Estonian Education System 1990-2016: Reforms and Their Impact

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Abhi Sharma || Creative Commons

Download full paper: Estonian Education System_1990-2016

The Estonian education system has a long history – first academic schools were founded in 1630 (Tartu) and 1631 (Tallinn). In 1632 the first university, the University of Tartu, was founded. In the second half of the 17th century first Estonian folk-schools were opened. The aim of these schools was to provide education in the native language, so students could read the Bible. According to the census in 1897, the level of literacy in Estonia was 79.9%, which was highest in the Tsardom of Russia (56.3% in Moscow and 62.2% in Saint Petersburg). In 1920, six grades of education was made compulsory, it rose to eight grades in 1959-1963 and nine grades in 1968-1988. Estonian education system maintained its peculiarity during the Soviet occupation – teaching was in Estonian; the atmosphere in schools derived from progressive ideas and democracy; textbooks were by Estonian authors; teaching arts, music and foreign languages were given a great emphasis.

The following paper gives an overview of education reforms in Estonia since 1990. The paper is devided into three chapters. First chapter gives an overview of strengths of the Estonian education system. Second chapter brings out and analyses most important reforms carried out during last 25 years. As the education system is continously being reformed, the third chapter is dedicated to plans and future challenges.

The article was commissioned by Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and prepared for an education conference in Moldova

Mihkel Lees
Academy of Liberalism