I had the chance to discover Estonian Edtech initiatives while on my Edtech Europe Tour and it’s definitely worth to have a look at it!
Since 2005 and the e-Estonia initiative, citizen participation in parliamentary decision, votes for elections and 99% of tax declarations are made online. The country adopted a strong digital culture and this can also be seen in its school system.
According to PISA, the Estonian education system is one of the best in the OECD, especially in science where Estonian students get the third position in the ranking.
Where does this success come from?
The autonomy of schools is a big success factor in Estonia. Each school can adapt the national curriculum to its students’ needs. You could say that the difference between schools must be huge but it is the smallest in europe according to PISA. This means that the schools have a similar level and results, may they be in the heart of Tallinn or in a small village in the countryside.
In 2014, BYOD became part of the national strategy. However, no big device roll-outs happened in Estonia. The households device penetration is already huge, so why spend millions in buying devices for schools?
Another success factor might be the fact that school inspectors in Estonia don’t go into the classrooms to check if a teacher does his or her job properly. There is a lot of trust put on the teachers: they are considered as the specialists who know best.
Last but not least, the main success story of the Estonian system might be the introduction of Educational Technologists in schools. Educational Technologists are not IT teachers, they are experienced teachers who work with their fellow teachers and their mission is to get them engaged and inspire them to innovate. They are pedagogical experts who believe in technology as a tool that supports innovation. They all followed an Edtech masters program (2 years professional development program they do next to their teacher activity.
As of today, there are Educational technologists in 80 schools across the country (almost ⅕ of all schools).
The ministry of education is pretty active in leading the change in Estonian school. Kristel Rillo, deputy head, e-services, Estonian ministry of education, whom I met, stressed the importance of developing digital literacy skills in schools. She insisted on the necessity of incorporating a digital culture into the learning process. According to her, Estonia is committed to providing individuals with digital learning resources and a modern digital infrastructure. An example of this is a new law stating every textbook needs to be available in digital form as well.
Two years ago, it was decided that BYOD would be the way, no big, country-wide device roll-outs will occur. ‘For students that don’t own devices, there’s always one set of commonly bought devices in schools.’ Kristel Rillo