No. 5




Increasing the Prestige of Engineering Education

14 June 2002


RiTo No. 5, 2002

  • Ülo Tärno

    Member of the Riigikogu, Professor, Tallinn Technical University, Estonian Centre Party

Engineering is a way of life, a creative activity that features by a continuous quest, the need to think in terms of optimum values, bringing new ideas to fruition.

The number of institutions of higher learning necessary for preparing engineers is based on how many young people are capable of learning in this field, how many want to major in engineering, and what the demand for engineers is. The capability criterion is based on how high we set the bar for prospective engineers. Estonia does not need a set number of diplomas, but does need specialists with actual knowledge and know-how. How many doctorates, master’s degrees and certified engineers does Estonia need? These questions must be answered by the state.

Our activities are tied to our objective of making a good education and high level of literacy integral. An integral is a concept used to express an area as the sum of an infinite number of infinitesimal parts. Education is much like that.

The education spectrum has higher and lower areas. The lower parts consist of people who are not willing or capable of attaining the necessary aptitude. Members of a society will always have different IQs. But it is the state’s duty to educate and socialise even the denizens of the lowest levels of society, at the taxpayers’ expense. Through sound planning, the state must ensure that all who seek an education get one. At the same time, a specialised education should be obtained at an individual or company’s expense, especially in cases where the person is not likely to be employed in Estonia upon graduation. A small state similar to Estonia cannot afford the luxury of training a large country’s workforce at the public’s expense. Now is the time to analyse thoroughly what subjects to teach in elementary and middle schools, vocational schools, and colleges and universities.

In education, the (college) student and teacher (professor) are of crucial importance. To achieve and maintain the necessary level in scientific and academic work, universities must have a student and teacher body that exceeds critical mass. Faculties with strong traditions are essential.

One way to make a higher education more available is to create a wide network of colleges and specialised schools throughout the entire country. This is crucial in today and tomorrow’s economic conditions. Estonia’s five-year requirement for a technical education is of sound design. Today’s Swedish master’s degree-earner is analogous to an Estonian who has finished five years of engineering school. The Swedish licentiate exceeds these. I believe that in construction fields, especially in a building design speciality, a five-year education is necessary because of the high level of responsibility, similar to a doctor’s, that a builder or technologist has. We cannot forget the accidents involving planes, bullet trains, ships and buildings that take hundreds of human lives. With a longer term of study, it is possible to offer a wider theoretical education, which is complemented by individual projects, computer design and modelling assignments, and engineering practicum courses and fieldwork.

Full article in Estonian