Estonian Education System
Secondary education is based on basic education and divided into general secondary education, provided by upper secondary schools, and vocational secondary education, provided by vocational educational institutions. General secondary education constitutes a set of knowledge, skills and competences, set out in the national curriculum for upper secondary schools, the acquiring of which is the precondition for further studies at universities and vocational educational institutions.
Upper secondary school
The upper secondary school is a general education school, which follows on from basic school and has a nominal study period of three years. Upper secondary schools consisting of years 1to 12 (i.e. the study period lasts 12 years) have historically prevailed in Estonia. There are few upper secondary schools specializing solely in the provision of upper secondary education (i.e. years 10 to 12). As of 2010, the Government is actively promoting national upper secondary schools that provide exclusively upper secondary education. Everyday learning is based on school curricula prepared based on the national curriculum for upper secondary schools. (Source: Minstry of Education Estonia)
Admission to Higher Education
Admission to higher education is decentralized and takes place at higher education institution level. The results of the national centralized final examination for secondary education form the basis for admission. The individual higher education institutions are permitted to formulate admission requirements in the form of examinations, interviews or an aptitude test. In principle, the gümnaasiumi lõputunnistus (full general secondary education certificate) and the lõputunnistus kutsekeshariduse omandamise kohta (secondary vocational education diploma) grant access to all forms of higher education. (Source: Nuffic)
In Estonia, the higher education system has two branches: study is carried out in the academic and the professional higher education branch. Since the academic year 2002/03, the general structure of academic study has three levels or cycles. The first level is Bachelor’s study and the second level is Master’s study. The third and the highest level is Doctoral study.
Professional higher education is, similarly to Bachelor’s study, the first level of higher education, which ensures access to Master’s study. Completion of respective studies at each level of higher education is considered the graduation from an educational institution.
The duration of bachelor degree programs generally covers 6 semesters, which corresponds to 180 ECTS. The Bakalaureusekraad degree is awarded upon completion of the program.
Master degree programs have an average length of 1 to 2 years (60 – 120 ECTS), which means that the total duration of the bachelor’s and subsequent master’s degree program is at least 5 years, or 300 ECTS. The Magistrikraad degree is awarded upon completion of the program.
All final university assessments resulting in the award of a magister degree grant access to the pursuit of a doctorate. The average length of these programs is 3 to 4 years. Graduates of doctorate programs are awarded the degree of Doktor.