SPEECH: Big Russian-Estonian cross-border project for training speech therapists for Russian-speaking patients is finalized
Migration Foundation Our People (MISA), the Narva College of the University of Tartu (Estonia) and the Herzen State Pedagogical University (Russia) joined forces to give two years of refresher courses to speech therapists working with native Russian-speaking children, students writing their master's thesis in speech therapy, teachers with special needs education skills and teachers who did not have a higher qualification in special needs education but who wanted to work with native Russian-speaking children. The total of 55 people participated in the refresher courses including as well a training program in St Petersburg to get more information about the work and special education of speech therapists in Russia. This April the project "Exchange of cross-border experience to enhance the quality of special education" (SPEECH) which took place in the framework of the ENPI Estonia-Latvia-Russia CBC Programme 2007-2013 was completed.

The refresher courses were conducted by lecturers at the University of Tartu and the Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia. The volume of the trainings was 156–390 hours and the main emphasis was on the most important topics and updates in the field of speech therapy. As a result of the training, speech therapists can now better help both children and adults.

The employees and students of the Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia were on a three-day visit to Estonia to get more information regarding the experience of Estonia in development of the field. The group visited schools, kindergartens and other institutions providing special education in Tartu. The guests also visited the study activities at the Narva College of the University of Tartu.

In October 2013, the seminar “Education in Estonia and in Russia for Russian-speaking speech therapists” was held in Tallinn to disseminate information about the project activities and to summarize the project achievements. The participants of the seminar were experts and students in the field of speech therapy from Estonia and Russia. They discussed newest researches and methods of preparing the specialists for their work with children with special needs and also covered the concept of education provided to children with special needs, their speech problems and bilingualism. The collection of presentations from the seminar was published in the beginning of 2014.

“One objective of the project was to develop a new curriculum of special needs education and speech therapy in cooperation of the University of Tartu and the Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia for future students in Estonia and the Russian Federation,” commented Tatjana Babanskaja, the coordinator of the project on behalf of the University of Tartu. She added: “The project period also included meetings between the experts of the universities for discussing subsequent cooperation activities in order to improve the quality of special education, especially the education of speech therapists in both countries.”

According to Ms. Babanskaja, this is the first time when such a large-scale project for Russian-speaking speech therapists is held. “A few small courses with presentations from experts in the field have taken place. But in general, Russian-speaking speech therapists have no opportunities to study speech therapy in Estonia on the basis of the Russian language,” Ms. Babanskaja said. She also added that this is the first course where the participants get both theoretical and practical professional training, receive information about new methods and techniques and have an opportunity to practice their skills in St. Petersburg.

According to estimates, 15 percent of pre-schoolers and basic school students need speech therapy service in the Russian language. There is an increased need for speech therapists with contemporary training in both the Estonian and the Russian language. Besides, speech therapists are also needed in the healthcare system, for example for adults who experience post-stroke complications.

Source: MISA website

Additional information: Liilika Raudhein, Coordinator at the Lifelong Learning Unit of MISA, phone 659 9841, e-mail liilika.raudhein@meis.ee