Estonie (picture from Wikimedia)« Studious Estonia » sounds like a slogan. It is the buzzword launched by the Estonian government to characterise its aims in terms of training and education and underscores its determination to upgrade the level of instruction of Estonian citizens and develop lifelong learning.

After achieving independence in 1992, the young Estonian republic adopted a law on vocational education and training (VET) in 1998 which provided for 2 levels of vocational training: one at secondary school level and the other in tertiary education. Mainstream education, knowledge acquisition and learning to work independently all hold a prime place in the system. The aim is to give pupils everything they need to be able to apply their knowledge in a working environment. As with the other Baltic republics, Estoniahas made teacher training one of its priorities. It has defined a qualifications framework which has been drawn up in cooperation with social partners. Finally, it has assured the certification of skills and their acknowledgement on an international scale.


The Estonian education system – 2014


Estonian system (© Onisep / Elise Veteau)




The vocational pathway in Estonia


In Estonia, school is compulsory from the age of 7 to 17.

Basic education, for pupils aged between 7 and 15, which takes place in a single school structure called Pöhiaridus. After 9 years of education, pupils take an examination (Põhikooli lõputunnistus). They can then continue at the high school in streamline education or in a VET school.


Secondary education

  • Mainstream secondary education is provided in a gümnaasium. It lasts for 3 years.
  • Vocational secondary education is provided in a kutseõppeasutus. It lasts for 3 years for pupils joining straight from basic education and 1 to 2½ years for pupils coming from mainstream secondary education. The training includes both classes and work placements. At the end of the cycle, pupils can either go out to work or pursue their studies in higher education.


Higher education

Higher education is divided into 2 different pathways: university and institutes of applied higher education.

These institutes are open to anyone who has gone through the secondary education system. Studies tend to last for 3 or 4 years.


Key figures

  •  In 2012 in Estonia, 23,7% of women and 44.2% of men were enrolled in the upper secondary vocational education stream.  (Eurostat – 2013)
  • The rates for obtaining a diploma at the end of secondary studies in mainstream education are higher for women than for men. In Estonia the ratio for diploma holders is 3 women to 2 men(OCDE – 2011)
  • The rate for obtaining a diploma at the end of pre-vocational or vocational education and training stands at 23% in Estonia. In comparison, the figure stands at 69% in France. (OECD – 2013)
  • There are 41 public vocational schools in Estonia. (HM – 2013)

Last update : 20/05/2014