The unintended and intended academic consequences of educational reforms: the cases of Post-Soviet Estonia, Latvia and Russia
In this paper, we try to unravel some of the unintended and intended academic effects associated with post-Soviet educational reforms by focusing on three cases: Estonia, Latvia and Russia. We have chosen this comparison because a unique ‘natural experiment’ in the three countries allows us to compare the changing academic performance on an international test of a largely similar population in the three countries—Russian origin students attending Russian-medium schools—subjected to three variations of post-Soviet reforms. We find that relative to students in Russia, Russian-medium students in the Baltics made significant gains in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. In Latvia, these appear to be an unintended effect of somewhat ‘softened’ state language policies, the conditions surrounding minority rights, and the general context of maintaining social cohesion. In Estonia, the (later) relative gains of Russian students appear to an intended effect of locally grown educational (and language) policies and increased, more effective cooperation with Russian medium schools to further improve PISA performance in a relatively high scoring, PISA-focused country.