Digitalisation in education is the future trend in the world, and small European countries have a good advantage when seeking to create cooperative relationships aimed at implementing the use of digital solutions in education. Joint webinars held earlier this year pave way to various follow-up activities already for the coming autumn.
Kristel Mõistus, Education Estonia
Estonia and Malta are united by the fact that they are both small countries in European terms, which is a good advantage when seeking to create cooperative relationships aimed at implementing the use of digital solutions in education.
Estonia – digital society
Estonia has become a role model for digital education as Estonians have made ICT work for education. Estonia, a Baltic nation of just 1.3 million people, has attracted the attention of world leaders, academics and venture capitalists thanks to its high-tech digital society.
The numbers speak for themselves: tax forms are completed online in under five minutes; 99 per cent of Estonia’s public services are available on the web 24 hours a day; 99 per cent of schools had already been using some type of e-solutions before COVID-19, and 95 per cent of schools use e-diaries. Today, Estonian schooling is mostly conducted in the cloud.
Digital learning is any type of learning undertaken with the support of digital technology, ranging from online courses teaching coding skills to the gamification of classrooms; education and lifelong training are being transformed by digital technologies.
The Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) conducted a study in 2019 to measure learning outcomes, digital infrastructure and policies, and people’s attitudes toward digital learning in 27 EU countries. When CEPS assessed European countries’ performance in digital learning, it found that smaller countries performed well above average. Malta came in the fifth position on this ranking, showing that recent infrastructure and education investments are paying off.
Estonia, as the absolute winner of 2019’s index, also shows that very determined policy actions, even in a small country, do matter, and other countries could learn from future-oriented small EU countries. Digitalisation in education is the future trend in the world, and all countries should find ways to benefit from the application of technology in education.
Two years ago, Malta’s Ambassador to Estonia and Finland Kenneth Vella wrote to me to ask whether Estonia would be interested in establishing some form of collaboration in the educational field. Vella had already been successfully promoting Finnish education and pedagogy in the Mediterranean for a couple of years. He proposed to diversify and extend a partnership also with Estonia after being impressed by the progress Estonia is making in the field of education.
Early childhood education
The characteristics of Estonia’s early childhood education were discussed at the first Estonia-Malta joint webinar. President Emeritus Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President of Eurochild in Malta, delivered a message about early childhood education and care (ECEC), and how to give children a voice.
The other guest speakers, ECEC experts from Estonia Tiina Peterson and Maria Jürimäe, shared information on the history, culture, philosophies, policy, practice, curricula, pedagogy, and the joys and pleasures embedded in the early years sector of Estonia. Valerie Sollars gave an overview of the history of early years education in Malta.
Well-being of children and youth
The interest in Estonian education and its solutions was very high and, therefore, we decided to organise another series of collaborations on different topics, also introducing Estonian educational digital solutions. The well-being of children and youths and successful Estonian educational tools in this regard were discussed in the beginning of April. Experts from EdTechs of Helge, Clanbeat, Triumf Health and SpeakTX gave answers to the questions such as how we can empower students to take an active role in their life, how technology can improve mental health, and how we can build confidence through support services.
How to teach future skills?
In the next webinar in April, we focused on the topic of how to teach important future skills – STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics), entrepreneurship and cyber security – and Estonia’s successful digital educational solutions which were presented by speakers from Tallinn University, Merkuur Mobile Workshops, Bizplay, CTF Tech, Junior Achievement Estonia, and also from the Education and Youth Board.
Educational e-solutions from Estonia
Different IT platforms and e-solutions from Estonia were introduced by experts in May. The digital revolution in Estonia continues to use modern digital technology effectively in learning, teaching and research. ELIIS presented how a kindergarten platform has changed early childhood education. There was also a demonstration of how eSchool helps schools and homes with its school management platform. Edumus believes that the future of education will be hybrid and introduced its platform connecting schools with professional specialists, and DreamApply demonstrated Europe’s leading admission management solution for educational institutions.
The first Estonia Malta pilot projects
As a result of these joint Estonia-Malta online collaborations, follow-up activities have already started with Estonian EdTech solutions. Maltese schools and private sector educational institutions are planning pilot projects with many Estonian EdTechs for the coming autumn. Maltese schools and private sector educational institutions are planning pilot projects with many Estonian EdTechs for the coming autumn
A conference on the topic of well-being is being planned for autumn in Malta. During the conference, there will be a reference to how Estonia is tackling difficulties and challenges related to mental health.
The full version of the article was first published in Times of Malta