Spotlight on Estonia
In conversation with Education Nation, an initiative from the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research
What does Estonia do differently to other countries to make its education system stand out?
The Estonian education system is based on smart digital solutions, learner-centred and inclusive education and lifelong learning as a lifestyle.
In Estonia, we value education through the generations, and we have an innovative start-up mindset. We are a digital society for whom e-signatures, e-elections, e-residency, e-tax returns, e-prescriptions, e-government, e-police, etc., are part of everyday life. We use the possibilities of technology in education: digital textbooks, e-assessments and e-diaries, and e-environments for applying to school are just a few examples.
One of our strengths is in fact, that in Estonia education is accessible to everyone. This means equal opportunities, regardless of economic or social background.
And yet there is one peculiarity of that our schools have a high degree of autonomy, from curriculum development to the organization of school life.
How are Estonian educators managing school closures and helping students?
The peculiarity of Estonia is that we had already digitized many study materials before the crisis, there were also different environments where information was exchanged between schools and students / parents (Stuudium, eKool). When the crisis broke out, the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research together with its agencies did a lot to support schools and teachers in the rapid deployment of digital solutions as well as in introducing teaching methods necessary for distance learning. Information Technology Foundation for Education (HITSA) shared guidelines on the possibilities and implementation of digital solutions, through regular webinars. Foundation Innove provided methodological and advisory information to teachers, students and parents on coping with distance learning.
For example, some materials from Foundation Innove:
- Information, advice and materials for teachers for organizing distance learning: https://www.innove.ee/en/blog/information-advice-and-materials-for-teachers
- Information and advice for parents for supporting their child during the COVID-19 outbreak: https://www.innove.ee/en/news/information-and-advice-for-parents-for-supporting-their-child-during-the-covid-19-outbreak/
- A month of school at home: 10 experience based methodical tips for teachers: https://www.innove.ee/en/news/a-month-of-school-at-home-10-experience-based-methodical-tips-for-teachers/
- New leaflet informs parents on where to find help for their child: https://www.innove.ee/en/news/new-leaflet-informs-parents-on-where-to-find-help-for-their-child/
Also, on social media (Facebook) several thematic groups were created, at the initiative of Innove and HITSA, to exchange information with teachers and parents.
How can teachers effectively use e-services to help learning?
Teachers can use digital learning materials from Opiq https://www.opiq.ee/ and E-koolikott (E-school bag) https://e-koolikott.ee/ . It is possible to organize digital school lessons through different platforms (Skype, Teams, Zoom, etc.). The exchange of information between teachers, students and parents takes place in school information environments such as eKool and Stuudium. Estonian teachers have been very resourceful and have found suitable technological and methodological solutions.
Right at the beginning of the crisis, Estonian EdTech companies began to offer their services and environments to schools free of charge and continue to do so to this day. Nordic educational companies also joined the initiative, their platforms and products can be seen here: https://education-nation.99math.com/
Throughout the corona crisis, the Estonian Government's initiative Education Nation has offered free English-language webinars in order to support all of those affected by the current situation of switching to online education. Webinars share Estonia's experience on various educational topics and take place once a week on Thursdays at 7 pm Estonian time. Education Nation`s Remote Learning webinars are available to everyone, you can find more information on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Education-Nation-112419100228350/ and watch previous webinars on Education Nation Facebook or YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVWPxNYMRvyt7HcAmN4SHMw/videos.