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The Estonian Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020 sets “A digital focus in lifelong learning” as one of five key policy aims. The vision of the strategy is that by 2020 modern digital technology is used for learning and teaching effectively and efficiently, an improvement in the digital skills of the total population has been achieved and access to the new generation of digital infrastructure is ensured. Successful implementation of the modern approach to learning and an increase in the quality of learning requires students and teachers, teaching staffs and heads of schools to be equipped with digital competence. Use of digital learning resources helps to make learning more engaging, supports the teacher in the process of learning and broadens the opportunities in lifelong learning.
In order to implement the goal of the strategy, a Digital Focus Programme was initiated by the Ministry of Education and Research in 2014. The digital focus programme concentrates on an improvement in the digital competences of learners, teachers, teaching staffs and Heads of schools and on purposeful use of digital learning resources with a view to supporting the implementation of a modern approach to learning and an increase in the quality of the study.
Authority responsible: Ministry of Education and Research. Period: 2015-2020. Budget: about 47 million euros.
Main activities and measures:
- the curricula for basic schools and upper secondary schools as well as the curricula for vocational education will be updated in view of the acquisition of digital competences;
- the exploitation of ICT in all subject areas of general education will be supported, the requirements for ICT competencies in professional standards will be updated; digital competences of learners will be assessed on a regular basis;
- general digital skills of teachers and the teaching staffs will be developed; a digital skills self-assessment environment for teachers will be developed;
- programmes targeted at the development of the digital skills of learners will be developed (e.g., ProgeTiiger, Robootika, TeadusTiiger, Wolfram) which also attracts learners into the areas of exact and natural sciences, engineering, design and technology and ICT;
- in general education and vocational education, the e-assessment methodology will be implemented; an information technology application will be developed for e-assessment (Eksamite Infosüsteem EIS (Examinations Information System)) which will be applied at all levels of education;
- from 2015, new textbooks are digitally available; quality requirements for digital learning resources will be established; an information system for digital learning resources will be developed and implemented;
- development of digital learning resources for general and vocational education will be supported through competitions, tenders and contracted specialist work;
- Schools and managers of schools will be supported in ensuring a suitable network connection in general education schools;
- a needs-based support system will be created for providing students with personal digital devices.
Expected impact and changes:
- digital competence as one of the key competences is developed in all subjects and hobby activities; it is a natural part of the process of study;
- digital competences of learners, teachers, teaching staffs and Heads of schools have improved;
- digital learning resources are of high quality and easily accessible to everyone;
- public access to the new generation of digital infrastructure has improved;
- schools have a modern digital infrastructure; personal digital devices, e.g., smartphones, are also used for learning on a daily basis.
No evidence-based monitoring/assessment/evaluation of the implementation of the programme has been conducted as of yet.
No major revisions/updates of the programme have gone through since its introduction.
The National curriculum for upper secondary schools defines digital competence as a general competence, that should be shaped through learning outcomes expected in all subjects, but also through discussing cross-curricular subjects at lessons, extracurricular and out-pf school activities. The „digital competence“ is defined as the ability to use developing digital technology for coping in a quickly changing society for learning, acting as a citizen as well as communicating in communities; to use digital means for finding and preserving information and to evaluate the relevance and trustworthiness of the information; to participate in creating digital content; including creation and use of texts, images, multimedia; to use suitable digital tools and methods for solving problems, to communicate and cooperate in different digital environments; to be aware of the dangers of the digital environment and know how to protect one’s privacy, personal information and digital identity; to follow the same moral and value principles as in everyday life.
The curriculum also defines „information environment“ and „technology and innovation“ as cross-curricular topics:
- information environment – the aim is for the student to develop into an information-conscious person who senses and aware of the surrounding information environment, is able to analyse it critically and acts according to his or her aims and society’s communications ethics;
- technology and innovation – the aim is for the student to develop into a person who is well-disposed toward innovation and who knows how to use contemporary technologies in a goal-oriented manner, who copes with the rapidly changing technological living, learning and work environment.
