The general principles of the vocational education system are established by the Education Act of the Republic of Estonia, which provides a definition of vocational education. The Vocational Educational Institutions Act (1998) defines the types of vocational education; provides the bases for the operation, management and financing of vocational educational institutions and defines the issues related to the internal evaluation and supervision thereof.
The awarding and assessment of professional qualification is regulated by the Professions Act (2008) and the Recognition of Foreign Professional Qualifications Act (2008).
The area is also regulated by implementing provisions in the form of regulations issued by the Government of the Republic or the Minister of Education and Research.
The Vocational Education Standard is one of the central implementing provisions in the field of vocational education, providing the common requirements for vocational education and professional training carried out at the level of basic and secondary education and thus serving as the basis for conducting vocational education.
All of the acts and regulations governing this field can be viewed through the electronic version of the State Gazette (www.riigiteataja.ee) and an overview is also available on the website of the Ministry of Education and Research (www.hm.ee).
Latest amendments to legislation in the field of vocational education
The new Professions Act which will serve as the basis for significant changes in the Estonian system of professional qualifications took effect on 1 September 2008. There will be a transition from the five-stage professional system to an eight-stage lifelong learning qualification framework that combines educational and professional qualifications. All professional standards and the principles of awarding professional qualifications will also be reviewed.
In addition, three implementing provisions of the Professions Act were also approved. These include the regulation of the Government of the Republic The List of Areas of Professional Activity, the Names of Professional Councils, the Procedure for Creating and Dissolving Professional Councils, the Administration of Professional Councils, and the Procedure for Appointing Representatives of Institutions to Professional Councils and the regulations of the Minister of Education and Research Procedure for Preparing, Amending and Formalizing Professional Standards and Statute and Form of the Professional Certificate.
The new draft of the Recognition of Foreign Professional Qualifications Act also took effect in 2008. The need to prepare the new draft resulted mainly from the adoption of a new directive governing this field (Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications). Compared to the previous Recognition of Foreign Professional Qualifications Act, the most significant change in the new draft is the right to provide services across borders in addition to recognizing professional qualifications.
Three smaller amendments were made in the Vocational Educational Institutions Act. These include establishing the teachers’ right to receive initial benefits, changing the procedure for entering into employment contracts with the principals of institutions of vocational education (in the future, the employment contracts will be entered into for an unspecified term, instead of the previous five-year deadline) and establishing more particular requirements for the provision of professional higher education and institutions of vocational education.
Another significant change is the adoption of new national curricula. So far 43 national curricula have been approved by regulations of the Minister. These curricula support updated and harmonized study content at the school level.