Education in Estonia

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minister of education) specifying the provision of general (2013), vocational (1998), ... years of age), nursery schools (for children 1 to 7 years of age), special ...

Education in Estonia Mare Teichmann, Urve Läänemets, Tiia Rüütmann, Reet Neudorf

Introduction Estonia with its population of 1.3 million has always considered provision of high quality education at different levels of greatest significance since the establishment of statehood in 1918. Constantly changing political, social and cultural environments today have led to new situations and created opportunities for future innovation in cooperation in the globalised world. This article provides an overview of Estonian educational system.

1 Legal Foundations Issues of education have been specified in the Constitution of Republic of Estonia (1992) [1] as follows: Article 37: Everyone has the right to education. Education for school-age children is compulsory to the extent specified by the law, and is free of charge in general schools established by the national government and local authorities. In order to make education accessible, the national government and local authorities maintain a requisite number of educational institutions. Other educational institutions, including private schools, may also be established and maintained pursuant to the law. Parents have the deciding say in the choice of education for their children. Everyone has the right to be taught in Estonian. The language of teaching in national minority institutions is chosen by the educational institution. The provision of education is overseen by the national government. Article 38: Science and art and their teaching are free. Universities and research institutions are autonomous within the limits prescribed by the law. This must be followed as the basis for educational policy making at the level of the state, municipality and institution. There are the following other laws and legal acts (mostly decrees of the government and the minister of education) specifying the provision of general (2013), vocational (1998), higher (1995) private education (1998) as well as for organising pre-school education (1999), hobby education, adult education (1993) and education for people with special educational needs (1993) [1]. The principles for the framework of the general education system are provided in the Education Act of the Republic of Estonia, which specifies the structure and organization principles of the general education system, the bases of compulsory school attendance and the activities of educational institutions, the types of documents certifying education, etc. The acts that regulate the general education system can be classified as follows. By levels of education there are Pre-school Child Care Institutions Act (1999) and Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools’ Act (1993, 2011 and 2013) [1]. By the form of ownership of the educational institution there is Private Schools’ Act (1998) [1]. Acts that regulate other areas of education also contain provisions dealing with general education, such as Vocational Educational Institutions’ Act (1998) and Adult Education Act (1993) [1]. Higher Education Act (1995) is specifying studies and research activities at universities [1].

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All strategic plans and curricula are usually adopted as decrees of the government or as decrees of the minister of education. On 19 January 2007, the Government of the Republic approved the Development Plan for the General Education System in 2007−2013, which defines the arranged long-term development objectives and goals of the general education system. In the spring of 2008, the Government of the Republic approved the national curriculum (NC) for preschool childcare institutions [1], which led to expanding the study of Estonian as a second language in preschool child care institutions, establishing measures related to cooperation with the parents in supporting children’s development and assessing children's development, for example their school maturity, etc. The NC for preschool child care institutions entered into force on 1 September 2008 [1]. In January 2011, the Government of the Republic approved the updated NC for basic schools and upper secondary schools [1]. The system of Estonian education follows the structure of ISCED. The Estonian Human Resource Development Reports since 1995 all contain chapters discussing various issues of education and can serve as basis for further analyses [2, 3].

2 Preschool Education Pursuant to the Education Act, preschool education is acquired either in a preschool child care institution or at home, and its acquisition is the responsibility of the child’s parents or guardians. Parents of children who go to child care institutions or who stay at home have the right to receive advice about educating and raising their children from the teacher of the child care institution in their region. There are four types of preschool child care institutions – day nurseries (for children 1 to 3 years of age), nursery schools (for children 1 to 7 years of age), special nursery schools, and nursery-primary schools. Most child care institutions in rural areas have 1–3 groups (one group usually has 20-24 children), and in cities up to 12 groups. However, the maximum number of groups in new child care institutions is limited to 6. Local governments must provide the opportunity to attend child care institutions to all children between 1 and 7 years of age who live in their catchment areas if this is requested by their parents. The demand for nursery school places is very high in certain regions, in particular in Tallinn, Harju County and Tartu, which provide better opportunities for parents’ employment and cause migration to the mentioned centres. About 75% [4, 5] of the cohort of the respective age group attend preschool institutions, which together with schools provide preparatory training for children who do not attend nursery schools. These training events (lessons) are mostly free of charge for the parents of children participating in these groups. Compulsory school attendance begins for children who turn 7 by 1 October of the given school year at the latest. In some individual cases children who are 7 or 8 have been allowed to postpone school.

