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Estonia:Bachelor

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Overview Estonia

Contents

Estonia:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

Estonia:Historical Development

Estonia:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

Estonia:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

Estonia:Political and Economic Situation

Estonia:Organisation and Governance

Estonia:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

Estonia:Lifelong Learning Strategy

Estonia:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

Estonia:Organisation of Private Education

Estonia:National Qualifications Framework

Estonia:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

Estonia:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

Estonia:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

Estonia:Funding in Education

Estonia:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

Estonia:Higher Education Funding

Estonia:Adult Education and Training Funding

Estonia:Early Childhood Education and Care

Estonia:Organisation

Estonia:Teaching and Learning

Estonia:Assessment

Estonia:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

Estonia:Single Structure Education (Integrated Primary and Lower Secondary Education)

Estonia:Organisation of Single Structure Education

Estonia:Teaching and Learning in Single Structure Education

Estonia:Assessment in Single Structure Education

Estonia:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Single Structure Education

Estonia:Upper Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Estonia:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

Estonia:Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

Estonia:Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education

Estonia:Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Estonia:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Estonia:Assessment in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Estonia:Organisation of Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Estonia:Teaching and Learning in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Estonia:Assessment in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Estonia:Higher Education

Estonia:Types of Higher Education Institutions

Estonia:First Cycle Programmes

Estonia:Bachelor

Estonia:Short-Cycle Higher Education

Estonia:Second Cycle Programmes

Estonia:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

Estonia:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Estonia:Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Distribution of Responsibilities

Estonia:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

Estonia:Main Providers

Estonia:Main Types of Provision

Estonia:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

Estonia:Teachers and Education Staff

Estonia:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

Estonia:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Estonia:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Estonia:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Management and Other Education Staff

Estonia:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

Estonia:Management Staff for Higher Education

Estonia:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

Estonia:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Quality Assurance

Estonia:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Estonia:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Educational Support and Guidance

Estonia:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

Estonia:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

Estonia:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

Estonia:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

Estonia:Mobility and Internationalisation

Estonia:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Mobility in Higher Education

Estonia:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

Estonia:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

Estonia:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

Estonia:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

Estonia:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

Estonia:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

Estonia:National Reforms in School Education

Estonia:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

Estonia:National Reforms in Higher Education

Estonia:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

Estonia:European Perspective

Estonia:Legislation

Estonia:Glossary

 


Branches of Study

The standard period of Bachelor's study as well as of professional higher education study is three to four years and the study load prescribed in the curriculum is 180–240 European Credit Transfer System credits. As an exception, the standard period of study of nursing study with specialisation in obstetrics is four and a half years. The study outcomes of Bachelor's study and professional higher education study correspond to the study outcomes defined on the sixth level of Estonian and European qualification framework.

So students can make a choice between two types of curricula of the first cycle of higher education:

  • under theory-based Bachelor's curricula, practical skills are created on the basis of theoretical principles; curricula presume strong general education knowledge;
  • under professional higher education curricula focused on practical training, theoretical knowledge is created mainly on the basis of practical needs: curricula contain practical work (incl. practical training in work environment) at least to the extent of 15%.

It is possible to access Master’s studies after the completion of either of the above curricula, on the presumption that the admission requirements established by the institution of professional higher education or university are fulfilled.

The Higher Education Standard sets out the broad groups of studies and fields of studies, as well as the nominal periods of different higher education levels and curriculum groups where a specific educational institution has the right to provide instruction and issue respective academic degrees and diplomas.

The broad groups of study, fields of study and curriculum groups are as follows:

Broad groups of study
Fields of study Curriculum groups
1. Education Teacher training and education sciences Teacher training and education sciences
2. Humanities and art

Arts; Humanities

Arts; Humanities; Languages and cultures; Music and theatre art; Theology

3. Social sciences, business and law Social and behavioural science; Journalism and information; Business and administration; Law

Journalism and information;  Psychology;  Social science; Business and administration;  Law

4. Science Life sciences; Physical sciences; Mathematics and statistics; Computing Life and environmental sciences; Physical sciences; Informatics and IT;  Mathematics and statistics
5. Engineering, manufacturing and construction Engineering trades; Manufacturing and processing; Architecture and building Engineering, manufacturing and technology; Architecture and building
6. Agriculture Agriculture, forestry and fishery; Veterinary Agriculture, forestry and fishery; Veterinary
7. Health and welfare Health; Social sciences Medical science; Health care; Social services
8. Services Personal services; Transport services; Environmental protection; Security services Personal services; Sports; Transport services; Environmental protection; National security; Internal defence



Admission Requirements

All persons with secondary education or with a corresponding foreign qualification have an equal right to compete to be admitted to a university, an institution of professional higher education or vocational school. 

