The Role of School in Developing Ethno-cultural Identity: Ethno-cultural Feelings and Knowledge among Russian-speaking Students in Estonia

By Maie Soll.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability Education

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The present paper concentrates on one of the important topics in the contemporary social and educational sciences—the role of educational institutions in the process of development of ethno-cultural identity. The present paper is based on the ethnic identity concept described by M. Verkuyten. In this article, four dimensions of ethnic identity conceptualised by Verkuyten will be empirically analysed: self-categorisation, feelings, involvement, and knowledge. Estonia is here used as an example with its diversity in languages of instruction at the level of compulsory education (e.g. Estonian- and Russian-medium schools, etc.). As an empirical basis, the data from a quantitative formalised survey conducted among students speaking Russian as their mother tongue and studying in schools of a different language of instruction will be used. The aim of the research is to determine the impact of the knowledge acquired in the formal school setting on the development of ethnic and societal belonging. The results show that Russian-speaking students in schools with different languages of instruction (e.g. Estonian, Russian) evaluate their knowledge related to their ethnic culture and Estonian culture differently, but it does not have an impact on their belonging to an ethnic group. The paper suggests that a language of instruction other than the student’s mother tongue could deteriorate the knowledge of culture and language skills, but does not necessarily influence the sense of belonging to an ethnic group and host society.

Keywords: Ethnic Identity, Language of Instruction, Ethnic Minority

International Journal of Sustainability Education, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp.63-77. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 255.317KB).

Maie Soll

Doctoral Student, Institut of Media and Communication, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia

I am working at the ministry of education and research, where my responsibility are the curricculum develeopment for primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schools, also education of people whose mother tongue differs from the official language of estonia-estonian. I am also the doctoral student at the university of tartu. My interest is how ethnic minorities and immigrants adjust in the host country, how the social space influence their attitudes towards host society culture, language and their own ehtnic background, how the educational institutions support the ethnic minority students academically and socially.