Estonian minister: At least half of younger generation should obtain higher education

  • 2024-03-05
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - On Tuesday, speaking in the parliament about the implementation of Estonia's long-term development strategy in education, Minister of Education and Research Kristina Kallas said that at least half of the younger generation should obtain higher education.

"When it comes to changes in education, it is often the case that what has brought us here will also take us forward. The Estonian education system has withstood centuries of change very well, perhaps even better than the state of Estonia. Being older than the state of Estonia, Estonian education has proven its strengths. And we must maintain these strengths," Kallas stated.

The minister noted that new solutions are needed, which may not immediately be the simplest, most visible, cheapest, or most pleasant, but which ensure the growth of well-being, sustainable development, and economic growth in the long term. She highlighted concerns that one-fifth of students are educated in the Russian-language education system and every tenth basic school graduate only achieves basic education.

Kallas pointed out that last year she initiated a review project of education expenditures to obtain a detailed overview of Estonia's education expenses. The analysis, along with recommendations, is due to be completed in May, and based on it, proposals for possible changes in education financing are planned.

The minister highlighted several long-prepared reforms set to be implemented this year. 

"The most significant is the decades-awaited transition to education in the Estonian language," she said, adding that it begins in kindergartens and in grades 1 and 4 this September and will last until 2030. The minister noted that changes are also ahead in basic, general, vocational, and higher education.

"An agreement will also be signed on teachers' working and wage conditions, and my goal is to sign a long-term education pact for the first time," she said.

"The evolutionary pressure of artificial intelligence on humanity means not only that basic education is no longer sufficient but also that there is an increasing need for people to have higher education. In Estonia, on average, 40 percent of the working-age population has higher education. In the younger age group, this is 44 percent. We have set a goal that at least half of the younger generation should obtain higher education," Kallas said.

The minister emphasized that the proportion of people with higher education in Estonia must increase. She stated that higher education must be accessible to a larger number of young people, hence free free higher education in the Estonian language must remain accessible to young people obtaining their first higher education degree, and special attention must be paid to young people coming from rural areas. This in turn means that good quality secondary education must be accessible in rural areas.

With regard to research and development, the minister underlined that it is important to clarify issues related to the financing of research.

 "Where do we invest this one percent and what is actually the smart direction where we should invest it? This is one of the most important tasks that we have set ourselves this year in terms of research  funding," she said

The minister also spoke about teachers, noting that the responsibility, workload, expectation of results, and the compensation paid for it are not balanced.

"We need to agree on where the teachers' responsibility starts and ends and where the responsibility of the parent and community begins," Kallas said, emphasizing that we cannot move forward with the expectation that the teacher and school alone are responsible for the development of young people.