3 General Comprehensive Education In Estonia the provision of general education at all levels of education is carried out on the basis of common NC irrespective of the language of instruction. Schools prepare their curricula on the basis of the NC, which are frameworks to be filled with content by teachers. All the NC of the period of regained independence – those of 1996, 2002 and 2010 (2011) [1] are following the liberal free market ideology. It has given the schools more opportunities to provide students with elective subjects, but also greater responsibility for the decisions taken as the national graduation exams at the end of upper secondary schools (gymnasia) are still centrally organized and assessed.

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The duration of the study period at schools is at least 175 school days (35 weeks), and there are four school holiday periods. There were approximately 154.000 pupils engaged in daytime study in general education schools during the 2008/2009 academic year, 12.426 of whom were in the first grade [5]. Currently, the number of students at general comprehensive schools has significantly decreased and is falling still (see Table 1), mostly due to mobility of labour force from rural areas abroad. Table 1 – Number of Pupils at General Comprehensive Schools in Estonia Academic Year 2005/2006 2006/2007 2007/2008 2008/2009 2009/2010 2010/2011 2011/2012 2012/2013

Number of Pupils at Basic Schools 138 814 129 357 122 777 117 534 114 551 112 640 111 955 112 169

Number of Pupils at Gymnasia 42 149 41 637 39 184 36 947 35 090 33 299 31 028 28 776

Total Number of Pupils 180 963 170 994 161 961 154 481 149 641 145 939 142 983 140 945

Accordingly, there are changes in the network of schools; the present number of compulsory schools and general upper secondary schools is 532 [5]. In Figure 1 the network of schools in Estonia has been presented. In Table 2 the number of general comprehensive schools in Estonia has been presented.

Figure 1 – The Network of General Comprehensive Schools in Estonia

Local governments have established catchment areas for municipal school grades 1–9. Schools must admit all children under the minimum school-leaving age (17 years) who live in their catchment areas. Parents can influence the development of schools through the schools’ boards of trustees. Table 2 – Number of General Comprehensive Schools in Estonia Academic Year 2007/2008 2008/2009 2009/2010 2010/2011 2011/2012 2012/2013

Number of Primary Schools 82 79 73 68 68 68

Number of Basic Schools 261 260 260 253 252 250

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Number of Gymnasia 230 227 226 224 220 214

Total Number of Schools 573 566 559 545 540 532

Basic compulsory education can be acquired from the age of 7 partially in primary schools (grades 1–6), in basic schools (grades 1–9) or in upper secondary schools that have opened basic school grades. Basic school is divided into three stages of study: stage 1 – grades 1–3; stage 2 – grades 4–6 and stage 3 – grades 7–9. Basic education can be acquired on the basis of three NC: the NC for basic schools, the simplified NC for basic schools, and the NC for students with moderate and severe learning disabilities. The maximum permitted weekly workload of pupils is 20 lessons in the 1st grade; 23 lessons in the 2nd grade; 25 lessons in the 3rd and 4th grade; 28 lessons in the 5th grade; 30 lessons in the 6th and 7th grade; 32 lessons in the 8th grade and 34 lessons in the 9th grade [5]. Compulsory basic school subjects include mother tongue Estonian (or Russian) and Literature, Foreign Language A and B (chosen from English, Russian, German or French), Mathematics, Natural Science, Geography, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History, Human Studies, Social Studies, Music, Art, Physical Education, Manual Training. Studying Estonian as a second language is compulsory in schools using Russian or some other foreign language as the language of instruction. Estonian can also be studied as a second language in schools with instruction in Estonian by pupils whose mother tongue is other than Estonian. There are also some international schools in Estonia (3 IBO schools, one Finnish school and recently (2013) opened one European school with instruction in 5 languages) [5]. In order to graduate from basic school, students are required to complete the curriculum and successfully pass three basic school graduation examinations, including an examination in the Estonian language and literature or Estonian as a second language, a Mathematics examination and an examination in a subject chosen by the pupil. After finishing basic school it is possible to acquire a general secondary education in an upper secondary school, a secondary vocational education, or simply a vocation in a vocational educational institution.

