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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Teaching and learning in vocational upper secondary education


6.Upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary Education

6.5Teaching and learning in vocational upper secondary education

Last update: 27 November 2023

In 2013, a substantially amended Vocational Education Institutions Act entered into force, and in 2013-2015, a reform of the vocational education organisation and curricula was implemented.

The reform aimed at introducing a more practical and true-to-life approach to studies and bringing the curriculum system more in line with the labour market needs. Curricula were linked to the levels of the Estonian qualifications framework and the evaluation system became outcome-based; the knowledge, skills and attitudes acquired in the course of learning were described at the threshold level and the curricula specified learning outcomes and assessment criteria. The volume of vocational training is expressed in Estonian vocational education credits, which, not being strictly related with the period of study, allow for the achievement of learning outcomes within a period of time that differs from the estimated average. Professional competencies of a graduate are assessed with a vocational examination where external assessors assess the acquisition of the professional competencies by the graduates.

In September 2014, the first curricula revised under the reform were implemented in schools. Admission of students to programmes based on the old curricula ended 1 September 2017, and the deadline for a complete transfer to the new curricula was 31 August 2018. 

Curriculum, Subjects, Number of Hours

The vocational secondary education curriculum is based on the national curriculum. It is prepared in cooperation with social partners, taking into consideration the relevant professional standards, the Vocational Education Standard and the national curriculum for upper secondary schools. National curricula are approved by the regulation of the Minister of Education and Research.

Vocational training is acquired on the basis of school curricula.  Formal education curricula of a school, except for curricula of vocational secondary education, are prepared on the basis of the Vocational Education Standard and the relevant professional standard. In case of lack of a relevant professional standard, the school shall apply for approval to the curriculum from social partners.

A school curriculum shall set out the objectives, volume and learning outcomes of modules, the links thereof with the qualification framework established by the Professions Act, the assessment criteria as well as the opportunities of and conditions for choosing modules and the requirements for the commencement and completion of studies.    

The Vocational Education Standard also establishes other requirements for compilation of curricula. The content of vocational training established by the curriculum is presented in modules. A module is a consistent content unit of a curriculum targeted at learning outcomes and it determines the knowledge, skills and values corresponding to the vocational skill requirements and comprises one or many subjects or themes. Module represents integrated content unit, which describes the academic results corresponding to the competence requirements. The volume of a module depends on its objective and contents. The volume of study determined by the module is calculated in vocational education credits, whereas one credit corresponds to 26 hours of student’s work on studying. 

Practical training in an enterprise or institution is an integral part of a curriculum. Upon organisation of practical training of students, the relations between a vocational school, student and the enterprise or institution of the practical training shall be regulated by a trilateral contract to be signed before the commencement of practical training. A place for practical training is found in cooperation between the student, school and the place of practical training, under the guidance of the school. Organisation of practical training shall guarantee that all students get opportunities to complete, in an institution or enterprise, curriculum-based practical training that is purposeful, guided and provides feedback, and to receive assessment of the learning outcomes achieved during the practical training in accordance with the assessment criteria set out in the curriculum. Students are covered by the occupational health and safety legislation during the period of practical training.

The standard period of acquiring vocational secondary education is at least 3 years (180 credits). The volume of practical work (at a school) and practical training (in an enterprise) combined must make up at least 50% of the volume of studies (both theoretical and practical), or 35% in case of vocational secondary education. Practical work and training is generally divided equally between school and enterprise. Exceptionally, the volume of practical training and practical work together shall be at least 70% of the volume of the curriculum with level 2 vocational training curricula.

The volume of general education studies in a curriculum shall be at least 60 credit points. 30 credit points of general education studies shall be integrated in the module of basic studies of the profession (professional studies).

A list and volumes of the modules of general studies   

Name and number of the module



Language and literature 6 EKAP
Estonian as a second language (groups with Russian as a language of instruction) 5 EKAP
Foreign language 4.5 EKAP
Mathematics 5 EKAP
Natural science 6 EKAP
Social studies 7 EKAP
Art 1.5 EKAP

The EQF level 5 programmes can be pursued only on the basis of secondary education; the admitted students are required to have completed secondary education and demonstrate age-related maturity. In the academic year 2018/19, 3,067 students pursued studies according to EQF level 5 programmes. Most students are enrolled in the curriculum groups of accounting and taxation, management and administration and marketing and advertising.     

Study Methods and Materials

Teachers may choose the teaching methods they use. Methods to stimulate student participation are recommended. Teachers can also choose the study aids used.