Directorate for Education and Skills

Voices of education policy


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Based on the Education Policy Outlook Country Profiles, Voices of Education Policy runs short interviews with policy makers who have been asked to respond to two important questions:

1. What do you think are the key elements of your country's education policy that make it a successful system?

2. What is most pressing policy challenge and how are you currently responding to it?



"We believe in learning" - How Estonia works to promote high performance.  


Key points of the Estonian education system



Estonia has remained an overall high performer in PISA, with policies that promote equity in the education system. Estonia has a comprehensive schooling system from age 7 to age 17 that covers all compulsory education and is integrated within a single structure. Grade repetition is low, and tracking (where students follow different educational pathways) starts at age 15-16. School choice and ability grouping are practised in Estonia. Estonia’s enrolment rates in upper secondary vocational education and training (VET) programmes are below the OECD average. Attainment rates are high in upper secondary education and around the OECD average in tertiary education, with increases of almost 10 percentage points since 2000. In the Survey of Adult Skills, Estonia showed high proficiency levels in literacy and numeracy among 16-65 year-olds compared to their peers in other participating countries, and even higher results among 16-24 year-olds, also compared to their peers in other participating countries. Unemployment rates for 25‑64 year-olds for all levels of education were below the OECD average in 2014.



Schools in Estonia have a level of autonomy above the OECD average, including the capacity to make decisions on the curriculum and to hire and dismiss teaching staff. Lower secondary teachers are required to have five years of initial teacher training, including a mandatory teaching practicum, and must follow continuous professional development. Primary and secondary teachers have below-average class sizes and teaching time. Their salaries are lower than the OECD average, despite a significant increase since 2000. A lower proportion of teachers in Estonia than the TALIS average consider that the teaching profession is valued in society and would choose to work as teachers if they could decide again. Teacher appraisal is used for career advancement and to some extent to determine the need for professional development, but there is currently no appraisal system for school leaders. A system-level assessment of the education system is carried out yearly by the Ministry of Education and Research.



In Estonia, governance of the education system is shared between central and local authorities, and schools have a high level of autonomy for resource allocation. The state sets national standards and establishes principles of education funding, supervision and quality assessment. Early childhood education and care is managed by local authorities, and most decisions in lower secondary education are taken at the school level. Estonia’s expenditure on educational institutions as a percentage of GDP and per student (for all education levels combined) is below the OECD average, with a higher share of public funding than the OECD average. 


Learn more here

Marc Tucker, NCEE
What are the keys to successful education systems? 

John Bangs, TUAC

Jonathan Greenhill, BIAC

Access the BIAC Survey on Education

Paul Barker, Ministry of Education,
New Zealand.

Access the Profile for New Zealand

Ismael Sanz, director del INEE, comenta el análisis de la OCDE sobre los retos de la política educativa española.


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