Basic education

Compulsory school attendance and home schooling

Basic education is minimum compulsory general education. All children who reach compulsory school age of seven by 1 October of the given year have to start school. Compulsory school attendance lasts until basic education is completed or the child reaches the minimum school leaving age of 17.

The rural municipality government or the town government has a duty to provide basic education for all children of compulsory school age who live within the territory of the town or municipality. The local government designates a school for every child in the area where the child lives. The main criteria for designating a school are the proximity of the school to home, a sibling already attending the same school and, if possible, the parents’ choice of school.

Basic education can be provided by home schooling upon request of a parent or for health reasons.

Distance learning is available for individuals of at least 17 years of age and in special cases and on the recommendation of the advisory commission for younger students.

Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act


Admission criteria and choice of school

Before staring school, children’s readiness for school is assessed by pre-school child care institutions (for those children who do not attend a pre-school child care institution, also by regional advisory centres). A parent will submit a school readiness card to the school where their child starts compulsory education.

Children younger than the compulsory school age may also start school if their parents so desire and the advisory commission or the pre-school child care institution which the child is attending has assessed the child’s readiness for school and confirmed that the child is ready for formal instruction.

Each school must accept all children within its catchment area. Parents may also choose a school in another catchment area if that school has places available.

Students are accepted to the school of their place of residence without entry tests. Some schools that provide intensive classes and accept students from across Estonia may use entry tests to determine the abilities and potential of children. In private schools, the school council may establish additional admission criteria.

If a student has previously studied abroad or according to a different curriculum, the teachers’ council of the school decides to which class the student is assigned by taking into account the age of the student and the education that the student has previously acquired.


Deferring compulsory school attendance

Parents can request that the admission of their child to school is deferred by one year if the child has not achieved the required readiness for school for health reasons.

School holidays

The Minister of Education and Research determines the dates of holidays for each academic year. Autumn and spring half term holidays usually last for one week and Christmas holiday for two weeks.

School holidays for 2014/2015:

  • Autumn holiday -  18 October - 26 October 2014;
  • Christmas holiday - 20 December 2014 -  4 January 2015;
  • Spring holiday - 14 March -  22 March 2015;
  • Summer holiday - 4 June - 31 August 2015.

The owner of the school may, at the proposal of the head of school and with the approval of the Board of Trustees, determine different dates for school holidays, provided that there are at least four holidays lasting a total of 12 weeks (including a summer holiday of eight weeks) during an academic year.

The Private Schools Act provides that students must have at least eight weeks of holiday per academic year, of which two weeks must be during the academic year.



The basic school graduation certificate is issued to students who have completed basic education in accordance with the national curriculum and:

  • whose school level marks are at least ‘satisfactory’;
  • who have carried out a creative project in their third stage of study;
  • who have achieved at least ‘satisfactory’ marks for the Estonian language and mathematics exams and for one exam in the subject of their choice.

For further information, look at the national curriculum for basic schools

In simplified education, the basic school leaving certificate is awarded to students whose school level marks are at least ‘satisfactory’, who have sat the school leaving exams in the Estonian language and mathematics as well as in a subject chosen by the school from among the compulsory subjects. The subject and the type of exam are determined by the head of school and communicated to students by 1 February of the given academic year.

Children with special educational needs who have attended coping and nursing classes and have completed their individual study programmes are issued basic school leaving certificates based on the decision of the teachers’ council.



Assessment means systematic collection and analysis of information and providing feedback about the development of a student. Assessment is the basis for planning further education. There are multiple methods, means and ways of assessing students’ performance.

Students’ knowledge, skills and proficiency are usually assessed on a five-point scale where «5» is «very good», «4» is «good», «3» is «satisfactory», «2» is «poor» and «1» is «weak».

Schools can use a different marking system and for classes 1 to 6 a descriptive marking system that does not use numbers. For further information, look at the national curriculum for basic schools

For further information about the marking system of specific school, notification of marks, retaking of tests and disputing marks see the school’s study programme and internal rules of procedure.


Last updated: 27 November 2014