The board of an educational institution establishes the conditions and procedures for admittance of students. In addition to an upper secondary education certificate, also the National Examination Certificate, results of entrance exams, professional aptitude interviews, academic aptitude tests, etc. may be considered. Higher education institutions have created specific possibilities for competing for study places also for students with special needs and flexible forms of study for different target groups. For example, several educational institutions offer the people who are already working, an opportunity to study in the evenings, at weekends, once a month, etc.

A person who complies with the admission requirements specified in the terms for admission established by the board of the educational institution shall be matriculated as a student.

A student can acquire higher education without reimbursement of study costs if he or she studies full-time following a curriculum, the language of instruction of which is Estonian. A university has the right (but not an obligation) to demand partial reimbursement of study costs from students who study part-time, do not comply with the requirement of full-time study or following a curriculum, the language of instruction of which is other than Estonian.   

The proficiency level of international students in the language of instruction is set by higher education institution. The procedures for admission and covering of study costs of persons who study on the basis of international agreements and who are not residents of Estonia are set out in accordance with these agreements.

Estonian higher education institutions do not have the right to implement the system of taking account of previous study results and professional experience (VÕTA) in the course of student admission as the primary admission requirement is the existence of a certificate of acquisition of secondary education. However, APEL (Accreditation of Prior and Experimental Learning) can be used with regard to other admission requirements and as a part of fulfilling the curriculum.

Curriculum

The objective of each curriculum is to offer a student the knowledge and skills necessary for starting work or continuing studies. Legislation establishes uniform requirements for higher education level curricula. The requirements concern the quality of studies, nominal period of the curriculum, the requirements for teaching staff, the conditions for access to studies and the conditions for completion of studies. All educational institutions have the right to develop curricula that fall within the framework of established general requirements and correspond to the profile of the institution; these curricula are approved by the board of the educational institution and registered in the Estonian Education Information System.

The Higher Education Standard sets out the study results at higher education levels, which form the basis for the development of curricula.  

One of the characteristics of a learning outcomes-based curriculum is its modular structure. By selecting modules, a student specialises in his or her main field of study and, if necessary, also in one or more secondary fields of study. For the purpose of specialising in a certain field of study, the educational institution offers the student necessary modules. The final selection of modules will be made by the student when compiling his or her own personal curriculum, i.e. selecting his or her elective and optional subjects. It is therefore possible that a student’s main field of study develops during completion of the curriculum.

It is important that the objectives and learning outcomes of the curricula are in correlation with the learning outcomes of the higher education level and through that also with the qualification framework: objectives and learning outcomes must be phrased in a way that they would enable the assessment of the knowledge and skills of a graduate of the curriculum; the name and structure of the curriculum and manner of carrying out study (teaching time, practice, individual work) must support the achievement of the objectives of the curriculum.

The qualification requirements of the teaching staff of universities and institutions of professional higher education are treated separately because their tasks differ. The qualification requirement of teaching staff is generally the existence of either a Doctoral or Master’s degree or a degree equal thereto, in addition, pedagogical skills and experience in supervising of students are required.

For graduation from any curriculum, it is necessary to pass a final examination or to defend a final thesis, with the exception of Doctoral study that ends with the defence of the Doctoral thesis.

Language of instruction is the language used in conducting studies, knowledge of which allows achieving study results at higher education levels. Universities have the right to decide on the use of other languages as languages of instruction in addition to Estonian. The language of instruction of professional higher education institutions and vocational educational institutions is Estonian; the use of other languages shall be decided by the minister in whose area of government the educational institution falls. This requirement does not apply to private higher education schools. A student with no command of Estonian shall be provided with an opportunity to learn Estonian profoundly during one academic year and, therefore, the standard period of his or her studies are prolonged by one year. Intensive national language study is financed through the operating grant allocated to the educational institution.

Educational institutions may take account of a person’s previous study results and professional experiences (APEL) to the extent and according to the principles established by the board of the university or professional higher education institution and bearing in mind the principles established in the higher education standard.  As noted above, it is not possible, according to Estonian legislation, to take account of a person’s previous study results and professional experiences to compensate for a missing formal qualification in order to begin studies.

