies. The thesis further presents the teachers’ views on the low level of motivation among learners, which is explained by the ‘learned helplessness’ phenomenon.

In her research and analysis, Luga focuses on Sillamäe – a town which was once ‘closed’ and of strategic importance, and which is today predominantly Russian-speaking.

Luga describes her main findings by saying: “It can be seen from the reports, monitoring and other documents related to Estonian language and integration presented that language policy and organisation must become more substantive and focus on creating diverse and affordable options for Estonian language studies.” The thesis highlights the fact that regional organisers of language studies need a more effective support system in order to coordinate the work of language-learning service providers and to enable courses to be conducted for learners at different levels of proficiency. Flexibility of language studies also needs to be preserved, taking into account those who work in shifts, and it should be ensured that the language level of study groups is more homogenous.

The thesis underscores the importance of checking the quality of language studies and the implementation of more effective methods, since there is a strong link between the quality of studies and the experience of students and between the individual nature of teachers and the quality of contact between them. The work demonstrates that there is interest in language-learning methods that are more clearly differentiated on the basis of the students themselves and that enable teachers to respond adaptably to the actual language skills of students in a group.

According to the residents of Sillamäe, the main obstacle to taking part in language studies is the cost, which makes it impossible for families subsisting on the minimum wage to participate in courses. An important challenge in the specific case of Sillamäe itself is the fact that most language studies are offered in other towns – since the closure of the town’s language school, the nearest courses are to be found in Jõhvi. As such, studying Estonian involves constant travel and additional costs, making participation complicated and often leading to people dropping out. Learners also highlight the limited availability and uneven quality of free, web-based language studies opportunities – although online courses would make for an effective language-learning tool thanks to their accessibility, regardless of where people live.

In its summary, the thesis provides an interesting overview of the quirks of Estonian language policy and Estonian language learning opportunities in Sillamäe based on feedback from the town’s residents and the teachers working there about the organisation of Estonian language studies over the last two decades. Feedback also forms the basis for recommendations regarding the organisation of future language courses.

The thesis makes a significant contribution to discussions on the organisation of Estonian language studies in Estonia. It is important that such issues continue to be raised in academic circles as well as in Estonian society more broadly.

For further information please contact: Marianna Makarova | Head of Research, MISA | E-mail: [email protected] | Telephone: +372 659 9853

National culture society events

16th national culture festival to be held in Pärnu in August

The national culture festival ‘Multicultural Pärnu’ is to be held in the summer capital on 13 & 14 August 2016. The festival is being organised by the NPO Vähemusrahvuste Liit Raduga (the umbrella organisation for national minority cultural associations) for the 16th time.

The event will begin with an opening concert which all residents of and visitors to Pärnu are invited to attend. Performing at the concert will be creative collectives of children and adults from the NGO as well as guest artists from Estonia and abroad.

The two-day festival will showcase the songs and dances of Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Polish, Chuvash, Buryat and Caucasian peoples.

There will also be handicraft exhibitions and workshops dedicated to various national cultures, and visitors will be able to try a range of national dishes.

The festival will be opened at 12:00 on 13 August on Rüütli Square in Pärnu. Performances will take place throughout the city.

For further information please contact: Galina Ivanova | Director, NGO Vähemusrahvuste Liit Raduga | Mobile: +372 5800 8847 | E-mail: [email protected]  

Pärnu to host international festival of Slavic culture in August 

‘Svetotš’, an international festival of Slavic culture, is to be held in Pärnu for the 4th time from 25-28 August 2016. It will feature 35 folklore collectives from Estonia and neighbouring countries.

Taking place over four days, the festival will include performances by Slavic vocal and dance ensembles from Estonia, Russia, Belarus and Latvia.

There will be spiritual music concerts at Jekateriina Orthodox Church at 9:30 and 15:00 on 26 August, while an exhibition of decorative art and handicrafts will open at Pärnu Concert Hall at 14:00 on 28 August.

During the festival, concerts will be held at Pärnu Concert Hall, in Pärnu Children’s Park and in the Pärnu Kuursaal and bandstand.

More information about the festival and its programme can be found on Facebook at Tickets to the events being held at Pärnu Concert Hall can be purchased from Piletilevi or at the venue.

For further information please contact: Natalia Rafikova | Director, NGO ‘Järeleaitaja’ Õppe- ja arenduskeskus | Mobile: +372 5597 8839 | E-mail: [email protected] 

National cultural association activities are supported by MISA through the national minority cultural association project competition, which is financed from the state budget via the Ministry of Culture.

For further information please contact: Kristina Pirgop | Head of Partnership Relations, MISA | Telephone: +372 659 9024 | E-mail: [email protected]