In vocational training the Vocational Education Standard, which defines uniform requirements for vocational training, there is an informational technology competence defined as a result, that should be achieved in the vocational training after the Basic school. The IT competence defined in the Standard states for the 3rd level students in vocational education, that student „should know main opportunities and potential risks of IT“ and „is able to use the internet both for personal and professional goals“. For the 4th level students in vocational education, the outcome of the studies should, in addition, ensure, that a student should be able to use main applications; to assess the trustworthiness of the information available; to create, present, search and understand information.
Previously known as the Information Technology Foundation for Education (HITSA) (since 01.08.2020 Education and Youth Board) was established with a goal to ensure that the graduates at all levels of education obtain digital skills necessary for the development of economy and society and the possibilities offered by ICT are skilfully used in teaching and learning, which helps improve the quality of learning and teaching at all levels of education. HITSA was a non-profit association established by the Republic of Estonia, the University of Tartu, Tallinn University of Technology, Eesti Telekom and the Estonian Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications. The activities of the educational programmes are targeted at advancing and intensifying the cooperation between ICT industry, universities, other educational institutions and the state. HITSA also offers a training portal for educators, youth workers etc in the area of digital technologies,
In 2016, the Information Technology Foundation for Education (HITSA) (since 01.08.2020 Education and Youth Board) developed a guiding material to understand and develop digital competencies among students in all the level of education. The material includes a model of digital competencies for learners.
Smart Youth Work
One of the measures planned Under the Youth Field Development Plan for 2014-2020 was to develop a concept for smart youth work in order to 1) to make greater use of information technology in working with youth, including raising youth digital literacy in offering ICT-related hobby activities; 2) developing youth work using new means and 3) raising the competencies of youth and youth workers.
The Smart Youth Work concept was approved in 2017 with an aim to describe the basic principles for smart youth work and to create preconditions for development and adoption of smart solutions in youth work. 3 main directions for activities have been set:
- smart youth work solutions for youth;
- digital solutions related to youth workers’ competencies and work methods;
- quality, organisation and efficiency of youth work provision and better knowledge of youth.
Under these directions, 22 activities on the national level are implemented in the years 2017-2018.
Training on smart youth work has been offered to youth workers by the Foundation Archimedes youth agency until 2019. Since 01.01.2021, the Foundation Archimedes Youth Agency was joint with the Education and Youth Board, and it became the Department of Youth Programs of the Agency of Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps (NA for the Erasmus+ programme). See more about smart youth work from Chapter 10.4.
Please also see chapter 8.7 Fostering the creative use of new technologies for examples of initiatives to promote media literacy and online safety through non-formal and informal learning.
The central initiative to raise awareness about the risks on the internet is Safer Internet Centre in Estonia – Targalt Internetis. The project’s mission is a smarter Internet use by children and their parents and the prevention of the online distribution of child sexual abuse material. The project is co-financed 50% by the European Commission Connecting European Facility Programme. The project includes:
- training sessions and seminars for children, parents, teachers and social workers, and awareness-raising events for the general public;
- the drafting of training and awareness-raising materials for children, teachers and parents;
- creative competitions for students;
- assistance and counselling from the Children’s Helpline 116111 children and parents on the safe Internet and digital mobile devices use by telephone, MSN (user email@example.com) and other IM solutions;
- the web-based hotline Vihjeliin, which allows Internet users to provide information about web environments which contain material that violates children’s right to sexual self-determination; notices about other materials that are inappropriate for children may also be sent to Vihjeliin;
- cooperation among different stakeholders in Estonia and Europe and participation in the INHOPE and INSAFE cooperation networks.
The activities of the follow-up project are being implemented by four organisations:
- the Estonian Union for Child Welfare is a coordinator of the project and contributes to awareness-raising activities, coordinates youth participation and operates Estonian Hotline Vihjeliin;
- the Information Technology Foundation for Education coordinates and carries out awareness-raising activities;
- the Estonian Advice Centre (which manages the Children’s Helpline 116111) provides help and counselling for children and parents if problems emerge in the use of the Internet and digital media devices, and participates in awareness-raising activities;
- the Police and Border Guard Board is contributing its competence to all activities.