Funding of adult education aims at the creation of high-quality and flexible learning opportunities for adults that take into account labour market needs. Adult education is divided into formal education and continuing education.
Adult formal education provides adults with an opportunity to acquire:
- basic education and general upper secondary education in the form of non-stationary studies and as an external student;
- vocational education where several flexible types of vocational training and forms of study are applied;
- higher education.
Continuing education means the provision of purposeful and organised studies on the basis of a curriculum outside formal education. The costs of continuing education shall be covered by the person or authority interested therein. The Ministry of Education and Research may submit a request for the provision of state-commissioned continuing education to a manager of a continuing education institution or an association thereof. The formation of state-commissioned continuing education shall be based on the strategic development plans of the state and development plans for different areas, studies and forecasts of the need for labour and other information relating to the training needs. State-commissioned continuing education means the number of student places in continuing education financed from the state budget which are formed by continuing education curricula groups or courses.
The state finances adult training for continuous professional development and increasing labour market competitiveness to a considerable extent from the funds of the European Social Fund. When designing the training order, the recommendations of the reports by Estonian jobs and skills forecasting system OSKA and the regional training needs are taken into account. Adults aged 50+ without professional education, without secondary education or with outdated skills can acquire new skills in VET institutions and applied higher education institutions offering VET programs across Estonia.
The Unemployment Insurance Fund uses the training voucher scheme to finance the labour market training of the unemployed, and retraining and upskilling of employed people who need new qualifications. From Enterprise Estonia, it is possible to apply for support for training enterprise personnel.
Fees Paid by Learners
Acquisition of both basic and general upper secondary education in the form of non-stationary studies and as an external student is free of charge. Similarly, no tuition is normally charged from a student for the studies in vocational education. In the framework of state-commissioned education, formal education free of charge is offered also for acquisition of vocational education in the form of non-stationary studies. Acquisition of higher education in the form of part-time studies is for a charge; in order to pursue studies for free, the student must apply for full-time study.
State-commissioned professional development courses are free of charge for learners or their employers. The costs of paid continuing education are covered by the learner or authority interested therein, e.g. his/her employer.
Financial Support for Adult Learners
Study allowances and study loans are granted to students who study part- or full-time.
The state supports the financing of education by an employer and a learner also through tax benefits: formal education or work-related training financed by an employer is not regarded as a fringe benefit. Training expenses incurred by a private person, except for hobby education expenses and expenses of driver training for several driving licence categories, may be deducted from their taxable income only if the educational institution which provided the education holds an education licence or a notice of economic activities has been submitted about the educational institution.
Adult learners have the right to receive study leave during the time of studying if they pursue studies at a continuing education institution which has been granted an education licence or about which a notice of economic activities has been submitted. In formal education or continuing education, learners are granted study leave for up to 30 calendar days per year; the average salary is received for 20 days. For graduation from formal education, there is a possibility to receive 15 additional days of study leave during which minimum salary is paid.