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Estonia:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

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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

 

State supervision in preschool and school education is exercised on equal grounds.
The task of state supervision is:

  • to check the fulfilment of requirements deriving from legal acts regulating teaching  and education activities; 
  • to analyse problems in implementation of legal acts regulating teaching and education activities. 

On the initiative of the ministry, supervision is conducted with regard to individual issues or through thematic supervision based on state supervision priorities. The priorities of state supervision are approved by a decree of the Minister of Education and Research for each academic year. Supervision priorities are related to topical education policy themes.  In the academic year 2016/2017, priority is given to taking account of the individual needs and abilities of every child in teaching and education activities. The objective is to assess how well every child and student is provided with an age-appropriate, safe, positive and developing learning and educational environment.  

Each year, at least 10% of educational institutions belong to the sample subject to supervision.

The results of supervision are formulated as a report and such reports are public documents. The Ministry of Education and Research analyses the results of supervision and publishes them in the annual overview of external evaluation of the education system.

In 2006, the Ministry of Education and Research established the obligation to conduct internal evaluation in preschool child care institutions, general education schools and vocational schools. The objective of the change was to support the creation of internal quality assurance systems and to enhance the independence and self-management of educational institutions. The objective of internal evaluation is to ensure conditions that support the development of children/students and a continuous development of the educational institution. An educational institution can use counselling service. However, since 1 September 2013, counselling service has been covered from the school funds. Counsellors have undergone specific training. Preschool child care institutions can apply for compensation of counselling service by the Ministry of Education and Research. 

The objective of counselling is:

  • to analyse the internal evaluation of an educational institution;
  • to give the head of the educational institution feedback on internal evaluation;
  • counsel the head of the educational institution in the field of internal evaluation.

The purpose of external assessment of learning outcomes is to give the school, its owner and the state as objective and comparable feedback as possible on the attainment of  the learning outcomes provided for in the national curricula and the effectiveness of teaching and learning in school and provide the state with necessary information for making education policy decisions.

External assessment of learning outcomes is performed through standard-determining tests, harmonised final examinations of basic school and state examinations. The Minister of Education and Research establishes the subjects, forms and time of standard-determining tests, the conditions and procedure for preparing, drawing up, carrying out and assessing and the procedure for standard-determining tests and the conditions of and procedure for analysing harmonised final examinations of basic school and state examinations. 

In 2014, the conditions for graduation from upper secondary school were changed. Since 2014, an upper secondary school graduate has been required to take in addition to the school examination and a student investigation paper or practical work three compulsory state examinations, in the Estonian language, mathematics and a foreign language.

By the Decree of the Minister of Education and Research No 238 of 3 June 2014, the concept of general education external evaluation
General education external evaluation tasks, principles and basis for development until 2020” was approved. Focus in assessing the performance of a learner and an educational institution as a learning organisation has shifted onto formative assessment. According to the concept, evaluation of learning outcomes shall be guided by the following principles: 

  • to support the development of the student, the teacher and the school;
  • to collect evidence necessary for taking decisions relating to the student and the school;
  • to submit proposals for decisions on education at state level and to provide schools with an example of good practice in teaching.

According to the Vocational Educational Institutions Act,  the Minister of Education and Research shall grant the right to conduct study on the basis of a specific curriculum group of a vocational educational institution and ensure that curriculum groups shall undergo regular accreditation, a part of which is internal evaluation in school.  

Accreditation of curriculum groups of vocational education is coordinated by Estonian Quality Agency for Higher and Vocational Education, which is one of the structural units of Archimedes Foundation.

In order to operate as the manager of a continuing education institution, the continuing education provider must submit a notice of economic activities, unless, pursuant to the law he or she is required to apply for an activity licence for the provision of continuing education. In case the continuing education curricula are based on learning outcomes and comply with the continuing education standard, and teachers with required competence and a required learning environment can be provided, an activity licence must be applied for.


