Training is often said to drive the economy and society as a whole. True, but perhaps few people know that one of Europe's leading role models, in this regard, is Estonia. This small Baltic republic is certainly not a rich country: its per capita income is about 14,000 dollars a year, just over half of Italy's figure of 25,000 dollars. And on closer inspection, it is not even one of the continent's fastest growing economies. However, it is perhaps the only emerging EU economy to focus on training as a driver for growth. It is the fifth European Union country in terms of training investment, after Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and Finland, and the only emerging economy to have over 6% of GDP invested in education.
And then there's the question of method: Estonia boasts one of the most innovative education models in the world, thanks, in particular, to a project launched in 2012, called ProgeTiger. Based on this project, Estonian schools reach the entire population, from kindergarten to lifelong learning, teaching the foundations of computer programming through "practical activities and age-appropriate programming languages “. But that’s not all. Teachers are generally entrusted with managing the syllabus independently, a freedom that translates into a greater sense of responsibility towards students. Clearly, such a project can only work if teachers are given the social – and remunerative – importance they deserve.
Teachers are generally entrusted with managing the syllabus independently, a freedom that translates into a greater sense of responsibility towards students.
According to the OECD statistics relating to PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), Estonian students are first in Europe and third in the world, after Singapore and Japan, in the study of natural sciences, and first in Europe (together with Switzerland) and ninth worldwide in mathematical sciences. Moreover, the functional literacy of the Estonians ranks third in Europe, after the Finns and the Irish, and sixth worldwide. According to the OECD, Estonia is also growing in terms of attracting foreign students: ten years ago, just over 400 foreign students studied in Estonia, where as today that figure has increased to over 4000. Likewise, it is the country in the world with the highest growing salaries for teachers (the average salary has grown by 50% in just five years, from EUR 810 to EUR 1210), thereby increasing the appeal of a profession that has thus far failed to attract young Estonians.
There is also another factor that reveals the impact of the Estonian schooling system on society. In Estonia, a child's educational success depends less than anywhere else on his or her parents' wealth. In other words, social background does not affect education – not just because of free public schooling, but also because the system encourages the less well-off to study. Something for society to be grateful for going forward.