The network of vocational training schools must ensure the quality and availability of training based on the society’s needs, motivation of the people involved in vocational education, and flexibility to meet the interests and abilities of the students. It is a subject matter that is politically highly sensitive. The programme for developing Estonian vocational education system in 2001-2004 (link in Estonian only) gave the principal starting points to rearrange vocational training, this study elaborates these points to shape the future of vocational training schools’ network.

The main reasons why rearranging has not yielded significant results so far:

  • Vocational training schools predominantly belong to the state.
  • Very often, the condition and material base of vocational training schools do not meet contemporary requirements and are of various nature.
  • The teaching staff of vocational training schools is predominantly focused on training based on teacher-student subordination relationship mentality.
  • Vocational training schools lack resources for innovation (such as e-courses) and transition to become a learning organisation.
  • Economic growth of Estonia must be achieved in conditions of decreasing economic activity of the population and suppressed social expenses.
  • In 2003, the productivity of labour force in Estonia was merely 42% of the EU average.
  • Social partnership between public and private sectors in arranging the work of vocational training schools is still developing.

In the same time, Estonia must face several challenges on the global scale. In answer to these challenges:

  • Estonia sees itself in the future as a knowledge-based society.
  • One of Estonia’s success factors is flexible preparation of work force and this work force’s fast adaptability to new conditions.
  • Interest in Estonian education market behind Estonian borders is increasing.
  • The boundaries between different education forms are becoming blurred.
  • Occupational first training is becoming broad-based.
  • New opportunities are created for carrying on in higher education after acquiring the vocational secondary education.
  • Vocational training based on modules is becoming more wide-spread.

 “There aren’t enough students in certain areas to maintain the current network of vocational training schools; furthermore, the current system of curricula is not economically or socially reasonable.” – Rivo Noorkõiv, one of the study’s authors

Legislation regulating education needs re-examining to prevent situations where students of vocational training schools cannot continue their education on higher levels, and to create prerequisites for extensive integration between different school types, and for conducting in-service training and retraining.

Vocational training schools in counties provide comprehensive vocational-, in-service-, and retraining. For enhancing their copetitiveness it might become necessary for these schools to specialize in some narrower subject field. Many vocational training schools in rural areas need to be closed or subordinated to either bigger ones or to universities.