Basic education can be acquired partially in primary schools (grades 1–6), in basic schools (grades 1–9) or in upper secondary schools that have opened basic school grades.
Basic school is divided into three stages of study:
- Stage 1 – grades 1–3
- Stage 2 – grades 4–6
- Stage 3 – grades 7–9
Basic education can be acquired on the basis of three national curricula: the national curriculum for basic schools and upper secondary schools, the simplified national curriculum for basic schools, and the national curriculum for students with moderate and severe learning disabilities.
The maximum permitted weekly workload of pupils is as follows:
- 20 lessons in the 1st grade
- 23 lessons in the 2nd grade
- 25 lessons in the 3rd and 4th grade
- 28 lessons in the 5th grade
- 30 lessons in the 6th and 7th grade
- 32 lessons in the 8th grade
- 34 lessons in the 9th grade
Compulsory basic school subjects include Estonian (Russian) Language and Literature, Foreign Language A and B (English, Russian, German or French), Mathematics, Natural Science, Geography, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History, Human Studies, Social Studies, Music, Art, Physical Education, Manual Training. Studying Estonian as a second language is compulsory in schools using Russian or another foreign language as the language of instruction. Estonian can also be studied as a second language in Estonian language schools by pupils whose mother tongue is other than Estonian.
In order to graduate from basic school, students are required to complete the curriculum and successfully pass three basic school graduation examinations, including an examination in Estonian language and literature or Estonian as a second language, a Mathematics examination and an examination in a subject chosen by the pupil.
There are several options for continuing one’s education after graduating from basic school: it is possible to acquire a general secondary education in an upper secondary school, a secondary vocational education or simply a vocation in a vocational educational institution.