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Over the past years, the Estonian vocational education and training (VET) system have undergone extensive reforms and developments.
Reforms have aimed to create a clearer and more effective qualifications system to enhance employer engagement, to consolidate the school network and improve school facilities, to increase work-based learning and develop apprenticeship, and to meet the needs of both young people and adults in a framework of lifelong learning. Effective arrangements are in place to prepare teachers of vocational subjects. Basic school outcomes, as measured by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), are outstanding, and participation in upper secondary education is near universal. These are impressive achievements. But challenges remain in improving the status of the VET system so as it can rise to its potential in the skills system of a rapidly changing economy, and in overcoming equity challenges.
One Quarter Enter the Vocational Track
In Estonia, only around one-quarter of young people enter an upper secondary vocational track – a lower proportion than in many comparable OECD countries. Around 150 schools in Estonia provide general education in all 12 grades, offering a default option for young people in their ninth grade to remain in the same school, and therefore in general education, for their upper secondary school. A separation of the upper secondary school system from basic schooling would help to remove this bias so that all ninth-grade students would face a
real choice between VET and general education. Co-operation, and were practical at the local level, mergers between general academic and vocational upper secondary schools should be promoted.
Realise the Career and Learning Potential
While dropout rates have fallen, they remain too high in vocational upper secondary programmes, with around one-quarter of entrants failing to complete. One useful step, implementing recommendations of the 2016 OECD school resources review of Estonia, would be to link some school funding to completion. A promising apprenticeship system has been launched in Estonia, but apprentice numbers, although increasing, remain low and limited to adults. Given its potential, renewed attempts to develop youth apprenticeship are needed, by focusing for example on a specific region and/or industry and considering specific
employer incentives. In other vocational programmes, work practice in enterprises can be introduced as a formal and mandatory requirement. There are large differences in participation rates in upper secondary VET for young people coming from different socio-economic backgrounds – for example in eastern Estonia, around 60% of Russian-speaking boys enrol in the VET track, while in the larger cities, only 10% of Estonian-speaking girls do so. While variations are monitored, policy responses are undeveloped. The Estonian authorities should explore with stakeholders potential responses to large disparities to ensure that all Estonians can realise their career and learning potential.
Lucubrate Magazine Issue 57, May 3rd 2019
The article is from the Executive summary from the report «OECD Reviews of Vocational Education and Training, published» in 2019.
Categories: Magazine, TVET, World