No. 4




What Kinds of Requirements Should the Estonian Educational System Meet?

19 December 2001


RiTo No. 4, 2001

  • Jelena Helemäe

    Senior Researcher of Institute for International and Social Studies, Tallinn University

  • Ellu Saar

    Docent of the Tallinn Pedagogical University

Will Estonian educational policy be successful? It all depends on to what extent it will be possible to harmonise the activities of the ministries that influence the implementation of educational policy, and also whether these activities can be linked to the overall strategic goals of the educational policy.

There are two generally accepted assumptions about the Estonian education: Estonians are educated people and the Estonian educational system does not meet the requirements of the labour market. But how educated are our people? The quantitative figures of formal education of the population of Estonia are significantly high, even when compared with the countries of the European Union. The proportion of persons with only primary or basic education is more than twice as low in Estonia in all age groups of work age as the average of the European Union countries. Indeed, because of its high educational level Estonia has been able to preserve a relatively high standing in the list of states drawn up on the grounds of the human development index. Nevertheless, the opinion that the Estonian labour force is currently not sufficiently educated has also been expressed. Estonia’s educational resources have been considered to be obsolete.

One option for characterising the results of harmonisation of requirements of employers and employees is to analyse the educational levels of persons working in certain positions. According to the data in research papers on the Estonian labour force, only a half of those at the top of professional career (managers and senior specialists) had higher education in the year 2000. At the same time, less than two-thirds of the labour force with higher education worked as managers or senior specialists. Thus, 46,000 employees with higher education were doing worse than their competitors with their lower level of education: 37,500 occupied positions not requiring higher education, including 4,000 of almost simple labourers; 8,400 were even unemployed. If we add to the latter inactive persons of working age with higher education (27,600), we will have nearly 74,000 people whose higher education is not adequately used. At the same time, 74,500 managers and top specialists did not have higher education. Thus, at least in terms of characteristics of formal education, it would be possible to cover the demand for people with higher education in the society. In other words, the market value of higher education of nearly a half of the university graduates has turned out to be lower than its nominal value, in case of one-fourth of the group even substantially lower. What kind of social groups will gain in such a situation and what kind of groups will lose, i.e. whose interests such a situation serves – that is another issue.

Full article in Estonian