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Implementation of assessment policy - Estonia

As schools in Estonia have a responsibility and the opportunity to take decisions, assessment policy is implemented quite differently in different schools. Principles for assessment in a school are set out in a school curriculum. If a school has had an experience with pupils with special needs, it is easier for them to foresee such “special cases” also in their curriculum. In a case where a school has had no experience with pupils with special needs they might be “forgotten” in a school curriculum.

Some important changes came into force in the academic year 2005/2006 – teacher’s responsibility to offer a support system for a pupil with low study results, only in exceptional cases may pupils be left in the same grade for a second year, a pupil does not need to visit a psychiatrist in order to receive remedial teaching, progress meeting.


A teachers’ working week in Estonia is 35 hours, depending on which grade they teach. Their actual weekly teaching time is 18-24, the rest of the hours are general working time. During the general working time a teacher should attend meetings, prepare lessons, meet parents, but also consult pupils who have difficulties in studies, work individually, compile an individual education plan or participate in in-service training. Pursuant to the regulation of the Ministry of Education and Science „Minimum requirements for staff requirements in a basic school“ there should be one full-time speech therapist to work with 40-50 pupils who need speech therapy. The regulation also says that a full-time school psychologist will be hired in a basic and secondary school (grades 1-12) that has at least 600 pupils.

Teacher Education

Teacher education in universities has been reorganised in recent years. This has been due to the fact that Estonia is adopting the Bologna Convention on Higher Education and 3+2 (4+1) curricula. All coming teachers will have to attend courses introducing issues about pupils with special needs. These are mainly introductory courses focusing on main topics – legislation, definitions, concepts and theories, Estonian and foreign practices in special needs education. Coming teachers are given some tools and means to be able to notice and identify special needs, they also learn about some basic possibilities to help pupils before turning to outside help from other specialists.

Estonian legislation also demands specific knowledge and skills from working teachers who work with pupils with special needs. For them, new in-service training programmes have been developed. The new programmes are in compliance with legal requirements concerning duration and contents of the courses.


Usually attitudes are very hard to change. But we have seen in Estonia that attitudes towards people with special needs have changed relatively quickly. More and more parents put their children with special needs into a local school, they know their rights to demand an individual education plan and other learning support and local governments find resources to support these pupils, their parents and schools.

Traditionally, numeral grades are used in Estonian schools. This has given teachers a good opportunity to assess relatively quickly and for parents to get an overview of their child relatively easily. When oral and written assessment was introduced in the first two school years, there were several parents and teachers against it. The main argument was that assessment is more time-consuming and it is harder to compare one child with another. But for children with special needs, assessment is a good opportunity to really describe a child’s progress and emphasise the child’s strong sides, not only weaknesses.

Recent changes in assessment have encouraged parents to put their children with special needs into mainstream schools.

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