School network as a whole must meet the main need of the students – that is, it must ensure them the possibility to become well informed citizens who are able to analyze and make their own decisions in today’s global world. Rearranging school network must originate from demographic changes, take the need of regional development into account, ensure all students equal opportunities for acquiring quality education, be balanced, and inform and involve all interested parties.
There are three possible scenarios for arranging the future of Estonian school network:
1) Maintaining status quo
2) Free development
3) Active intervention by the state
As one of the study’s authors, Tiina Annus, puts it, “Third scenario can only be achieved when the job of arranging their school network and educational life that every local government and county has so far done individually is replaced with a coordinated collaboration on the state level.”
In a nutshell, the study reveals that:
- Analyzing student migration between local governments (i.e. schools) reveals that student migration exists on all school levels
- Tallin, Tartu, and Pärnu have become the poles of attraction of Estonian general education
- The overlapping of same school levels in different types of schools forces the schools to compete for the students, especially so regarding the first-graders
- When higher school levels are closed, it is very probable for the parents to choose a new school for their children with existing higher levels also for the levels maintained in the old school so as to give their children the opportunity to continue studying in the same school until the end of secondary education
- Establishing school catchments for compulsory education must ensure every child a place in the school nearest to their home and the owner of the school opportunity for accuracy in their long-term planning
- The fact that there are teachers in schools who do not meet the qualification requirements signals unsatisfactory level of teachers’ working order
- When wishing the country’s regional development to be in balance, one should pay close attention to ensuring excellent learning facilities (teachers, school houses, opportunities for extracurricular activities) for the children living in parishes with low population density or in fringe areas
Regardless of the chosen method for optimizing school network, every school must follow the “good school” principles to really become a good school.