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Assessment policy: introduction - Estonia

In 1991 Estonia regained its independence and started to rebuild a society following the rule of law and democratic principles.

The Constitution of Estonia stipulates (§37) that “Everyone has the right to education. Education is compulsory for school-aged children to the extent specified by law. Parents shall have the final decision in the choice of education for their children.”  This means that every child, also children with special needs, in Estonia shall go to school at the age of 7 and that the parents will make a final decision whether a child will go to a mainstream or special school.

Since 1991 several legal acts that form the basis for a modern educational system have been adopted in Estonia. The Education Act (1992) states that all children in Estonia shall receive education. Until then some groups of disabled people were not subject to compulsory schooling.

Another important article in this Act stipulates that every child has the right to receive education in the local school closest to his/her home. In a case where there are no applicable conditions in the school a child with special needs should study in a special school.

A local government shall guarantee the opportunity to study for pupils with physical, speech, sensory or intellectual disabilities in a local school. If applicable conditions do not exist, the state or local government will guarantee study opportunity in a special school. The type of institution will be specified or suggested based on medical, psychological and pedagogical observations.

The Basic and Upper Secondary School Act (1993) stipulates that a school shall guarantee study opportunities for every pupil of compulsory school age living in the school’s area of service (§15). Compulsory schooling can also be done by studying at home (§19). A pupil has the right to select a school in compliance with his/her interests and abilities or to study according to an individual programme as provided by the Ministry of Education (§31).

In 1995 the Government of Estonia approved the general principles for Estonian Disability Policy. Rule no.6 of the document says that: 

The State should recognise the principle of equal primary, secondary and tertiary educational opportunities in inclusive settings for children, youth and adults with disabilities. It should ensure that the education of persons with disabilities is an integral part of the educational system.

The Estonian National Curriculum for Basic and Upper Secondary Schools (2002) has the following general principles:

Equal opportunities for receiving education

The school of the Republic of Estonia providing general education is an equal opportunity school: the national curriculum guarantees equal opportunities for all pupils for being transferred from one class to another or from one school to another. Everyone is entitled to education according to his/her abilities. In teaching regulations and in drafting the curriculum national, local, age- and sex- related and individual characteristics will be taken into account.

Development of all pupils

The curriculum aims at the development of all pupils, taking into account the abilities and inclinations of each individual pupil as well as those of the whole class. Study tasks are designed so that they will require effort but will not be too hard to solve.

Every school in Estonia shall compile their own school curriculum based on the National Curriculum. The school curriculum should take into account the special features and characteristics of the school and the local community.

At the moment there exist 3 different levels for the National Curriculum: 1) the National Curriculum for Basic and Upper Secondary Schools; 2) the National Simplified Curriculum (for pupils with special educational needs (mild mental disability)); 3) the National Curriculum for pupils with moderate and severe learning disability. Although the latter two curricula are mainly used in special schools, it is also possible to study according to these curricula in a mainstream school. It is also possible to follow only part of these curricula depending on the special educational needs of a pupil.

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