Country information for Estonia - Legislation and policy
The fundamental principles of educational provision in the Republic of Estonia are established by the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, the Education Act, the Pre‑school Child Care Institutions Act and the Basic Schools and Upper-Secondary Schools Act.
According to the Constitution, everyone has the right to education. Education aims to establish favourable conditions for the development of:
- the Estonian nation and minority nations;
- economic, political and cultural life in Estonia and protection of the environment in the context of the world economy and world culture.
It is equally important to educate people to respect and follow the law and create opportunities for continuous learning for all.
Several juridical acts guarantee education for learners with special needs. The Constitution refers to the right to education and the accessibility of education. The Education Act and the Basic Schools and Upper-Secondary Schools Act state that every child has an equal right to study at a local school, or, if conditions are unsuitable and the parents agree, to study at a special school. Parents have the final decision on their children’s education.
The Basic Schools and Upper-Secondary Schools Act states that Estonia has an inclusive education policy. As such, every child has the right to attend a school in their residential area or to study in a mainstream school with an adapted curriculum (national curriculum for basic schools; simplified national curriculum for basic schools) and to receive different kinds of support. It is also possible to offer classes for learners with special educational needs (SEN) in mainstream schools.
The values arising from the ethical principles specified in the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the fundamental documents of the European Union are considered important.
Estonia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in April 2012.
The general objectives for the education of learners with special needs are the same as for other learners. They do not vary according to whether education takes place within the mainstream system or in special groups (schools or classes).
The Republic of Estonia’s disability policy states that the right of people with special needs to pre-primary, basic, secondary and higher education must be guaranteed according to the principle of equal opportunity. People with special needs have the right to inclusive education and the state must guarantee that right. The organisation of instruction for pupils with SEN is based on trends of inclusive education that are internationally recognised and have been approved by European Union member countries:
- Generally, pupils with SEN attend their local school and they are provided with the required conditions.
- If needed, pupils with severe and multiple disorders are given opportunities to study in a segregated special class or school.
- Parents can choose between the local mainstream school and a segregated special school.
Instruction in a mainstream school presumes the existence of an adapted learning environment and the availability of support services and required equipment. These services must meet the needs of people with all types of impairments. Since school attendance is compulsory for everyone aged 7–17, education must be guaranteed to all, including learners with the most severe impairments. Extra attention must be paid to pre‑primary education and school preparation for children with special needs, as well as to in-service training and the re-training of adults with special needs.
The Estonian Education Information System provides data related to learners’ rights to age-appropriate education (Source: CPRA – Estonia Country Report).
Last updated 30/03/2020