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The more important directions and choices in Estonian education have been set out in the Estonian Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020, which emphasises, inter alia, the importance of openness, tolerance and international cooperation in the development of the lifelong learning system. Additionally, the strategy highlights the relevance of internationalisation in the preparation of employees in the areas of economic growth. It is also necessary to support the introduction of international experience and competence in the institutions of higher education with a view to improving the quality and attractiveness of education. It is of importance to make an effort to participate in the global labour market, which requires an increasingly stronger focus on professional knowledge and skills, foreign language skills, cultural awareness and tolerance. Similarly, the benefits to society from the internationalisation of education need to be explained. For more detailed information by the level of education, please consult the section “Mobility and internationalisation” in Eurydice.
The implementation programme of the Estonian Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020 in the area of higher education – the Higher education programme 2020-2023 - highlights the role of the internationalisation of education in supporting the development of Estonian areas of economic growth and the quality of higher education. Providing academic and professional foreign language training in Estonia, paying attention to work practice opportunities and creating employment opportunities for graduates in the Estonian labour market are also integral to the internationalisation. The same principles are supported by the Estonia’s competitiveness strategy ‘Estonia 2020’, which also recognises the relevance of internationalising at home – attracting talents to the areas important for Estonia and becoming more active in hiring foreign teaching staff in Estonian institutions of higher education to give the local students unable to study in a foreign institution of higher education an opportunity to have a contact with an international environment.
According to the European Commission's Mobility Scoreboard on IVET, Estonia has a policy intention to integrate international learning mobility experiences in the curricula of IVET programmes. This can be seen from some paragraphs from the Act for Vocational Education Institutions, in particular:
- Paragraph 26, which establishes that in the application of Estonian vocational education credit points, the European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training, ECVET, shall be used; and
- Paragraph 22, which stipulates that the Vocational Education Standard sets out the principles for recognition of prior learning and professional experience that is closely connected with learning mobility.
The Estonian Lifelong Learning Strategy's Vocational Education Programme sets an overall goal for improving international cooperation in general. The goal of the programme is to support participation in the Erasmus+ Programme to increase the student and teacher mobility and school participation in international networks. The Vocational Education Programme is updated every year with regard to the upcoming four years and confirmed by the Minister of Education and Research. In addition, most of the vocational institutions in Estonia have set qualitative and quantitative targets in its development plan to improve international cooperation between vocational institutions and increase the IVET learner's mobility. Some schools have compiled even its own internationalisation strategy with specific IVET mobility indicators (e.g. "the share of students participating in mobility" or "the number of implemented mobility projects").
The following national mobility programmes are available:
- Youth for Understanding (YFU) exchange programmes in general secondary education, in-and outgoing exchanges for several periods (year, semester and summer programmes). The programme is financed largely by private budgets of participants.
- Erasmus+ short and long term study mobility: under the cooperation projects of general education school; student mobility in higher education and vocational education, work practice of vocational educational institutions under Erasmus+ study mobility; duration varies from the 19 days to year depending from the specific action line. The Erasmus+ is financed by the EU budget and in general, the allocation covers travel and living costs for young people.
- Kristjan Jaak scholarship programme: a national scholarship programme initiated in cooperation between the Ministry of Education and Research and Archimedes Foundation with a view to supporting the studies abroad of Master’s and Doctoral students enrolled at Estonian institutions of higher education and academic and research related secondments abroad of the Master’s and Doctoral students (and teaching staff). Duration of the mobility period varies from 30 days to the whole period of the degree studies (Master’s and Doctoral studies). The allocation supports travel and living costs. The programme is financed by the public budget.
- Young scholar grant programme: a scholarship programme founded in cooperation between private companies, the Ministry of Education and Research and Archimedes Foundation, aimed at supporting talented upper secondary school graduates towards acquiring a Bachelor’s degree in acknowledged foreign universities. The programme provides general grant of 4 000 euros. The budget is combined from public and private sources.
- DoRa Plus. The programme supports 1-10 month outward and inward study mobility of young researchers and Master’s students. Dora Plus’ total budget from 1.08.2015-31.05.2023 is 22.5 million euros. The programme covers generally travel and living costs.
- Compatriots programme 2014-2020. Supporting the studies of expatriate Estonian youth at Estonian public universities, state institutions of professional higher education and vocational educational institutions. The budget covers the starting sum and travel and living costs for students.
- Kindred peoples programme IV. A programme launched to support the languages and cultures of the indigenous Uralic peoples (Finno-Ugric and Samoyed) under which Doctoral or Master’s studies in Estonian state universities of people of Finno-Ugric origin living in Russia are funded. The grant covers travel and living costs.
- National Scholarship Programme for International Students, Researchers and Teaching Staff. A scholarship schema, which is partially based on the foreign agreements of the Ministry of Education and Research and offers students scholarships for formal education, exchange programmes and participation in summer schools.
- Scholarships for the academic study of the Estonian language and culture by foreign students. The programme awards the scholarship Estophilus, under which funding is provided for Estonia-related studies and research carried out in Estonia by Masters and Doctoral students or researchers holding a Doctoral degree who are enrolled in foreign institutions of higher education. In addition, the participation in intermediate and advanced summer or winter courses of the Estonian language and culture is supported.
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs scholarships. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs offers Masters and Doctoral scholarships under the instruments of development cooperation to the citizens of the development cooperation states of relevance for Estonia. Scholarship applications must be submitted by universities on a project basis, i.e., students cannot apply for the scholarship directly. After that, the students have the possibility to apply directly from the university.
The cross-border mobility in non-formal learning and youth work in Estonia is in large part based on the opportunities offered through Erasmus+ programme i.e. opportunities for learning mobility for youth groups (youth exchanges) and individuals (European Voluntary Service).
Estonian Ministry of Education and Research also has established cooperation with Japan to provide a mutual learning opportunity for young people under which a regular exchange of youth groups takes place. The programme is financed by public budgets of Japan and Estonia.
In general, the quality assurance system for cross-border mobility programmes listed above is based on the legal framework of the programme (such as the legal base for the Erasmus+ programme) and consists of the following elements:
- programme steering group/committee in charge of allocating the grant in accordance with the legal base;
- annual reporting.
The reporting is in general considered as an input for the national policy programme annual reporting. The annual reporting on the policy level is connected to set the targets for the next years together with planning future allocation.