Responsible Bodies

State supervision over the teaching and education activities of schools is performed by the Ministry of Education and Research or by the county governor of the location of the school at a request of the minister responsible. Where necessary, experts are involved in conduct of state supervision. The qualification requirements for officials performing supervision are established by the minister responsible.

The Ministry of Education and Research exercises state or administrative supervision over the managers of continuing education institutions and their activities pursuant to the Adult Education Act. The procedure for internal evaluation is established by the head of a school who shall obtain an approval for the evaluation from the board of trustees of the school in advance. 

Foundation Innove organises external evaluation of learning outcomes (standard-determining tests and examinations) in basic schools and upper secondary schools, analyses the results and informs educational institutions about the results.

Supervisory control over the lawfulness and efficiency of an educational institution’s activities is initialised and carried out by the owner of the institution (in municipal schools by the local municipality, in state schools by the Minister of Education and Research), involving experts of the field, where necessary.

Regarding vocational and professional qualifications, the quality of education is inspected by vocational councils whose work is organised by the Estonian Qualifications Authority. The area of activity of the Estonian Qualifications Authority is the development of the qualifications system as a link between learning and the labour market as well as guaranteeing that the system operates. The Estonian Qualifications Authority organises the development of professional qualification standards and coordinates the organisation of professional examinations. 

Approaches and Methods for Quality Assurance

The initial evaluation of an educational institution is carried out through issuing of an education license. All private and municipal educational institutions (preschool institutions, general education schools, vocational schools) with the exception of state schools must apply for an education licence from the Ministry of Education and Research in order to organise teaching and education. Together with the application, the curriculum of the educational institution and the data about the teachers are submitted. When processing the education licence, the compliance of the curriculum to the requirements set out in legal acts as well as the correspondence of teachers with the qualification requirements is evaluated. An education licence gives the right for organisation of teaching and education activities. Granting of an education licence is decided by the Minister of Education and Research. 

The official conducting administrative supervision has the right to:

  • visit a school in order to inspect teaching and education, informing the head of the school thereof in advance;
  • participate in the meetings of the teachers’ council, the board of trustees and parents;
  • access the documents of the school;
  • receive information from the school regarding the implementation of legislation;
  • make proposals to the head of the school and the owner of the school for improvement of the operations of the school and mandatory precepts for elimination of deficiencies in teaching and education; 
  • make mandatory precepts to the head of the school and the owner of a private school for bringing the individual legal instruments regulating teaching and education and issued by them in conflict with an Act or other legislation issued on the basis of an Act into compliance with the Act or other legislation issued on the basis of an Act; 
  • make a proposal to the county governor for exercising supervision over the lawfulness of an individual legal instrument of a rural municipality or city government or a rural municipality or city council in accordance with the Government of the Republic Act;
  • make a proposal to the person whose competence includes termination of an employment contract with the head of the school to terminate the employment contract with the head of the school who has committed an indecent act, an offence related to office or a corruptive act or make a precept to terminate the employment contract with the head of the school who does not comply with the requirements for the position.

The following methods shall be used in conducting administrative supervision:

  • analysing statistical and financial reports, learning outcomes and other collected information, including analysing and verifying the data in the Estonian Education Information System;
  • examining the documents of the educational institution and analysing the content thereof;
  • having conversations with the employees of the educational institution, members of the board of trustees (the teachers’ council), parents, students (children) and the owner of the educational institution, and in case of a state or a private educational institution, with a representative of the local government of the location of the educational institution;
  • examining the teaching and upbringing environment of the school, including teaching and education activities.

Internal evaluation is used to evaluate teaching and education activities and management of preschool institutions, basic schools, upper secondary schools and vocational schools and the effectiveness thereof. Educational institutions draw up an internal evaluation report at least once during the period of the school development plan.

The report lists the strengths and areas for improvement of the operations of the school. Performance indicators, which are available to public in EEIS and approved by an order of the minister, form a basis for internal evaluation.  