Higher education institutions may launch joint curricula. In case of a joint curriculum, study is carried out in two or more education institutions offering higher education that have cooperatively developed and approved the joint curriculum. If a part of the joint curriculum is carried out in an educational institution located abroad, the parts of the curriculum implemented in different countries must correspond to the relevant requirements of these countries. In case of a joint curriculum, at least 20% of the volume of the curriculum must be passed at the partner university.


Teaching Methods

In general, teaching methods are chosen by teachers.

The most common method of teaching is still a lecture, in which a teacher presents an overview of the most important issues of a topic usually within 2 academic hours (90 minutes). The method is, however, gradually losing its prominence and the popularity of other methods is increasing. In seminars, the topics and issues covered in lectures or studied independently are discussed and analysed, problems are solved in working groups and reports are presented. Case studies, different forms of project or teamwork, etc. are the methods widely used. Interactive study methods are also applied more extensively in all educational fields. The ultimate freedom of choice and responsibility with regard to teaching methods and study aids, nevertheless lies with the teacher offering a course.

A lot of attention has been paid to the introduction of e-study at the level of higher education institutions. For the support of e-learning, web-based learning environments and teaching aids have been created and continue to be developed. Educational institutions have created and continue to create more and more possibilities for video conferencing. Examinations can also be taken through IT solutions.

Progression of Students

At an institution offering higher education, studies may be undertaken in the form of full-time study, part-time study or external study. People in full-time study and part-time study are considered students, those in external study are not considered students. The provisions of the Adult Education Act concerning formal education apply to external students; such provisions mainly deal with the right to get study leave. Students in external study cannot apply for education allowance or study loan.

In full-time study, a student shall cumulatively complete at least 75% of the study load required by the curriculum to be completed by the end of each academic year, and in part-time study – 50−75%. The first year when a student enrols at a higher education institution, he or she shall decide whether he or she will study full-time or part-time, unless only full-time study may be conducted according to the curriculum. In the following academic years, the higher education institution shall base its decision of whether the student is studying full-time or part-time on the student’s completion of the study load required by the curriculum to be completed by the end of each academic year. The higher education institution transfers a student who does not meet the requirements of full-time study to part-time study.

The board of a higher education institution establishes the general rules of study activities, as well conditions and procedures for dismissal of students from the university.

Employability

The employment opportunities for graduates of the 3-year Bachelor’s study significantly depend on the country’s economic situation. During the period of economic growth (2005-2007), there was a great shortage of employees in the economy and also the new holders of a Bachelor’s degree (according to the new 3+2 system) could find a job relatively easily. For example in the 2006/2007 academic year, only less than half (44%) of the graduates from Bachelor level continued their studies at  Master’s level the following academic year. This was also a period when employability issues were not ranked very highly among the priorities of higher education institutions. Since the outbreak of the economic crisis, the situation has changed and all higher education institutions deem it increasingly important to develop their career counselling system and to mediate practical study places.

In the coming years, more attention will be paid to practical training in higher education. In higher education the practical training system, incl. practical training in teacher training, will be developed with the help of structural funding.  In order to start work in public service, the general requirement with regard to minimum education is formal secondary education and therefore no formal obstacles exist for Bachelor’s level graduates. In reality, educational requirements are established in the public sector through job descriptions individually for each post and usually the minimum requirement for jobs with significant responsibility is Master’s degree or a qualification equal thereto. 

In the last years, business management has become more important in non-economy specialties to add dimension to the competencies of the students and contribute to better coping in their working life. To that end, a programme targeted at improving the labour market relevance of education has been called into being, in the framework of which entrepreneurship is developed at all levels of education. Instructions and learning materials are developed, cooperation between entrepreneurs, local community and other organisations is supported.

Student Assessment

Along with the implementation of learning outcome based curricula, since 1 September 2009, a new assessment system has been used where the focus is on assessment of a student’s achievement of learning outcomes and on supporting students in the study process, in order to give him or her reliable information on his or her effectiveness in passing studies. The new assessment system was established by a decree of the Minister of Education and Research from 27 October 2009 “Unified assessment system on higher education level, together with conditions for receipt of cum laude diploma”. Compared to the previous system, attention is paid to measuring the acquisition of all learning outcomes that must be acquired on the minimum level and the volume of acquisition of a subject (percentage of subject acquired of the total volume) and the results of other students are not important.

