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Estonia: Extension of the compulsory education

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Estonia: Extension of the compulsory education

20 June 2024
a group of young people sitting without their faces being visible
Country news

Estonia is about to launch one of the most important education reforms in recent years: the extension of the compulsory education age from 17 to 18 years. 

 

The reform addresses several deepening problems: the increasing share of young people who do not continue their studies after basic education, the high dropout rate in the first year of upper secondary vocational education, the nearly 40% of upper secondary graduates not continuing their education, and the growing number of young people without qualifications. 

 

In today's world, basic education is not enough to succeed in the labour market. Estonia's Education Strategy aims for 90% of young people aged 20−24 to attain at least upper secondary education by 2035, up from 83% in 2022. The aim of the reform is to keep the share of young people with low educational attainment below 5% and to ensure that all young people acquire upper secondary education or vocational qualifications as a basis. 

 

To provide all basic school graduates with a suitable learning path, there will be five options: academic upper secondary education, applied upper secondary education, adult education, vocational education, and preparatory studies. If a student is unable to make a choice or faces barriers, a new preparatory programme will be available to help them overcome obstacles to further education. 

 

To support students in finding suitable learning pathways and thriving in education, several changes are planned to increase permeability and develop both general and vocational education: 

 

 

  • Complement and clarify the role of the state and local authorities in ensuring the fulfilment of the learning obligation, including a single platform for entry into post-basic education, study places in preparatory education, and needs-based support for students. 

  • Detail the responsibilities of the school and the parent; emphasise the responsibility of the student to fulfil the learning obligation. 

  • Establish clearer guidelines for recognising non-formal education in general education schools. 

  • Establish connections between general upper secondary courses and credit points used in vocational and higher education. 

  • Make vocational secondary education a competitive and attractive option alongside general upper secondary education by creating 4-year applied upper secondary curricula focusing on STEM, increasing the scope of general education and elective studies, and overall flexibility and learning options in VET. 

 

 

 

Conceptually, the reform replaces the obligation to go to school with an obligation to learn. The obligation to learn will start at the age of 7 and continue until the age of 18. If the requirements for completing vocational or upper secondary education are fulfilled before the age of 18, the learning obligation is also deemed to be fulfilled. 

 

A package of changes concerning the Education Act, the Basic School and Upper Secondary School Act, and the Vocational Education and Training Institutions Act has been sent to Parliament for adoption. The amendments are set to come into effect for students entering the 9th grade in the 2025/26 school year.

 

Source: Eurydice Unit Estonia 

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