The Riigikogu deliberated the quality and availability of education in Estonia as a matter of significant national importance. Reports were made by Peeter Kreitzberg, Chairman of the Cultural Affairs Committee, Toomas Luman, Chairman of the Board of the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Peep Mühls, Chairman of the Executive Board of the Estonian Cooperation Assembly.
In the introduction of his report, Kreitzberg noted that knowledge is gaining importance over capital and labour force in international competition, and the Estonian education system has to be regarded as part of European and world education systems. “Education in Estonia must see an improvement in availability and a significant upgrade in quality,” stressed Kreitzberg.
In the opinion of the Chairman of the Cultural Affairs Committee, education does not need radical reforms in terms of contents but the organisation of education has got stuck in the fight between the narrow interests of local governments, schools and universities. “It is only by giving top priority to cooperation and national interests that we can become competitive with other countries and regions. School is always meant for students and not students for the school,” stressed Kreitzberg.
Kreitzberg pointed out that school network is in need of extensive reorganisation, and clear quality criteria must be set before all schools. Education system must become based on strong basic school which is capable of offering sufficient workload for teachers, as well as modern study environment and infrastructure. Institutions of higher education need a more accurate classification and appropriate quality criteria. “We are capable of maintaining one Universitas and certainly we need a strong technology university which would be associated with other educational institutions to one degree or another,” noted Kreitzberg.
However, the greatest problems, as the Chairman of the Cultural Affairs Committee sees them, are connected with continuing education which is financed ten times less as compared to EU countries and where we are in the main part focusing on well-educated, high-earning young people.
“Weak education, in particular, low-quality higher education in combination with the little innovation and low-level technology seen in enterprise, ward our more talented people off from Estonia and undermine our sustainability. They both need a coherent development strategy,” stressed Kreitzberg.
In Luman’s words, it has become traditional to have a meeting with the Cultural Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu twice a year to discuss specific issues. “For years already, we have been drawing the attention of different Ministers and different compositions of the Governments and the Riigikogu to the fact that the distribution of our students as to the level of education and field of specialty is disproportionate to the level or the needs of the labour market. In economically successful societies, the estimated distribution suggests that vocational education is a prerequisite for 50 per cent of jobs, professional higher education for 25 per cent of jobs and academic higher education for 25 per cent of jobs. In our case, however, 71 per cent of young people go to acquire the diploma of higher education. Neither the economic structure of Estonia nor any other economic structure in the world, as far as I know, offers jobs which require higher education in 70 cases out of 100,” Luman analysed the situation. He emphasised that the task of education system is to prepare young people for their future life, for successful functioning in the society.
Mühls noted that a number of topical issues relating to education need to be resolved for securing the development capacity of Estonia and enhancing people’s quality of life. In Mühls’ opinion, activities in education lack coordination today. “There are many development and action plans of various fields in Estonia, but there is no single state education strategy,” said Mühls. On behalf of the Estonian Cooperation Assembly, he presented a vision of what the education landscape might desirably look like by 2018.
The Minister of Education and Research Tõnis Lukas who took the floor in negotiations highlighted the role of teachers in securing the quality of education.
The sitting ended at 1.20 p.m.
The Riigikogu Press Service
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