At a meeting yesterday on the 6th of July, the government approved the 2016 report and planned activities for 2017 to 2020 for the Integrating Estonia 2020 development plan in the field of integration.
According to Minister of Culture Indrek Saar, the 2016 report on the development plan in the field of integration, as well as the integration monitoring conducted this years, show that the state’s actions to date in the name of integrating the society have provided the desired results. “Estonian language proficiency and access to culture of the people with native languages other than Estonian had improved and the number of people with undetermined citizenship has decreased,” Saar noted.
“We have actively contributed to the expansion of the opportunities for language study and provision of counselling services for people with native languages other than Estonian. Both the report and the monitoring confirm that people with native languages other than Estonian have a great interest in learning Estonian and language proficiency has improved. Last year, 2,540 people completed the free Estonian language courses provided by the Integration Foundation. In addition, 30 language and culture clubs that support language acquisition were started up. Due to the great interest, another 30 clubs will be started up throughout Estonia,” said Saar.
Saar added that the implementation of various translation solutions in several Estonian museums and performing art institutions supports language acquisition and participation in cultural life. “Last year, we called upon Estonian museums and performing arts institutions to submit proposals for technical solutions that would help them better present their cultural programmes to people with native languages other than Estonian,” said Saar. To date, with the support of the Ministry of Culture, Integration Foundation and European Union structural funds, fourteen cultural institutions have implemented these technical solutions.
“I am glad to see that, as the result of the changes made to the Citizenship Act at the beginning of last year, the number of people with undetermined citizenship has been reduced by 2,741. For instance, according to the amended law, it is no longer possible to deprive minors of their citizenship, and children under 15, who are born in Estonia, or have lived permanently with their parents in Estonia from the time they are born, are naturalised Estonian citizens from the moment of their birth. If 897 people became naturalised Estonian citizens in 2015, in 2016 the number was 1,771, of whom 963 were children. The acquisition of Estonian citizenship by people with native languages other than Estonian has also generally increased,” noted Saar.
In cooperation with several partners, the concept for the Estonian Language Houses to be established in Tallinn and Narva was completed at the beginning of 2017. “In the integration activities planned for the 2017-2020 period, the priority is opening the Language Houses. They will help to organise the currently splintered language instruction environment and concentrate the services related to integration and language instruction in specific centres,” said Saar.
Saar added that another significant innovation will be the long-term student exchanges within Estonia that will start up in 2017. “In addition to one- and two-week student exchanges, in cooperation with the non-profit VeniVidiVici that organises such exchanges, we will conduct longer term, four-week student exchanges for students aged 15 to 18 attending Estonian- and Russian-language general education schools,” Saar explained.
“I believe that the Estonian Language Houses, long-term student exchanges, establishment of addition language clubs and all the other integration activities will make Estonian society even more cohesive, open and friendly. Naturally, we need to keep working at finding solutions for problems such as the socioeconomic gap between Estonian speakers and others, and the segregation resulting from the educational system. In regard to these challenges, the Ministry of Culture has initiated active cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Ministry of Education and Research,” Saar affirmed.
Advisor, Cultural Diversity Department
Ministry of Culture
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