Differentiated and non-differentiated scales are used in student assessment and the scale to be used must be known to the student already before beginning studies. In case of a non-differentiated scale, thresholds (base level) are established and if a student exceeds them, he or she has successfully passed the subject or module, i.e. achieved the described learning outcomes. This is marked with the terms “passed” and “failed”. In case of a differentiated scale, initially also the thresholds for passing a subject or module are established and then also the criteria of learning outcomes are described for obtaining grades from A to E (from 5 to 1) that signify a positive result. The level of thresholds is determined by the teacher.

The general scale for assessment of acquisition of learning outcomes is as follows:

  • grade A (5) – excellent – an outstanding and particularly exhaustive achievement of learning outcomes characterised by free and creative usage of knowledge and skills that is above the very good level;
  • grade B (4) – very good – very good achievement of learning outcomes characterised by effective and creative usage of knowledge and skills. Errors not related to content or principles may occur with regard to more specific and detailed knowledge and skills;
  • grade C (3) – good – good level of achievement of learning outcomes characterised by effective usage of knowledge and skills. Insecurity and lack of accuracy occur with regard to more specific and detailed knowledge and skills;
  • grade D (2) – satisfactory – sufficient level of achievement of learning outcomes characterised by usage of knowledge and skills in typical situations; in exceptional situations shortcomings and insecurity occur;
  • grade E (1) – unsatisfactory – achievement of most important learning outcomes on a minimally acceptable level characterised by usage of knowledge and skills in typical situations in limited manners; in exceptional situations significant shortcomings and insecurity occur;
  • grade 0 or F – insufficient – a student has achieved knowledge and skills on a level below the minimum level.

Non-achievement of learning outcomes is marked as F or 0. Other symbols expressing assessment results may not be written on an academic transcript.

Teachers must describe the assessment criteria of all grades of all units of study (subject, module, a set of subjects, parts of individual subjects). Compared to the general learning outcomes of the curriculum, these criteria are much more informative and inform students of the level of knowledge and skills expected for acquisition of any grade.

When taking account of previous study and professional experiences and transferring grades from other higher education institutions (generally from foreign higher education institutions), the following principles apply:

  • previous non-graded (as a rule – non-formal) studies and professional experience is usually taken into account in a non-differentiated scale;
  • when taking account of previously graded subject or modules, a new exam or standard-determining test is not passed; i.e. if the learning outcomes are suitable for transfer but the earlier type of assessment was different (e.g. previously a standard-determining test was passed but now an exam is required), there is no need to make a new assessment and the earlier result should be counted.

The new assessment system was applied to all outcome-based curricula. A diploma issued by a higher education institution is complemented by an academic transcript that includes an explanation about which assessment system has been used in assessing a student’s knowledge and skills. An academic transcript is not an independent document certifying higher education.

Certification

Professional higher education study and Bachelor’s study end with the taking of a final examination or the defence of a thesis. The precondition for being allowed to take the final examination or to defend a thesis is generally the fact that the student has passed the other subjects of the curriculum. Final theses are usually assed in a public defence event, a defence can also be declared non-public.

The study programme groups in which a university has the right to provide instruction and the academic degrees and diplomas to be awarded upon completion of studies shall be specified by the Government of the Republic in the Higher Education Standard.

A person who has completed professional higher education study is issued free of charge a Diploma Supplement in English by the educational institution. A person who has completed Bachelor’s study is issued free of charge the Diploma Supplement by the university upon the request of the person. The issued document certifying education includes the contents of the curriculum and the results of its completion (including form of study, conditions for completing the curriculum, names of subjects and their volumes in credit points, as well as grading systems (grade/assessment)), results of the accreditation of the curriculum, etc. A diploma supplement issued in Estonia follows the instructions of the European Commission, the Council of Europe and UNESCO/CEPES.

A person who has completed Bachelor’s study may, under the conditions established by the Minister of Education and Research, be awarded a diploma cum laude.

Legislative References

Universities Act

Institutions of Professional Higher Education Act

Private Schools Act

Study Allowances and Study Loans Act

Standard of higher education

Correspondence of qualifications issued in Republic of Estonia and qualifications issued in former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics prior to 20 August 1991

Adult Education Act

Format and statute of the diploma and academic report

Uniform marking system for higher education level, and conditions for the issue of diploma cum laude