Estonia: Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020, issued in 2014


Rationale of the Strategy

The Lifelong Learning Strategy guides the most important developments in the area of education in Estonia. It is the basis on which the government makes its decisions for educational funding for the years 2014–2020 and for the development of programmes that support the achievement of goals formulated in this and other guiding documents (such as Estonia 2020, Sustainable Estonia 21 and the National Security Concept of the Republic of Estonia). The general goal of the Lifelong Learning Strategy is to provide all people in Estonia with learning opportunities that are tailored to their needs and capabilities throughout their whole lifespan, in order to maximise opportunities for dignified self-actualisation within society, in the sphere of work as well as in family life. Based on this goal, the general vision (Vision for 2020) is formulated as: Learning is a lifestyle, development opportunities are recognised and smart solutions are pursued.

Concept of LLL

Lifelong learning includes the formal education system (kindergartens, secondary schools, upper secondary schools, vocational schools, higher education institutions), as well as the learning that takes place outside of that system – in-service education and retraining, non-formal and informal learning in all its diversity. Opportunities for acquiring new knowledge and skills can be found in the workplace, in leisure time and hobby activities, or in a virtual space, where co-learning or individual learning can take place.

Main challenges

The strategy addresses the current challenges: 

  • Formal education: There is a high school dropout rate among all levels and types of education. Teaching is not considered an attractive occupation and many teachers choose not to work in schools. As for higher education, the quality has declined in relation to increasing numbers of students and it is noticeable that tertiary students have low mobility and problem solving skills;
  • Skills development: About one-third of the working age population does not have a professional or vocational education and there is a substantial mismatch of offered and needed skills. Educational institutions and representatives of employers are not collaborating sufficiently to develop the lifelong learning system. Also, the participation rate in lifelong learning among those with low levels of qualifications and among elderly people is limited;
  • ICT: About one-third of the working age population lacks basic ICT skills; moreover teachers’ access to digital infrastructure and learning materials is limited;
  • Labour market: Collection of information regarding labour market developments and the economy is not systematic, and career counselling varies with regard to quality and accessibility; and
  • Decision-making on education policies is not evidence-based and there is too much emphasis on national examinations when assessing the quality of education.

Main targets and measures

Educational activities cover all levels of education, including pre-primary, basic, secondary, vocational, higher, adult and continuing education as well as Estonian language instruction. The following strategic goals are defined in the Estonian Lifelong Learning Strategy:

  • Change in the approach to learning: Implementation of an approach to learning that supports each learner’s individual and social development, the acquisition of learning skills, creativity and entrepreneurship at all levels and in all types of education.
  • Competent and motivated teachers and school leadership: The assessments of teachers and headmasters including their salaries are consistent with the qualification requirements for the job and the work-related performance.
  • Concordance of lifelong learning opportunities with the needs of labour market: Lifelong learning opportunities and career services should be diverse, flexible and of good quality, resulting in an increase in the number of people with professional or vocational qualifications in different age groups, and overall participation in lifelong learning across Estonia should be increased.
  • A digital focus in lifelong learning: Modern digital technology is used for learning and teaching effectively and efficiently. An improvement in the digital skills of the total population has been achieved and access to the new generation of digital infrastructure is ensured.
  • Equal opportunities and increased participation in lifelong learning: Equal opportunities for lifelong learning have been created for every individual.

Particular feature of the Strategy

The strategy plan provides a range of actions for creating and promoting lifelong learning opportunities and motivation among teachers and learners. This includes strategic measures for a digital focus in lifelong learning which covers incorporating a digital culture into the learning process at all levels of education and in all curricula. The prerequisite for this is to provide support for the school leadership, teachers and learners in the area of educational technology in all educational institutions. Enhancing the availability of digital learning resources in schools will support reaching the objectives of study results outlined in curricula. Essentially, accessing a modern digital infrastructure for learning will be provided for all students. The strategic measures also include creating and implementing assessment models for digital competence, including the establishment of a grading system for recognition of learning achievement. In addition, this will contribute to creating learning opportunities for adults to acquire digital competences, enabling them to use digital devices to improve their quality of life and make their work more productive.

Relevant documents that the strategy refers to:

Stakeholders involved in the development of the strategy:

  • Government of Estonia
  • Ministry of Education and Research
  • Estonian Cooperation Assembly
  • Estonian Education Forum

Further readings and web links:

Issuing Body

Ministry of Education and Research