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Estonia: Changes to national curricula support the development of general competences and the integration of subjects 

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Estonia: Changes to national curricula support the development of general competences and the integration of subjects 

27 March 2023
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Changes to national curricula for basic schools and upper secondary schools aim to give teachers more time and opportunities to apply a learner-centred approach in supporting the achievement of specific learning outcomes and focusing on the development of general competences. Major changes concern physical education, art and technology subjects. Language learning will be diversified: the volume of Estonian as a second language will be increased, as well as the choice of foreign languages. 

A positive attitude towards acquiring knowledge and skills as well as the ability to use them in everyday life have always been at the centre of Estonian national curricula. Learning content is reduced in several subjects. Updated subject field syllabi facilitate the effective integration of subjects and the creation of more meaningful connections between subjects. Cooperation between teachers is seen as the key to integration, ultimately enabling to reduce the workload of students and teachers and to improve the learning process. 

The national curriculum is a framework, a common standard, on the basis of which the schools develop their own curricula. Although Estonian schools have had a lot of freedom and flexibility in organising education already, detailed national curricula which were no longer up to date were often perceived as limiting the innovation potential of schools. The changing curriculum empowers teachers, giving them even more freedom of choice and responsibility to design the learning process. 

The planned changes support the goal set in the Education Strategy 2021‒2035 to increase learner-centredness and to better align the volume and content of education with developments in society and the future trends of the labour market. The working groups involved in updating the curricula included representatives of all subject teacher associations, university researchers, and experts of curriculum development. During the development process, the changed curricula have been tested in seven general education schools. 

If the updated curricula are approved by the government, the changes will come into effect from the autumn of 2023. Schools must align their curricula and organisation of studies with the changes by 1 September 2024 at the latest. 

Source: Eurydice Unit Estonia 

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