4 General Secondary Education Upper secondary education is provided pursuant to the NC which is used by each school as the basis of their own curriculum in grades 10 – 12. There are 35 study weeks in daytime study per school year and one study week must have at least 32 lessons. Pupils in upper secondary schools can acquire extensive knowledge in certain fields of study within the scope of elective subjects (subjects focusing on arts, math, natural sciences, etc.). or learn a profession taught in a vocational upper secondary school. All the traditional subjects are similar to those at compulsory schools. At the end of the three-year study period, students used to take five graduation examinations, of which three had to be state examinations. From spring 2014 all students must take three compulsory national exams (Estonian, Mathematics and English), write a research paper and take a school exam according to the chosen fields of study. Several students are engaged in acquiring general secondary education (in some cases also compulsory education) in the form of evening study and distance learning, as well as external study and by studying single subjects for university entrance. Estonian general comprehensive schools used to be either full-cycle schools with grades 1-12, or basic schools with grades1-9. According to the new School Act of 2013 [1] the compulsory schools and upper secondary schools will be separated and a new type of gymnasia (state gymnasia) will be introduced in district centres of Estonia. In Table 3 the number of gymnasia, vocational schools, and schools for evening study and distance learning has been presented along with the number of pupils.

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Table 3 – Number of General Secondary Schools in Estonia Academic Year

Number of Gymnasia

2007/2008 2008/2009 2009/2010 2010/2011 2011/2012 2012/2013

230 227 226 224 220 214

Number of Vocational Schools 53 51 51 51 50 48

Number of Schools for Evening Study and Distance Learning 16 16 16 16 16 16

Number of Pupils at General Secondary Schools 39 184 36 947 35 090 33 299 31 028 42 149

Studies in Estonian in Russian-medium Schools: The language of instruction at the level of upper secondary education has been a highly debated issue since 1991 and there have been several legal documents compiled. In 1997 it was specified in the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act that the transition to Estonian-language instruction in Russianlanguage schools at the upper secondary school level would start no later than 1 September 2007. The activities supporting the transition have been in the plan of action, which became a part of the “Development Plan for the General Education System for 2007–2013” [6]. Each subsequent stage of the transition concerns pupils who start the 10th grade in the given academic year. Pupils starting the 10th grade in 2011 or later will have to study 60% of the NC in Estonian. There are 62 upper secondary schools with Russian as the language of instruction in Estonia, all of which will switch to Estonian language subject study in accordance with the schedule and procedure established in the regulations of the Government of the Republic. In basic schools, the owner of the school (generally the local government) will choose the language of instruction. The Minister of Education and Research signed a directive on 13th of November 2007, whereby those Russian-language schools that have implemented more Estonianlanguage instruction than required by the NC, will receive additional support: the ministry will provide EEK 70,000 for each additional compulsory subject that is taught in Estonian. There have been a lot of practical activities as well as research dealing with the transition to subject instruction in Estonian (see the references, 5). The method of language immersion was introduced in the middle of 1990ies and declared the only modern approach to teaching and learning Estonian from kindergartens up to the end of all institutions of general education. However, several other methods for learning languages are being used. The new generation of ethnic minorities in Estonia are mostly trilingual (with skills in Estonian, English and Russian), which has given them an advantage at the labour market over those young people who are bilingual, (with skills in their respective mother tongues and English only). Estonia has participated in several comparative educational studies. In 2003 Estonia participated in the TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) organised by the International Education Association (IEA) for pupils in the older age group, where the average age of pupils was 15.2 years. The study allowed for a comparison of performance in different countries and to explain the reasons behind different performances, to assess the efficiency of teaching Mathematics and Science in different countries. Estonian pupils achieved 5th place in science (first in Geography, fifth in Chemistry and Environmental Studies) and 8th place in Mathematics among the 49 participating countries. Among European countries, Estonia was in 1st place in science and third in Mathematics after Belgium (Flemish community) and Holland. Regardless of the good results, the summary showed that pupils in Estonia are not interested in Science or Mathematics and that the selfesteem of both teachers and pupils is low.

