Youth work in Estonia has a history of more than 100 years as the roots of youth work go back to the 19th century with the creation of forerunners of youth work. The first act regarding youth work was accepted in 1936 (Youth Organization Act). Youth work has a certain definition by law: "Youth work is the creation of conditions to promote the diverse development of young persons, which enable them to be active outside their families, formal education acquired within the adult education system, and work on the basis of their free will.” See more in Chapter 10.1.
In Estonia, the youth field is considered to consist of two parts – youth work and youth policy – that are tightly connected to each other and the policy-making includes both parts. According to the Local Government Organization Act, the local governments have a key role in organizing youth work. Most of the financing of youth work comes also from the budget and own income of the local municipalities. See more in Chapter 10.2.
The main top-level policies and regulations on youth work are as following:
- Youth Work Act - provides a legal basis for the organization and financing of youth work; see more in Chapter 1.2.
- Youth Field Development Plan 2014-2020 (Noortevaldkonna arengukava 2014-2020) – addresses causes of problems pertaining to young people; see more in Chapter 1.3.
See the main structures that provide different youth work activities and their funding in Estonia from Chapter 10.3.
The quality of youth work is assessed differently depending on the mechanism, project, or programme. For example, there are the competencies of youth workers (including occupational standard), quality assessment model for local municipalities, and financing of hobby education and hobby activities in local municipalities. These are just a few examples brought out in the Youth Wiki, but as there are many different activities, there are just as many quality assurance mechanisms. See more in Chapter 10.4. The most recent tool for displaying data and statistics on young people is called Noorteseire Juhtimislaud. Estonia has also participated in an international project “Developing and Communicating the Impact of Youth Work in Europe”, which aimed to identify the impact of open youth work in the UK (England), Finland, Estonian, Italy, and France. Estonia also has a concept of smart youth work from which you can learn more also from Chapter 10.4.
Youth workers are not defined in the Youth Work Act. The youth workers are mostly paid, about 8% of youth workers do the work voluntarily. Everybody who works with young people is called a youth worker, regardless of whether they receive a salary or not. Youth work can be studied in three universities in Estonia on different levels - higher applied sciences degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree. Read more about youth workers, their training and study possibilities, and mobility, from Chapter 10.5.
Young people are able to assess their experiences obtained from youth work in experience baggage on the website Teeviit. It is possible to add the learning experience (formal education, student/pupil exchanges, trainings, seminars and conferences, voluntary activities, youth camps, youth exchanges, and hobbies) and working experience (jobs, practice, working camps, belonging to organizations, tutoring) and analyze the outcomes by yourself. As a result of the process, it is possible to combine it into a CV and send it to potential employers by e-mail. See more in Chapter 10.6.
Mainly the youth work institutions, organizations, youth workers and local municipalities, are disseminating information regarding youth work. There is no single website to provide all information on youth work to young people. Youth information provides young people information regarding the surrounding life, supports their independency, increases their knowledge of different opportunities and choices to organize their life better, and increases the meaningful participation in the society. Youth information in Estonia is targeted to young people aged 7-26 and is based on the needs and interests of young people. The key initiatives on youth awareness-raising are, for example, National Youth Work Week and International Youth Day. Regarding the impact of youth work, there are also some initiatives, e.g. Developing and Communicating the Impact of Youth Work across Europe and Thorough monitoring and analyzing system for youth work quality and impact. Read more about information providers, national youth information and key initiatives on the topic from Chapter 10.7.
In October 2019, the official process of a new “Youth Field Development Plan 2021-2035” was started. 28.11.2019 the government approved the proposals of compiling a new development plan that continues the last, currently valid development plan. In November 2020, the new development plan got the Government's approval and has been passed on to the Parliament who should confirm it the latest by the end of the year.
In 2019, the Ministry of Education and Research commissioned a study on the administrative agencies under the ministry, services offered and finding solutions to reorganize the services and functions. As there are several institutions implementing the same or similar policies, it was proposed that the institutions would be merged into one large joint agency. The reform was put into force on 01.08.2020 and the new organization is called the Education and Youth Board. See more about current debates and reforms from Chapter 10.8.