The objective of performance indicators is to give schools the opportunity to monitor its indicators in time and to compare them with the indicators of other educational institutions of the same type. In 2016, performance indicators were reviewed and, in addition to the previously used input and output, several new indicators for teaching and education process were introduced (e.g., absence of students, use of digital tools in a lesson, student satisfaction, etc.). Teaching effectiveness was adopted as a performance indicator for upper secondary level providing feedback on the contribution of the upper secondary school to the performance of students. In addition to examination results, the teaching effectiveness indicator for upper secondary schools provides schools with feedback allowing them to monitor more closely the effectiveness of teaching.

The methods for conducting internal evaluation are chosen by educational institutions themselves.

Since 1 September 2013, schools have been in charge of deciding upon ordering of the counselling service and paying for the service. The state guarantees counselling to pre-school child care institutions. The majority of counsellors are people belonging to the management of educational institutions who fulfil this task in addition to their main job. Counselling is organised and coordinated by the Ministry of Education and Research.

Counselling is regarded as an activity that is based on trustful cooperation between the counsellor and the educational institution.

Supervisory control is used for conducting supervision by owners of educational institutions – local municipalities perform it in municipal schools and the Ministry of Education and Research performs it in state schools. In addition to evaluation and control activities carried out in the course of state supervision and supervisory control, external audit as a new type of evaluation was added in 2001 to the quality assurance procedures related to state owned educational institutions. The auditor of the Ministry of Education and Research functions as the external auditor of state educational institutions.

The Chancellor of Justice conducts supervision over educational institutions in matters related to his or her jurisdiction, i.e. over guaranteeing students’ constitutional rights. The results of supervision conducted by the Chancellor of Justice are published as a yearbook.

External assessment of learning outcomes is conducted through standard determining tests, harmonised final examinations of basic school and state examinations. Standard-determining tests are carried out in the third grade in the Estonian language (in Estonian-medium schools) or the Russian language (in Russian-medium schools) and mathematics; and in the sixth grade in the Estonian language (in Estonian-medium schools) or the Russian language (in Russian-medium schools), mathematics and in one more subject. As of 2016, standard determining tests for grade 6 are conducted only electronically (previously electronic tests were optional alongside the paper test).

Compulsory subjects where examinations must be taken at the end of basic school include Estonian or, in the event specified in the national curriculum for basic schools, Estonian as a second language; and mathematics; the third examination subject is chosen by students from among subjects established by the Minister of Education and Science.

For graduation from upper secondary school, students must pass three state examinations (the Estonian language or in the events provided for in the national curriculum for upper secondary schools, Estonian as a second language, mathematics and a foreign language) as well as the school examination and a student investigation paper or practical work. A student does not have to take a foreign language examination if the student has submitted to the school before 20 January of the current academic year, an examination certification or a proof of passing at least one of the internationally recognised examinations at minimum language proficiency level B1 (a list of the according examinations has been approved by a regulation of the minister of education and research). 

The final result of the subjectively assessed parts of an examination will be the result of two or three independent assessments (the third assessment is carried out in the event that the difference between the results of the first and the second assessor is more than 20%).The results of external assessment of learning outcomes are forwarded to educational institutions. Results are analysed at national level in the context of implementation of curricula and the analyses are published on the website of the Foundation Innove.

Upon accreditation of a curriculum group of a vocational educational institution, performance and sustainability of teaching and education, leading and management, human resources management, cooperation with interest groups and management of resources are evaluated. An accreditation decision is made by an assessment council that is composed of representatives of the Ministry of Education and Research, experts of broad groups of study, in which vocational education is provided, and representatives of central organisations of employers and of other interested parties.  

In case of adult continuing education institutions, the manager of a continuing education institution specifies the conditions and procedure for ensuring the quality of continuing education curricula, the adult educators involved in continuing education and of the learning environment in the bases for ensuring the quality of the organisation of studies and the activities of the continuing education institution.
 

Legislative References

Format of education licence

Procedure for counselling of preschool child care institutions and schools in questions of internal evaluation

Performance indicators for preschool child care institutions, basic schools, upper secondary schools, vocational educational institutions and continuing education institutions