Estonian education system


How has Estonian education achieved top global rankings?
We value education through the generations!


The history of formal education in Estonia dates back to the 13–14th centuries when the first monastic and cathedral schools were founded. By now, Estonia has combined a belief in learning with equal-access technology to create one of world’s best education systems. PISA tests have shown that Estonia has been successful in increasing equity in education – here, everyone has the access to high-quality education.

Today’s education system is based on four levels which include pre-school (early childhood education), basic, secondary and higher education.

Everyone has the access to high-quality education


infograph depicting the education system of Estonia

Preschool education

Pre-school education is delivered to children between the ages of 18 months to 7 years in especially dedicated educational institutions. The main aim of the early stages education is to support the child’s family through fostering the child’s growth and development by taking into account their individuality.

⦁ In Estonia, pre-school education is not only childcare but also part of learning with a curriculum and substantive and methodological activities.
⦁ 94% of 4- to 7-year-olds participate in the activities of pre-school institutions.

Basic education

Basic education serves as the mandatory minimum of general education requirement, which can be acquired either partially in primary schools (grades 1 to 6), basic schools (grades 1 to 9) or upper secondary schools that also teach basic school curricula.

⦁ Acquisition of basic education grants the right to continue studies to acquire secondary education.
⦁ Graduating the basic school requires that the student learns the curriculum at least a satisfactory level together with passing three basic school graduation exams.

General secondary education

General secondary education is acquired at the upper secondary school level. Upper secondary schools are designed to help students become creative, multi-talented, socially mature and reliable citizens.

⦁ The study programme at upper secondary school is arranged into mandatory and voluntary courses. Studies last for 3 years.
⦁ In order to graduate, students must complete a curriculum consisting of 96 individual courses as a minimum.
⦁ At the end of their studies, students must pass three state exams and school examinations.
⦁ Attaining general secondary education entitles students to continue their studies at a higher educational institution or to obtain vocational education.

Vocational education

Vocational education serves the purpose of fostering the knowledge, skills and attitudes, occupational know-how and the social readiness required for working, participating in social life and participating in the lifelong learning process. Vocational education can be obtained: after basic school as vocational secondary education (length: 3-4 years) or as vocational skills only without general education (length: 3 months to 2.5 years).

⦁ Vocational education is free of charge, regardless of age, educational background, and individual needs.
⦁ There are close collaborations with companies in curriculum development and in creating opportunities for apprenticeship.
⦁ Moving from vocational education to higher education and vice versa is becoming increasingly popular.

Higher education and research

Higher education is flexible and accessible. It is supported by a wide range of study forms, consideration of learning and work experience in studying, and the opportunity to work during studies.

⦁ Curricula, including many in English, are characterized by innovation and a particular focus on information technology and entrepreneurship.
⦁ 11% of students are from abroad, from 125 nationalities in total.
⦁ Our research is world-class: 10% of our scientific articles are among the most cited articles in the world. The EstCube satellite, electric formula car, and self-driving car are examples of extraordinary student projects.

For a comprehensive overview of higher education in Estonia and all study programmes available in English, visit Study in Estonia.

E-solutions and education policy

In the spring of 2020, digital technology helped to continue learning and teaching in Estonia. However, the unavoidable prerequisite to use any e-solution is a good internet connection and in order to use technology successfully, we need digital competence, ie the ability to solve problems with the help of digital technology. Read more on e-solutions used in education, how Estonia supports the digital competence of teachers and students, the development of the digital infrastructure and the policy of digital devices in Estonian schools. 

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