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Cablegate: Ambassador Discusses School Integration With

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTL #0576 2471112
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 041112Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY TALLINN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0142
INFO RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 2548
RUEHRA/AMEMBASSY RIGA 2931

UNCLAS TALLINN 000576

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM SOCI RS EN
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR DISCUSSES SCHOOL INTEGRATION WITH
MINISTER OF EDUCATION

REF: TALLINN 488

1. (SBU) On August 16, Ambassador Phillips paid a courtesy
call on Minister of Education and Research Tonis Lukas.
Minister Lukas emphasized that the GOE's program to
introduce Estonian-language classes in Russian-language
high schools is a step-by-step "transition," not a
"reform." He reported that all 63 Russian-language schools
are ready to start teaching Estonian literature in Estonian
-- per the plan -- on September 3, the first day of school.
(Reftel) Despite "outside efforts" to derail the process,
Minister Lucas said the Ministry does not expect any
problems, and certainly not Riga-style protests. (Note.
In 2004, hundreds of ethnic Russians took to the streets in
protest when the Government of Latvia implemented a
similar, albeit more rapid-paced, school language program.
End Note.) In an effort to avoid the problems faced in
Riga, Lukas said, the GOE consulted the Latvian government
about their experience. Minister Lucas commented that a
number of Russia-based committees in Brussels are
attempting to portray Estonia's school language program as
discriminatory and a violation of human rights.

2. (SBU) Minister Lukas indicated other priorities for the
Ministry include teaching Estonian to very young children
and promoting vocational education. Currently, 3,500
elementary-age Russian-speaking children are enrolled in
voluntary Estonian language immersion programs. In
addition, teaching Estonian is obligatory in all Russian-
language schools from kindergarten forward. Minister Lucas
noted that fewer and fewer young people are interested in
pursuing vocational education. As a result of Estonia's
declining population (and a "baby bust" in the late
1990's), vocational school enrollment is low and the number
of both Russian and Estonian-language high schools
necessary to educate Estonia's population is decreasing.
However, Minister Lucas emphasized, Russian-language
schools will exist in Estonia as long as there is a need
for them.

3. (SBU) Comment. Lukas' predecessor, Mailis Reps, was a
member of the Center Party -- which is the most popular
political party among Russian Estonians. Lukas, however,
is a long-time member of the Isamaa and Respublic Union
Party (IRL), traditionally the least favorite among Russian
speakers. Despite the change in leadership, the Ministry's
long-standing language integration plans remain relatively
uncontroversial. End Comment.

PHILLIPS

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