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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.3 Preventing early leaving from education and training (ELET)

Last update: 28 November 2023
On this page
  1. National strategy
  2. Formal education: main policy measures on ELET
  3. Addressing ELET through non-formal and informal learning and quality youth work
  4. Cross-sector coordination and monitoring of ELET interventions

National strategy

There is no comprehensive strategy for early leaving.

Formal education: main policy measures on ELET

Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020

The Estonian Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020 sets among key indicators the need to reduce the % of early leavers from education and training (% of the population aged 18-24 with at most lower secondary education and not in further education or training) to the level below 9% by 2020. At the end of 2020, the level is around 10%. In order to reach this goal among other key indicators, five policy aims have been set:

  1. Change in the approach to learning.
  2. Competent and motivated teachers and school leadership.
  3. Concordance of lifelong learning opportunities with the needs of the labour market.
  4. A digital focus in lifelong learning.
  5. Equal opportunities and increased participation in lifelong learning.

In a thematic report „Young people with low level of education“ (2016) Ministry of Education and Research underlines, that all the measures were taken under the strategy in all the areas of education – especially general and vocational education, but also measures related to teacher training and guidance provision play crucial part in addressing the issue of ELET in Estonia.

Policy measures in general education

Guidance and counselling

In order to support education acquisition and to prevent early leaving from education and training, the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act guarantees educational support services to all students, enabling them to get psychological counselling, speech therapy and study counselling.

In addition to the guidance opportunities provided in the framework of the curriculum, there are centres to provide the service outside the school for young people. There are 16 centralised public centres in all counties. The regional youth guidance centres, called Pathfinder centres (Rajaleidja), provide career information, career counselling, psychological, socio-pedagogical, special education counselling and speech therapy. Career guidance is provided for young people up to 26 years. The other 4 services are focused on the need for children and youth (aged 1.5 – 18) with special educational needs and practitioners main direct target group is school personnel and parents.

Starting from 2017, the career services are under the administration of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. They have career information rooms and job search workshops for people of all ages. 

Data gathering

Estonian Education Information System analyses ELET data once a year for aggregating education statistics, but schools approve the data on a monthly basis which allows for ad hoc extractions of data. The Estonian Educational Information System (EEIS) is a national register that consolidates information on the education system, including information on educational institutions, pupils, teachers, graduation documents and curricula. Local governments can use EEIS to access information on the pupils living in their territory, and on those who have moved to a school located in the territory of another local government. Educational institutions are obliged to enter information into the EEIS and to check and amend the entered information for accuracy. Pupils and teachers can view the education-related information held on them. The register tracks each student's educational career. It is also visible if the student has dropped out of school and if he/she has continued in an evening school, vocational school etc. The register does not provide data about entry into the labour market.

Policy measures in vocational education

In secondary VET, the dropout rate (during the first year of studies) has decreased from 26.2 in 2012 to 24.7 in 2015. However, in 2019, the rate was 21.2, which is more than the 2020 target (less than 20%). 

ELVET rate has been set as one of the performance indicators for VET institutions related also to the level of financing, which has increased the attention in schools to the problem and has prompted schools to redesign support systems for students in VET, also to develop new initiatives and measures to reduce the ELVET rate. Each VET school has been assigned with specific ELVET level to be reached in the school's development plan. Best practice seminars are held between the schools.

The improved cooperation with regional youth guidance centre (Pathfinder centres) has supported better organisation of entrance and beginning of studies in VET, also the individual support for students.

Guidance and training for students with special educational needs have been developed and delivered for VET teachers so as to reduce high rates of ELVET.

Specific target groups identified in the youth population

According to thematic report „Young people with low level of education“ (2016), 66% of dropouts during the last five academic years (2010/2011 – 2014/2015)in basic schools are men, 86% of them have studied in Estonian as a language of instruction and 14% in Russian (compared to 89% and 11% in total). After the graduation of basic school, 4.5-5% will not continue their studies. 71% of those have low study results in their final exams. In vocational secondary education, 18.2% of men drop out the school compared to 15.3 of women. The lower the study result in final exams in the basic school was for a student, the more probable is leaving the vocational education studies early.

According to the data from PISA (OECD 2016), social-economical indicators most correlated to predicted low performance in school is the parents' foreign origin (both parents are born in a foreign country) and the language spoken at home. Inequality in length of studies is most related to family background, home language and gender: a boy from a family with other home language than Estonian, with two parents with basic education and few books at home studies 5 years less than a girl with highly educated parents, Estonian as a language and good learning environment at home (report „Young people with low level of education“ (2016)).

Addressing ELET through non-formal and informal learning and quality youth work

The Youth Field Development Plan 2014-2020 brings out as one of the indicators the decrease in the proportion of young people (aged 18-24) with a basic or lower level of education who do not continue in education. All the measures taken in the framework of this development plan support young people’s self-determination, motivation for and positive experiences of learning, inclusion and active participation in society hence supporting prevention of ELET, returning to and coping with formal studies. The plan is aimed at all young people from 7 to 26 years old. The activities in the framework of the Youth Field Development plan are financed mostly from state budget via the Ministry of Education and Research.

The Estonian Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020 brings out activities to prevent dropouts, but none of the activities is connected with youth work.


Cross-sector coordination and monitoring of ELET interventions

There is no mechanism established that can be considered a systematic partnership amongst the public and non-public actors who play a significant role in preventing ELET and compensating for its consequences. At the local level the networking mechanisms exist between the specialist from the different field working with youth, however, they are not specifically targeting ELET as the main task.

Results of YG monitoring for 2015 show that the YG scheme in Estonia reached less than a quarter (23.3%) of NEETs aged under 25, though this represents a small improvement compared to 2014 (19.7%). Over half (55.3%) of those leaving the scheme in 2015 took up an offer within 4 months of registration, slightly less than in 2014 (58.3%). Follow-up data to look at subsequent outcomes are not yet available.