In recent years, Estonia has emerged as an educational powerhouse. With an approach to education that combines play and child-centred learning with new technologies, the success draws on lessons from elsewhere but also a long heritage of Estonian pedagogy. Maria Jürimäe traces the history of public education in Estonia to explain the link between education, democracy, and equity in one of Europe’s smallest countries.
Estonia is a small country, but its education system is increasingly recognized as one of the most successful in the world in international rankings such as PISA. Estonia is also known as a digital society – e-Estonia. Everything from voting to creating a small business can be done with just a few mouse clicks. It also has a reputation as a country of song, which holds massive song festivals and whose Singing Revolution paved the way to independence from the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. But how are these qualities connected?
For Estonia, education is about more than knowledge and skills: it is key to the country’s identity and culture. This importance is encapsulated in the slogan “Education Nation”. The Estonian educational system has deep roots and the core of its educational thought remained strong throughout the Soviet occupation. Over the past 30 years, education has proven a key means for Estonia to build its independence and develop as a prosperous and resilient society.