Estonian lifelong learning strategy is called “Smart People”

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Agne Narusk | 30.11.-0001 | National Affairs - Articles
Estonia now has a new lifelong learning strategy, where three out of the five important points are directly related to adult education. The state means business: at the beginning of this year the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research divided the department of vocational and adult education into two independent units – the ministry now includes a department, which only deals with topics related to the education of adults.

This strategy for the years 2014– 2020, which consists of five important points, was put together for five years. It involved a large number of people from very different organisations, including outside the education system, such as representatives of employers. Several other earlier attempts to enforce a national education strategy have failed, as the parties connected to education have not been able to agree on common goals.

“This strategy is an important change in our education-related thinking – education is everyone's business and lasts for their entire life. The partnership between students and teachers is improved, the responsibility of leaders becomes greater and learning is more and more heading towards the education cloud,” said Jaak Aaviksoo, minister of education and research.

Digital revolution for the adults

The five most important goals for Estonia in the field of education are:

1. Different approach to learning. The new approach advances each learner's individual and social development, critical thinking, creativity and entrepreneurship. This is taken into account on all levels and in all types of education.

2. Competent and motivated teachers and school principals. Among other things this also means getting a salary they deserve.

3. The opportunities for lifelong learning should be in accordance with the needs of the labour market. Study opportunities should be of a high quality, flexible and have many choices, considering the development of the labour market. Along with career services the study opportunities help to improve the Estonian people's awareness of the learning paths and opportunities of self-realisation. The goal is to increase the number of qualified people in different age groups. At present this is a concern: nearly a third of adults have no vocational training and among those the percentage of unemployment is the greatest.

4. Digital revolution in lifelong learning. The compilers of this strategy have high hopes for the digital leap, as this concept should reform learning and improve learning skills.

5. More participants in education, and productive financing. The participation in lifelong learning has already increased (12.9% of adults in 2012) and should increase further (20% in 2020). This has to be supported with effective financing.

Nearly a third of the current Estonian working-age population has had no vocational training and about a third lacks the minimum digital skills, says the strategy's headnote.

Thus, all of those five goals are directed towards solving today's main education-related problems. For example, the quality of education and schools are measured too much with state examinations, the teacher's profession is not attractive, and the employers do not often understand how important it is to collaborate with educational institutions and develop their employees, the ministry explained. It is also extremely important to reduce the dropout rate on every level of education.

The preconditions for becoming a smart nation within the next six years are good: education is highly valued in Estonia and it has historically been regarded as one of the greatest guarantees of success. International comparative studies have shown that most learners acquire good basic skills. However, a part of them falters at some point due to the notion in our society that learning is for the young, thus adults lack both interest and motivation.

European indicators are observed

The most important international strategies and guidelines in that field are the Lisbon Strategy and its follow-up strategy Europe 2020. Within its framework the European Commission set goals for the year 2020. These indicators are observed in Estonia, and the strategy includes measures for reaching the target levels. The European Union's most important goals in education for the year 2020 are:

1. At least 95% of children aged 4 to the age of compulsory school attendance (in Estonia 4–6) should participate in pre-school education;

2. The percentage of 15 year-old youths with low functional literacy, and mathematical and natural scientific literacy should make up less than 15% of the age group (based on PISA tests);

3. The percentage of youth with a low level of education (with basic education or less), who are not studying should be less than 10% (in the age group of 18–24 year-olds);

4. At least 40% of the 30–34 year-olds should have III level education;

5. At least 15% of adults aged 25–64 should be involved in lifelong learning;

6. The percentage of adults (25–64) without special- or vocation education should be reduced to 30%.

Sources: Estonian Ministry of Education and Research, the European Commission, Estonian lifelong learning strategy and its headnote.


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About the author

Agne Narusk is a freelance journalist from Estonia. 



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