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The PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) survey comparing the academic performance of students was first conducted in Estonian schools by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in April 2006. The PISA of 2006 focused on scientific literacy and it also attempted to assess the attitudes of pupils.57 countries took part in the PISA 2006 survey (30 OECD countries and 27 partner countries) with a total of 400.000 pupils, aged from 15 years and three months to 16 years and two months. The Estonian sample included 4.865 pupils from 127 Estonian-medium schools, 38 Russianmedium schools and four bilingual schools. 70.8% of the pupils who took part in the survey studied in 9th grade, 48.1% of the participants studied in city schools. The results achieved were presented according to average performance and according to proficiency levels. According to average performance, Estonian pupils ranked fifth on the science scale after Finland, Hong Kong (China), Canada and Taiwan (China), in reading they ranked thirteenth and in mathematics they were fourteenth. According to the percentage of pupils at each proficiency level on the science scale, Estonian pupils ranked second after Finland, twelfth in reading and ninth in mathematics. Estonia has also participated in the PISA Survey in 2009 with the main emphasis on the assessment of reading literacy, the results of which will be made public by the end of 2013. In 2005, Estonia was invited to participate in the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey. Headmasters and teachers from 200 schools took part in the survey conducted in 2008. In 2009, Estonia participated in the International Civic and Citizenship Educational Study.

5 State Obligations Regarding the Learners with Special Educational Needs A conception for the organisation of studies for students with special educational needs has been developed and approved in the Ministry of Education and Research and this has been a basis for compiling and carrying out the strategy of providing them with different types of education. Pupils with special educational needs are pupils whose outstanding talent, learning or behavioural difficulties, health problems, disabilities or long-term absence from studies create the need to make changes or adaptations in the content of studies, the study processes or the learning environment (study aids, classrooms, language of communication, incl. alternative communications, specially trained teachers, support staff, etc.), or in the work plan prepared by the teacher for work with the relevant class. Children with special needs have the right to learn in schools of their residence like all other children. The task of schools is to involve pupils in the study process and adapt the learning environment in such a manner that every pupil would be able to learn according to their abilities. Highly talented children in music, arts or sports can attend specialised schools, financed by the state (e.g. Tallinn Specialised Upper Secondary School for Music). Students with exceptional gifts in sciences or humanities can additionally to everyday studies at school attend so-called student academies at Tartu University, Tallinn University of Technology and Tallinn University, quite often on-line. Rural municipalities or city governments provide children, who have physical, speech, sensory or mental disabilities, and children who need special assistance or special care, with the opportunity to develop in the adaptation group of the child care institution in their area of residence. They create special groups or establish special nursery schools if it is impossible for the local child care institution to create an adaptation group. Children are admitted to adaptation or special groups on the basis of a written application submitted by a parent and the decision of the counselling committee. Disabled children or children who need special care have the right to study in the nearest school that complies with requirements if the school 6

