In Estonia and Lithuania increasing numbers of newly arrived migrants and returning nationals has emphasized the importance of an inclusive education system. Furthermore, long-living cultural minorities in both countries contribute to the diverse linguistic and cultural landscape in the region. This calls for policymakers and education institutions to take specific measures to facilitate the integration of children with a migrant background. The education systems in Estonia and Lithuania face several challenges related to migrant education. One of them is uneven school preparedness to address the needs of diverse learners and teachers lacking competences and skills to deal with diversity in the classroom. The latter aspect is of utmost importance as the success of migrant inclusion in education system in many ways relies on pedagogues and professional support staff in schools. Thus, a growing number of newly arrived immigrants and returnees highlights the importance of multicultural competence and language awareness to be introduced systematically in teacher education programmes. This has become an important policy priority in both Estonia and Lithuania, though the issue has been addressed inconsistently to date.

In relation to higher-education, both Estonia and Lithuania have undergone various reforms in higher education and teacher training over the past years. However, in Lithuania, the higher education reform did not yield the desired results. In Estonia, the current preparation for teaching in linguistically and culturally diverse classrooms in teacher training modules is not consistent in. Overall, the life-long learning strategy and general agreement on the need to address teacher preparedness to work with diversity is present both in Estonia and Lithuania and is addressed in policy documents mostly through the emphasis on inclusive education, the linguistically responsive and culturally sustaining pedagogy should be enhanced. Ongoing discussions and strategy planning at the ministerial levels in both Estonia and Lithuania represent a window of opportunity for SIRIUS to feed into the process.

Baltic National Roundtable 2019