Estonians Schools in Exile, 1954-1991
Estonians in North America
The Schools in Exile
In addition to church activities, the expatriate community has also been very active in the education of their youth. The small size and dispersal of the North American Estonian community prevented any comprehensive schools from being formed, as exist in Sweden. However, in every city with any sizable Estonian population supplementary schools were established very early to teach children the language, culture, history and folklore of the country. The goals of the schools were twofold, first was to allow people who had never seen Estonia to maintain some connection to their homeland and second was to preserve in exile to the traditional culture which came under serious direct attack under the Soviet regime.
Another goal of the Estonian supplementary schools is the teaching of Estonian as a second language. This teaching is aimed at non Estonian spouses in mixed marriages, business people, those tracing historical roots and others simply interested in the language. Estonian as a second language classes are a relatively new phenomenon. However, they are quite popular and are growing in size and availability.
Where there were not enough people to constitute a full supplementary school, informal schools were set up or parents and grandparents taught their children the language. Many families spoke only Estonian with their children and, with a good deal of tenacity and widespread education, there are now more Estonian speakers in North America than at any point in history.
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© May 2, 1997
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