of their residence does not have the possibilities and conditions for accommodating children with special needs. Sanatorium schools are intended for students with health disorders where students study on the basis of friendly regulation of study and receive the necessary treatment. The obligation to attend school may also be fulfilled by studying at home. There are 48 schools for students with special needs in Estonia: 3 for students with hearing impairment; 1 for students with physical disabilities; 1 for students with visual impairment; 5 for students with behavioural problems; 3 for students with health disorders and others are for students with learning disabilities. These pupils can study on the basis of different curricula using the simplified NC for basic schools, which is used to teach children with slight mental retardation; there is also the NC for students with moderate and severe learning disabilities. A recommendation of the counselling committee of the county or city is required for application of the simplified NC or the curriculum for students with moderate and severe learning disabilities to pupils. The counselling committee also gives recommendations about postponing school attendance and selecting schools or classes for children with special needs. The consent of the parent is required in all issues concerning the organisation of studies for pupils with special needs. The funding system of children with special educational needs is in the process of change, so the local governments and regular schools are obliged to include students with special needs in regular schools and to compile and implement individual study plans following each student’s developmental needs. They are also responsible for implementation of intra-school rehabilitation services in schools by hiring special education teachers, speech therapists, supporting teachers, psychologists and social pedagogy teachers. The goal is to increase the importance of information and communication technology in the study process of children with special educational needs, using the means of information and communications technology in teaching, learning, communicating, therapy and diagnostics more than earlier. There is also an aim to direct and support the development of special schools into regional counselling centres and to focus more on increasing the importance of individual study curricula and its practical implementation in school life. In cooperation with the directors of the county government/area the accessibility of optimal and quality counselling service must be developed for children, parents as well as teachers.

6 Vocational Education To meet the demands of labour market there are 29 state governed vocational colleges, 9 private vocational institutions and 3 municipal vocational schools in Estonia. There are also 9 departments at institutions of higher education providing vocational training. All the mentioned institutions train specialists in different fields according to 101 curricula (after completion of basic education) and 167 curricula (after completion of secondary general education) [5]. About 34% [5] of the post-compulsory age group study at all these schools and new learning environments have increased popularity of vocational education. Estonian students are regularly participating most successfully in different international professional competitions. However, the network of these institutions does not cover Estonia evenly, but they have greatly contributed to labour force mobility from Estonia as the acquired qualifications allow finding employment reasonably easily. Secondary vocational education is provided on the basis of compulsory education and the students acquire a secondary education in addition to the profession. The minimum study period is three years. Students who have completed a secondary vocational education curriculum in a vocational school can study general education subjects of their choice for up to 35 additional study weeks (the so-called additional year) and take state examinations. This 7

increases the competitiveness of graduates of vocational schools with regard to further studies at the tertiary education level. During the voluntary additional year, the pupils’ studies take place in adult upper secondary schools or in the evening or distance learning departments of upper secondary schools and are free of charge. Vocational training based on secondary education represents the opportunity to acquire professional skills within 0.5 to 2.5 years of graduation from upper secondary school. In Table 4 the number of pupils at vocational schools has been presented. Table 4 – The Number of Students at Vocational Schools in Estonia

Academic Year

Number of Students with Basic Education

2007/2008 2008/2009 2009/2010 2010/2011 2011/2012 2012/2013

18 882 17 648 17 627 16 897 15 428 14 152

Number of Students with Secondary Education 8 620 8 672 9 718 10 180 10 597 10 633

Total Number of Students

27 381 27 239 28 363 28 012 27 046 26 172

Proportion of Vocational Studies after Gymnasium 32% 33% 34% 36% 39% 41%

Proportion of Vocational Education 32% 33% 34% 34% 34% 34%

In Figure 2 the Network of Vocational Schools in Estonia has been presented.

