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The availability of higher education and participation in lifelong learning in Estonia stands out among OECD countries

10. September 2019 - 13:02

In Estonia, there are higher number of people with tertiary education and even more and more people over 25 pursue degree in higher education compared to other OECD countries, shows the Education at a Glance report by OECD. At the same time, many young people face challenges to complete tertiary level of education. 

People in Estonia want and can study in Estonia, commented Mailis Reps, the Minister of Education and Research of Estonia, one of the main findings of the annual international report the Education at a Glance. “Everyone must be ready for changes in their work life in this ever changing world,” said Reps. “When people reach to their 40ies there is often a need for change in professional career: acquiring new skills or next level in education. This has become a normality in Estonia and this is not only necessary, but also very interesting opportunity. Also, decisions made then are more informed decisions,” said Reps.

The interruption of studies is concerning and needs additional attention, added minister Reps added. „We have to make an extra effort to provide basic and upper secondary school leavers options that allows them to choose further path of studies based on their talent and interests. Definitely there is more we can do to increase youth’s ability to continue and finish their studies,” said Reps. She added that Estonia has already made significant effort: career studies in basic school, cooperation between upper secondary schools and vocational education training institutions, flexibility in forms of studies and innovative study methods.

According to the study, 41% of 25-64 year-olds have attained tertiary education compared to OECD’s average of 39%. Every fourth to admitted to bachelor’s level is over 25 years old in Estonia, while in OECD the average is every fifth.

In terms on availability and accessibility, Estonia stands in a good position. At the same time, the number of interrupted studies or the extended time needed for completion of studies is concerning. Only 34% of students entering a bachelor’s programme graduate within the theoretical duration and this is lower than OECD’s average (39%).

In Estonia, there are twice as many master’s students compared to OECD’s average (31% vs 16%). The popularity of master’s studies demonstrate the understanding of Estonia’s students that bachelor’s degree only is not sufficient to be successful and competitive in labor market. The number of doctoral students is also well above OECD’ average (6% vs 2%).

The report highlights the rapid increase of teachers’ salaries that has been one of the fastest in OECD countries. The salary has increased 35% over past five years.

About 80% of Estonia’s basic school leavers find higher salary important while the OECD’s average is 65%. When deciding whether to pursue a career in teaching, however, working conditions can matter at least as much as pay. Relatively low number of teaching and instruction time in class and small class sizes are Estonia’s strengths compared to other OECD countries.

The Education at a Glance is one of the main and largest educational statistics reports that enables countries compare each other’s performance in implementation of education policy. The report analyses education systems of 36 OECD member states.

The report affirms the results of other recent analysis by OECD that Estonia must pay higher attention to lower the number of interrupted studies. The Benchmarking Higher Education System Performance highlights that Estonia’s near future challenge is to provide more highly skilled people.

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