The Necessity of Parents’ Training in Estonia


The aim of the training was to lower the job-market risks for parents in this region and investigate their educational needs. The courses were held in two languages – Estonian and Russian, depending on the participant’s mother tongue.

70% needs trainings

The research showed that parents still follow aged methods to raise and educate their children here. Orders, prohibitions and punishments are central in this model. Jelena Rootamm-Valter, the director of the educational company Vastus has analysed the data of the project EQUAL WHOLE and concludes that in this region the parents are not yet familiar with educational methods based on negotiation and agreement.
One of the first important discoveries from the project EQUAL WHOLE was the conclusion that almost 75% of parents living in the region around lake Peipsi do not feel competent with raising children, Jelena Rootamm-Valter says. This is regardless of age, living quarters, occupation and mother tongue. In general parents say they do not know how to behave adequately even in most typical situations. Some parents have read pedagogy books but say they have difficulty to find the right paragraphs concerning their problems. Even some teachers have participated in the trainings, admitting they have problems with their work. Families with several children feel the lack of pedagogical skills more sharply.
The fact that people admit the lack of pedagogical skills is a positive tendency Jelena Rootamm-Valter concludes. This is a precondition for learning. The learning is an urgent matter, because parents that are too soft or too strict often have conflicts with their children, which in turn has a negative impact on their work life. When parents that are too busy and constantly nervous about their children they could lose their jobs, which affects the financial well-being of the family, causing further and more serious conflicts and so on. The project EQUAL WHOLE confirmed that amongst parents with small children the unemployment rate is higher and the living standards lower than average. One of the biggest problems are single mothers who have most difficulty finding jobs because part-time work is not very common in Estonia.
The conclusion is one – many parents in Estonia need family training in order to come to terms with the job-market risks.

Four subcultures

The project EQUAL WHOLE also revealed that there are four very different subcultures around lake Peipsi, which all require a different kind of parents’ training. Jelena Rootamm-Valter describes these subcultures as followed:

Soviet Region. This is a provisional term for the regions around the town of Narva. It is inhabited mainly by people who arrived during the Soviet period from other parts of the Soviet Union. What is most remarkable is that people live very locally here. Many have never been to Tallinn or Tartu. To reduce job-market risks and help them integrate in the society they would need to learn about Estonia – geography, economy, towns, culture, and most importantly learn to make contact and communicate within larger networks. Many people are for instance very interested in environmental problems but they are not able to relate these problems to Estonia but instead bring examples from Australia, Africa, Thai etc. And one more issue – this region is not the poorest in Estonia, but families often struggle to make ends meet –family finances would be a helpful training here, too.

Region of Russian Old Believers. South of Narva, on the west coast of lake Peipsi live the Russian Old Believers (Starovers). Their ancestors arrived here in the 18th century, escaping the church reforms of Peter the Great across the lake. Their religion is the archaic version of Russian Orthodox – they have preserved their old language and traditions. Their church choir still sings in eight voices, they bow to the ground in front of sacred icons and Christianize their children by placing them completely in water etc. They drink tea seven times a day and know their ancestors from 300 years ago. They consider themselves to be Russian, but the Russian people in Narva they call the Soviets. Now there are almost 15 thousands Old Believers by birth in Estonia. This is a unique population and has been listed in UNESCO cultural heritage.
The situation of adult education in this region is such that none of the parents could recall any adult education course having taken place there. The parents’ training was such an exceptional event for them that they dressed up in festive church costumes. Besides that the parents did not want to talk about children raising issues with male lectors but when female lectors arrived the parents became much more talkative. The Peipsi Old Believers are not as local as people in Narva, they frequently visit Tartu and Tallinn and know Estonia rather well. The surprising finding was that although the people are much poorer, they can manage to make ends meet: they catch fish, grow cucumbers and onions and sell them near the highways, and sometimes in St. Petersburg. The Old Believers would need a training that could help them connect their ancient traditions with the contemporary European mentality.

Region of left-alone children. On the west coast of lake Peipsi lies Kasepää municipality where living locally is out of question – over 60% of parents work outside of Kasepää – in Tartu and Jõgeva but also in Finland, Sweden etc. Many parents arrive home only at weekends or even more seldom. In some families both parents are constantly away and the children raise themselves or are taken care by neighbours. Thus this region could be provisionally called the region of left-alone children. The social control in a small village is quite strong and the children are never totally on their own but the social scientists and the parents themselves worry about their children and their future.
The researchers of this region were surprised that instead of learning to start one’s own enterprise the people in this region preferred to learn flower arrangement, ceramics, painting and other creative techniques. They valued highly new contacts and relationships they got through the courses, which could help them find new job opportunities outside of their home region. On the other hand these creative courses created a strong feeling of community for those involved and this is crucial for life management. Parents’ training in this region is a very complex issue.

Region of University town. The town of Tartu and the surrounding regions have already a longer tradition with adult education thanks to the Tartu People’s University. People in this region do not accept every course that is offered – they choose what to study and where to study. Never-the-less about 60% of parents admit they might need trainings about raising children – not because of lack of knowledge but rather to feel more secure.
In conclusion Jelena Rootamm-Valter says that the parents in the region around lake Peipsi need extensive training. The four very different sub-cultures give a difficult task for the adult-educators. How Estonia will solve this problem – we will see in the near future.

Link: - NGO The Society of Old Believers Culture and Development