Figure 2 - the Network of Vocational Schools in Estonia

7 Teachers Training Training events for the teachers of Estonian schools are carried out in all universities in Estonia. Pre-school teacher training at BA and MA level is provided at Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, Tartu University, Tallinn University and their respective colleges according to the Bologna model. Reorganization of pre-service teacher training curricula is under way at the moment, which is expected to provide future teachers with more flexible skills required in new learning environments. All in-service training is provided by different actors in the free market. However, the Ministry of Education and Research supports some projects of in-service training specifically related to educational policy aims, e.g. training of teachers at schools with instruction in Russian. There are special Open University departments in Tartu and Tallinn, which organise short and long-term courses for different target groups, also training events for requalification. Tallinn University of Technology has a special Estonian Centre for Engineering education accredited by IGIP (International Society for Engineering pedagogy) for provision of inservice training in the field of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) for 8

engineers teaching at upper secondary schools, vocational schools, and also for lecturers at colleges and universities. This centre also acts as a coordinating institution for all Scandinavian and Baltic region. There is one internationally recognized teacher organisation – Estonian Educational Personnel Union (ca 6000 members) belonging to the Eurpean Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) representing 132 Teacher Unions and 11 million teachers in all countries of Europe, 4.2 million teachers in the EU, from all levels of the education sector. ETUCE is a Social Partner in education at the EU level and a European Trade Union Federation within ETUC, the European Trade Union Confederation. ETUCE is the European Region branch of Education International (EI), the global federation of teacher unions. There are also several NGOs acting as professional voluntary groups of different educationists aspiring towards educational excellence in their field. There have been several projects for enhancement of teachers’ professionalism launched by international support (e.g. the project “The Improvement of the Competitiveness of Teachers in Non-Estonian Schools” launched with the support of the European Social Fund in 2006 – 2008, etc). The number of teachers at general comprehensive schools is 14 208 [5]. The greatest problem is the average age of teachers (about 48 years at general comprehensive schools and about 62 years at vocational schools) and quite a small proportion of male teachers employed at general comprehensive schools (about 14%) and at vocational schools (36%) [5]. From January 1, 2014 all formerly acquired 4 professional qualification levels (from junior teachers to those qualified as specialists in methods) will be abolished. Estonian teachers have enjoyed the opportunities provided by different European programs led by Archimedes Foundation. In the period of 2007-2013 the number of educationists participating in the programme of lifelong learning was 9870 [7].

8 Higher Education and Universities Estonia has 6 state universities (Tartu University, Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn University, Estonian Academy of Life Sciences, Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, Estonian Art Academy) and 3 private universities (EuroUniversity, Estonian Business School, Estonian Entrepreneurship University of Applied Sciences) with about 64.806 students in total (see Table 5). All universities act according to their statutes and are free to organise their studies and international cooperation. In recent two decades the number of students from other countries has considerably increased (e.g. the number of foreign students at TUT is currently ca 800). The universities have also close ties to their alumni working in various fields of economy, business, politics and culture. The quality of academic staff and activities is evaluated by regular accreditation, usually every 4-5 years. Universities contribute greatly by research to solving the problems in all walks of life. Estonian universities have good international image. According to QS World University Rankings (2013) Tallinn University of Technology has rating of (441-450) universities in the world, thus gaining the highest rating from the universities of the Baltic countries [8]. The requirement for access to higher education is secondary education, certified by Upper Secondary School Leaving Certificate (issued after 12 years of schooling), Certificate of Vocational Secondary Education, the corresponding qualifications of earlier education systems, and foreign qualifications giving access to higher education. Student workload is measured in credits. As of academic year 2009/2010, the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) have officially been in use. One ECTS credit

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corresponds to 26 hours of work by a student. The workload of one academic year is 1560 hours, which corresponds to 60 ECTS credits. Table 5 – Number of Students in Higher Education in Estonia Academic Year

2007/2008 2008/2009 2009/2010 2010/2011 2011/2012 2012/2013

Number of students in state commissioned studies 31 150 31 536 33 080 35 184 35 835 35 728

