Adaptation of a New Immigrant Child in Estonian General Education: Situation, Support System and Readiness for a Multicultural Learning Environment 

Due to increasing immigration, Estonia is becoming increasingly multilingual and multicultural, and general education schools, which are also attended by children of new immigrants, have faced several challenges in recent years. New immigrants come to Estonia for different reasons and with diverse perspectives, and many factors affect their educational attainment and academic and social performance. Some stay in Estonia for just a few years, but some plan to stay for longer; they come from relatively similar educational systems and even from the same linguistic area, but also from very different countries of origin with wildly different educational systems. Also, children with a migrant background may arrive at school in Estonia at different ages, and especially in the case of children with an enforced migration background, it is not uncommon for them to have a long period of early school leaving. Although children’s backgrounds may differ, children of recent migrants also have many similar needs: information, support, acceptance, etc. Many new immigrant children do not know the school language either. 

Today, however, general education schools in Estonia have very different experiences teaching and supporting newcomers’ children – some have had children of newcomers for many years, others have never had any. Attitudes towards the admission of children with a migrant background to school can range from supportive to cautious and sometimes even dismissive. There is also a wide variation in schools’ awareness of the resources and support systems available, some of which tend to be overused, others underused. Some teachers have a solid and supportive network (inside or outside the school) to seek advice; others do not. The current state of preparedness of Estonian schools and school educators is therefore highly variable, and there are still relatively few comprehensive studies mapping this situation. 

Therefore, the purpose of this study is to dissert the coping of Estonian schools in supporting the adaptation of a new immigrant child in the elementary school level of an Estonian general education school and to analyze the Estonian language learning of a new immigrant child at school. 

The project is co-funded by the European Union through the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and the Estonian Ministry of the Interior.