In Estonia there is a compulsory 9-year school from the age of 7, 3-year high school and vocational schools. 52% of students go on to higher education. Since the mid-1990s, the education system has undergone a number of reforms, and in particular, privatization has increased.
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Most schools have Estonian as their language of instruction, but there are also schools where it is taught in Russian. In 1996, Estonia got its first national curriculum. This covers both Russian-language and Estonian schools, and is taught in subjects such as language, mathematics, nature and social studies, music and arts, and gymnastics. At the youth level, two foreign languages are taught.
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Higher education is divided into two academic and vocational programs. In 1998, there were 35 higher education institutions. Of these, 6 were public and 4 private universities, 8 public and 13 private colleges and 4 vocational schools.
Estonian school history starts in the 13th century with church schools. The first high school was established by Jesuits in 1583. The Swedish king Gustav 2 Adolf established the country’s first university in Tartu in 1632.
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The March 2007 parliamentary elections became a victory for the ruling Reform Party, which continued in government. After the Social Democrats resigned in May 2009, the government continued as a minority government.
The government’s April 2007 decision to remove a monument to fallen Russian soldiers during World War II triggered large-scale demonstrations among esters of Russian origin. Several hundred were arrested and 1 killed. The decision further strengthened relations with Russia, whose prime minister declared that tough countermeasures would be taken. Russian parliamentarians called for an interruption of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Over the next month, the sites of the Estonian government on the Internet were subjected to attacks by hackers who were directing the pages to Russian propaganda sites. Tallinn accused Russia of being behind the war in cyberspace, but it was rejected by Moscow.
After a decade of high growth rates, the global economic crisis of 2008-10 threw the country into deep economic crisis. GDP fell by 3.6% in 2008, and in 2009 the economy shrank by 14.1%. Estonia was thus the country most severely affected in the EU. In just 5 months (January-May 2009), unemployment more than doubled. It was 15.5% in March 2010 – the fourth highest in the EU. The depth of the crisis was mainly due to the widespread speculation in the country and the willingness of banks to participate in it.
The Russian-speaking minority in Estonia continues to face discrimination, according to Amnesty International. At the same time, the authorities are campaigning against the human rights organizations that defend minority rights. The Russian-speaking minority is largely denied access to jobs in the public sector and, to a certain extent, the private business sector, citing that they “do not master Estonian well enough”. The Russian minority are stateless.
Estonia began liberalizing 35% of its electricity market in March 2010 and planned to be fully liberalized in 2013.
The two Liberal parties The Reform Party and the Center Party won the elections in March 2011, taking a total of 59 seats in the 101-seat parliament. The biggest victor of the election, however, was the Social Democracy, which went up 9 seats to 19, while the Greens and the Estonian People’s Union both ran out of parliament. The reform party continued in a coalition government with the Conservative IRL.
President Ilves was re-elected by parliament in August 2011 with 73 votes out of 101.
In April 2014, Prime Minister Ansip resigned from office to allow his successor to lead the party until the next elections in 2015. The Prime Minister’s post was handed over to the party’s new leader Taavi Rõivas. With 35 years, Rõivas became the youngest head of government in the EU.
The March 2015 parliamentary elections were largely a defeat for the old parties. The two major victors were the National Conservative Freedom Party, which got 8 seats out of Parliament’s 101 as well as the right-wing and fascist-oriented Conservative People’s Party. The Reform Party leader Taavi Rõivas subsequently formed a coalition government with the heavily decimated social democracy and the right-wing Pro Patria & Res Publica.
Estonia remained strongly nationalistic and inward-looking. 6% of the Estonian population remained without citizenship – predominantly Russian-speaking. The government was opposed to immigration from outside the EU and in September a refugee reception center in the village of Vao was set on fire by radical right-wing forces. 50 asylum seekers lived at the center, but no one was injured.