Number of fee paying students

Total Number of Students

37 018 36 863 35 905 33 929 31 772 31 772

68 168 68 399 68 985 69 113 67 607 64 806

Professional higher education is higher education of the first cycle, the purpose of which is to acquire the competencies necessary for working in a certain profession or for continuing studies at the master’s level. The nominal duration of programmes is 3 to 4 years (180-240 ECTS credits). The qualification gives access to master’s programmes. Bachelor’s programmes are first-cycle higher education programmes. The purpose of bachelor studies is to broaden the scope of general education, to develop the basic knowledge and skills required for a certain field of study necessary for continuing at the master’s level or for access to the labour market. The nominal duration of the programmes is generally 3 years (180 ECTS credits). As an exception, it may be up to 4 years (240 ECTS credits). The qualification gives access to master’s programmes. In Figure 3 the network of institutions of applied higher education and universities (with their colleges) has been presented.

Figure 3 – The Network of Universities and Institutions of Applied Higher Education in Estonia

Master’s programmes are second-cycle higher education programmes. The purpose of master’s level studies is to develop the knowledge and skills required for a certain field of study and to acquire the necessary competences in order to enter the labour market or to continue studies at the doctoral level. The access requirement is a first-cycle higher education qualification. The nominal duration of the programmes is 1 to 2 years (60-120 ECTS credits), but with the first-cycle studies it is at least five years (300 ECTS credits). The qualification gives access to doctoral programmes. Doctoral programmes represent the third cycle of higher education, the purpose of which is to acquire knowledge and skills necessary for independent research, development or professional creative work. The access requirement for doctoral studies is a master’s degree or 10

corresponding qualifications. The nominal duration of programme is 3 to 4 years (180-240 ECTS credits). A doctorate degree is a research degree obtained after the completion and public defence of a dissertation based on independent scientific research or creative work.

9 National Priorities Concerning the Future Reforms The common objectives of the reforms carried out and planned at every education level are higher quality of education, better accessibility and more effective use of resources. The focuses vary in fields, taking into account the changes already carried out as well as current problems. When planning all the reforms for years to come, we have to consider the inevitability of upcoming challenges to the education system and the labour market (eventually for the entire state) caused by the drastic decrease in the number of children which will directly affect the networks of schools, teachers’ pre- and in-service training, all the higher education system and everything related to educational economics. The general education expenditure from the budget of the Ministry of Education and Research, which in recent years has made up 6–7% of the GDP, consists mainly of expenses related to state general education schools and other general education expenses. The contributions of other ministries have constantly constituted approximately 2% of the public sector’s general education expenditure. These contributions include the school milk grant funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, the children’s school allowance paid from the budget of the Ministry of Social Affairs, and the investment expenses of general education schools funded within the framework of Riigi Kinnisvara AS (State Property). The main development priorities will be focused to activities that promote an individual approach and the development of each student, including the development of students with special needs, modernise education of teachers and university staff, support international cooperation, especially in research and provide best economic solutions regarding the financing and management of the system of education.

References 1. Riigi Teataja (Estonian Legislations, including legal acts and national curricula) www.riigiteataja.ee (retrieved on November 24, 2013). 2. National Curriculum for Basic Schools 2011 National Curriculum for Upper Secondary Schools 2011 (general part and appendixes) (retrieved on November 27, 2013) 3. The Estonian Human Development Reports 1995-2013 Available at http://www.ciesin.ee/undp/nhdr.html (retrieved on November 27, 2013) 4. Estonian Statistics Agency http://www.stat.ee/organisation (data retrieved on November 25, 2013). 5. Ministry of Education and Research of Estonia www.hm.ee (retrieved on November 26, 2013). 6. Development Plan for the General Education System for 2007–2013” (retrieved on November 26, 2013) 7. Seitsme aasta lugu 2007-2013. (The Story of Seven Years 2007-2013) Archimedes Foundation. 8. QS World University Rankings 2013, http://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/worlduniversity-rankings/2013 (retrieved on November 26, 2013).

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