Secondary education is based on basic education and is divided into general secondary education, which is acquired in upper secondary schools, and vocational secondary education, which is acquired in vocational schools.
General secondary education is a set of requirements established with the national curriculum for upper secondary schools. Acquisition of general secondary education creates the preconditions and gives the right for continuation of studies for acquisition of higher education.
Vocational secondary education is a set of requirements established by the vocational education standard and by national curricula. Acquisition of vocational secondary education creates the preconditions and gives the right for starting work in the acquired profession or vocation and for continuation of studies for acquisition of higher education.
Both in upper secondary schools and vocational schools, study activities are carried out according to school’s curricula whereas the school curricula of upper secondary and secondary vocational education are compiled on the basis of national curricula. In vocational secondary education, both state and school curricula are based on the Vocational Education Standard and professional standards.
The division of study places between upper secondary schools and vocational schools is not subject to state regulation. Slightly more than 70% of basic school graduates continued their studies in general secondary education and nearly 26% in vocational education (2018). This trend has proved to be stable in the last years. Adult upper secondary schools provide all adults with lower educational attainment an opportunity to acquire secondary education.
The acquisition of secondary education is not compulsory. The main aspiration of teaching and educating in upper secondary schools is that students find a field of activity that interests them and corresponds to their abilities in order to continue their studies in the field. The task of upper secondary schools is to create conditions where students acquire the knowledge, skills and values that allow for continuing their studies in an institution of higher education or vocational educational institution without any impediments.
The purpose of vocational training is to support learners in acquiring knowledge, skills and attitudes as well as competencies to have readiness for work, participating in social life and for lifelong learning and to manage successfully in changing circumstances.
The requirements for general secondary education are established by the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act; the requirements for vocational secondary education are established by theVocational Educational Institutions Act. The Private Schools Actdefines the possibilities for acquiring upper secondary education on the same basis as the Basic Schools and the Upper Secondary Schools Act and the Vocational Educational Institutions Act.
The Recognition of Foreign Professional Qualifications Acttreats the enabling of activity in regulated professions while taking account of directives of the European Union. An Annex to the Professions Actestablishes the Estonian Qualifications Framework (EQF), regulates the work of professional councils and issues related to professional qualifications.
The Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, Education Act and Child Protection Act also include provisions regarding the acquisition of secondary education.