In the field of education, research or youth policy Estonia has concluded bilateral agreements with the following countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Brazil, Canada, China, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Egypt, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Korea (South), Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Moldova, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, the United States of America and Vietnam.
Most of the bilateral treaties are general framework treaties, expressing mutual goodwill for cooperation and mainly reaffirm their commitment:
- to support the creation of direct contacts between the educational, youth policy and research institutions of both countries;
- to exchange students, lecturers and educational experts and offer scholarships;
- to participate bilaterally in conferences, seminars and other educational events;
- to facilitate the exchange of publications and information on educational activities of any kind
- to support mutual study of language and culture;
- to exchange information and documents regarding the equivalence of education systems, diplomas and degrees and recognition of titles.
The framework creates an opportunity for the entry into cooperation agreements with duration of 2-4 years, laying down specific areas of cooperation and principles for funding the activities.
The programmes cover the exchange of experts and specialists, students (incl. master’s students and doctoral candidates), researchers, lecturers and teaching staff. The programmes also facilitate mutual learning of language and culture, enabling students to participate in language and culture summer courses.
The Education and Youth Authority mediates and coordinates the scholarships and exchanges provided for in bilateral agreements as well as several unilateral scholarships offered by foreign countries.
Foreign exchange of students is supported also under bilateral or multilateral agreements between the higher education institutions of different countries. In addition, all Estonian higher education institutions have foreign partners with whom they have signed cooperation agreements often also involving the exchange of students and scientists.
Cooperation and participation in worldwide programmes and organisations
In 2008, Estonia joined the Nordic and Baltic region cooperation programme Nordplus, three sub-programmes of which cover general, higher and adult education. Additionally, it is possible to participate in the cross-sectoral Nordplus Horizontal programme and, as of 2012, the language development programme aimed at supporting the learning of the Nordic languages, incl. Danish, Swedish and Norwegian; developing and/or improving educational materials and methods, and strategies at all levels of education.
The Nordplus framework programme supports mobility, projects and networks and is open to all people, institutions and organisations involved in education and lifelong learning from the following countries: Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland (incl. Ahvenanmaa), Denmark (incl. Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The programme is administered in Estonia by the Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps Agency.
Estonia has been co-operating with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) since the beginning of the 1990s, initially on the basis of the General Working Programme and in years 1998–2004, in the framework of the Baltic regional programme organised by the OECD’s Centre for Co-operation with Non-Members (CCNM).
In 2001, the overview of the Estonian education policy compiled under the Baltic regional programme was completed.
The Ministry of Education and Research became an observer at OECD Education Policy Committee in 2003 and a full member after Estonia became a member of OECD in 2010.
Participation in the work of OECD education committee enables to compare the orientations of the Estonian educational policy with those of developed countries and to use the obtained information and experience for making better political decisions.
International comparative analyses of educational indicators and educational statistics are important backbones of national education policy, and one of the strengths of the OECD lies particularly in different comparative analyses and studies. Therefore, since 2006, Estonia has participated in the PISA Programme for International Student Assessment, and so far, the results of Estonian students have turned out to be very good.
In autumn 2006, Estonia joined the INES (Indicators of Education Systems) programme, one of the most significant outputs of which is the regular publication of education indicators "Education at a Glance". In 2007, data for Estonia were presented there for the first time.
In addition, Estonia participates in the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), and in the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC).
In 2012, the Ministry of Education and Research joined the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI). In 2016, Estonia participated in the OECD project Review of Policies to Improve the Effectiveness of Resource Use in Schools, and in 2018, in the International Early Learning and Child Well-being Study (IELS).
Estonian experts participate actively in the work of different committees, sub-committees and working groups of the Council of Europe; the trends prevailing and the decisions adopted influence also the local policies related to education, language and youth. For Estonia, the European Language Portfolio has been an important initiative.
Estonian experts participate in UNESCO working groups and substructures and the strategy documents and recommendations developed by UNESCO are taken into consideration in Estonia. The priorities of UNESCO have also strongly influenced Estonia's participation in international cooperation – for example, development cooperation has become a prioritised issue in the recent years. In addition to development cooperation, the programme “Education for All” (incl. teacher training and curriculum development), the Estonian UNESCO associated schools network, sustainable development education, ICT in education, lifelong learning, the UNESCO chairs network, youth and teaching of human rights are the most important issues for Estonia in the field of education.
Estonia became a member of ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) upon its accession to the European Union in 2004. The objective in the field of academic cooperation and education is facilitating and developing the relevant working groups, networks and institutions. Estonia is mainly focused on quality assurance and qualification acknowledgement in higher education. Estonian experts participate in the relevant working groups.
The education and scientific advisors seconded by the Ministry of Education and Research work in Estonian representations to the EU in Brussels and to the OECD and UNESCO in Paris.