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There are two most relevant policy documents in relation to social and civic competencies and participation of youth in Estonia:
In 2002 the Parliament adopted The Estonian Civil Society Development Concept, that forms a basis for the strategic development of civil society in Estonia. The document defines principles and values that are important both for the public and non-profit sector. Under this document, the Government adopted the Civil Society Development Plan 2015–2020 (Kodanikuühiskonna arengukava) prepared under the leadership of the Ministry of the Interior, which aims at the promotion of civil society in 2015–2020. The plan focuses on two priorities: socially active residents and acting capabilities of citizens’ associations, i.e. ensuring that citizens’ associations have sufficient possibilities for achievement of their goals. The development plan establishes the goal of participation of citizens’ associations in the formation of policy as natural and valued cooperation. It is also important to increase the influence of citizens’ associations in the process of dealing with social problems and improvement of the well-being of people through social innovation, social entrepreneurship and provision of public services.
The Document is implemented under the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior, who allocates the funds and contracts partners in order to ensure the implementation.
The framework of reference for the civic and social competences used in the development plan is not defined.
There are no specific youth target groups defined in the Document.
The national strategy to increase youth participation is part of the Youth Field Development Plan 2014-2020 (Noortevaldkonna arengukava 2014-2020; see chapter 5.5). Please see chapter 5.5. for information on the implementation and target groups of the plan. The framework of reference for the civic and social competences used in the development plan is not defined.
Citizenship education “Civics and citizenship education” exists as a compulsory separate subject both in basic and secondary general education. In basic school, the obligatory time taught in 2nd stage of study is 1 lesson per week and 3rd stage of study 2 lessons per week. The National curriculum for upper secondary schools defines that two courses are obligatory to be taught in Civics and citizenship education. The national curricula introduced in 2011 established several competencies related to citizenship education (values, social skills, communication skills and entrepreneurship skills) for which the specific knowledge, skills and attitudes to be mastered by the end of each ISCED level are defined.
According to the national curriculums, the following learning objectives are defined for a basic and upper secondary school in the area of social studies and in particular Civics and citizenship education.
National curriculum for upper secondary schools: the objective of teaching social subjects in upper secondary school is to develop students’ social competence; it refers to the ability to understand the causes and effects of the social changes taking place in the history of humankind and in modern-day society; recognize basic social scientific research methods and use some of them in studying and in everyday life; create future scenarios and visions in an area that is important socially or personally; know about and respect human rights and democracy, be informed about civil rights and duties, and be familiar with the skills and behaviour that are in accordance with them; recognize cultural specificities and follow generally accepted etiquette; and continuously show an interest in the development of one’s nation, community and the world, shape one’s own opinions and be an active and responsible citizen. In Civics and citizenship education students acquire social writing skills: knowledge, skills, values and attitudes necessary for functioning in society and making responsible decisions. The aim of the subject is to create the preconditions for the strengthening of the identity of a citizen and social cohesion, shaping active citizens, supporting the formation of readiness for dialogue and respect towards people who understand the world differently, as well as the self-awareness of students in questions regarding worldviews.
Participative structures within formal education settings (e.g. pupils' participation in school councils)
In Estonia, the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act defines the legal framework for student bodies and student councils in basic and upper secondary schools. The Act defines, that the student body of a school has the right to decide and independently organise the matters of student life in accordance with acts and legislation adopted based on acts. A student body has the right to:
- form unions and organisations with other student bodies
- become a member of Estonian and international organisations or pursue cooperation with them through a student council
- decide and organise all the other matters of student life, which fall within the competence of student bodies.
- elect a student council who represents the student body within the competence of the student council
The Acts concerning higher and vocational education, define the legal framework for student bodies and student councils in the education institutions, e.g. the Vocational Educational Institutions Act (2013).
Generally, the definition of a Student Body defines the body as an institution, which exercises the right of the students to self-government – to decide on and manage independently, be active on the issues of student life based on the interests, needs, rights and obligations of students, also to establish a student council.
Measures to encourage student participation in the local community and wider society
The Network of Estonian Non-profit Organizations in cooperation with Estonian Youth Work Centre and the Ministry of education and research launched a programme Community practice (kogukonnapraktika) in 2015. Supported by European Social Fund and state budget the programme aims to introduce a practical community work as part of the curricula of civic education for upper secondary level. The cooperation programme provides students with the opportunity to experience a short-term practical work period.
Partnerships between formal education providers, youth organisations and youth work providers
The Youth Field Development Plan 2014-2020 defines the following policy goals in relation to partnerships between formal education providers, youth organisations and youth work providers:
- measures are devised and implemented for systematic cross-sectoral and inter-agency communication and collaboration;
- youth work in schools is enhanced;
- the use of youth work tools and training resources are supported in formal education.
The financial support for these policy measures is not specified but is part of larger programmes supporting youth work and the implementation of the Development plan in general.
Supporting non-formal learning initiatives focusing on social and civic competences
In Estonia, the youth participation and initiatives to support the capability to participate through non-formal learning are generally supported via youth work provision as the participation is defined in Estonia both as a goal and as a method in youth work. There are specific policy goals defined in the Youth Field Development Plan 2014-2020 and there is systematic public financing available. In general, the youth work programmes supporting the participation include support scheme for youth organisations and youth councils, there are training programmes available for youth workers both as higher education and as training (see chapter 1 for additional information). In the plan, the specific attention is given to the target group of youth at risk of exclusion due to several reasons. Please see chapter 5.5. for further information.
There is no single system of quality assurance/quality guidelines specific to non-formal learning activities/projects in general. There is support for youth work quality initiated by Estonian Youth Work Centre (starting from 01.08.2020 Education and Youth Board) and there is a mechanism to monitor policy implementation (see chapter 5.5.), however, the participation of young people is considered as a part of youth work and youth policy goals.
There is no specific certification in the area of civic educators established in Estonia. There is a possibility to gain professional education as a teacher and youth worker, both professions include competencies in relation to civic education and participation as part of the occupational standard.
Until 2019, there was a regular offer of training and materials available for people working in formal and non-formal settings with young people systematically provided by Youth Agency of the Archimedes Foundation (starting from 01.01.2021 the Department of Youth Programs of the Agency of Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps).
There is an initiative to create a network of stakeholders active in the civic education field in order to support the development of cooperation inside and between formal and non-formal education.