The 2021-2030 Digital Strategy refers to “information and communication technologies (ICTs)” with no specific definition.
According to the Online Glossary of the National Advisory Chamber of Digital Competence: “Educational Technology” is the “purposeful application of digital technology to create conditions for teaching and learning. Digital pedagogy is also used as a synonym”; “Digital learning” is “enhanced learning using digital tools in any form of learning”; “distance learning” is “a form of learning where learners and teachers are physically separated from each other”; “Online learning” is “a form of study where the study takes place entirely as online distance learning”.
The 2021-2035 Education Strategy refers to the term “Educational Technology” and defines “Smart learning resources” as “personalised and adaptive learning by means of technology (learning analytics, AI, etc.)”. It also defines “Digital pedagogy” as “the development of digital skills and targeted and methodically meaningful use of digital solutions, learning resources and content in teaching and learning”.
The 2022 e-Estonia Guide refers to the term “e-school”.
Constitution and laws: Article 37 of the 1992 Constitution ( amended in 2015) states that education is a right, compulsory for school-age children, and free in state schools. The government must provide enough schools, while private schools must follow the law. No information on education technology has been found in the constitution.
The 2022 Education Act is the primary legislation governing Estonia's educational system Estonia. It does not refer to education technology. However, the 2022 Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act states that technology is integrated into the national curriculum (article 15) and that the curriculum is also available in a digital format through a portal run by the Education and Youth Authority (article 20). In addition to that, the 2022 Vocational Educational Institutions Act mentions that the functions and obligations upon the organization vocational training include conducting educational, methodological and technological development work in the taught areas” (article 3). Finally, the 2022 Hobby Schools Act ensures that technology is essential to its programmes (article 10).
Policies, plans and strategies: The “2035 Estonia” National Development Strategy (NDS) sets out five long-term strategic goals that are intended to guide the country's development for 15 years. These goals are aligned with the base principles of the strategy, which include sustainability, innovation, security, and social cohesion. Education is located under the first strategic goal of "Estonia as a competitive knowledge-based society” and has several objectives in link to promoting technology in education “Promoting digital skills and literacy as an essential component of education” and “Encouraging the development of innovative and interdisciplinary teaching methods and curricula”.
The 2021-2035 Education Strategy is a comprehensive plan for the development of the Estonian education system that builds on the principles and goals set out in the broader "Estonia 2035" NDS. The overall goal of the strategy is to create a high-quality and inclusive education system that is based on four main principles: quality, equity, inclusiveness, and innovation. The strategic objectives include developing a comprehensive and coherent curriculum that supports the development of key competencies and skills needed for the 21st century and enhancing the quality of teaching and learning through the continuous professional development of teachers and the use of innovative teaching methods and technologies. The strategy is designed to be implemented through a range of measures such as the introduction of new technologies and digital learning resources.
The 2021-2030 Digital Strategy states that in order to advance the wider digital transformation in the economy and public administration to the next degree of digital maturity, “the development of (specialised) digital skills must be a natural part of every level of education”.
The 2019-2021 Artificial Intelligence Strategy states that expert group proposals and existing measures are included the integration of AI in the digital skills curriculum in general education schools, with the aim of giving students an overview of the technologies and capabilities of AI.
Digital competency frameworks: The national strategies and curricula aim to support the development of Digital Competence Frameworks among both teachers and students. The efforts are in line with the DigCompEdu and DigComp frameworks of the European Commission, as well as with the country's strategic plans. The 2021 Teacher’s Digital Competence Framework is based on the 2019 DigCompEdu, and has six dimensions which include using digital technologies for professional development, managing digital resources for teaching and learning, assessing learners using digital technologies, empowering learners to actively engage with digital technologies, and facilitating learners' digital competence development.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: Estonia had policies already set in place since 1997 that are evolving until the present day. By March 16, 2020, all educational institutions except kindergartens were shut down and a new way of learning in schools, distance education, was introduced. COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of digital solutions and highlighted the importance of digital competence for both teachers and students and made digital transformation a focal point of school life. It also introduced new modes of teaching and learning and increased the use of digital technologies. The 2020 Recommendations of the Ministry of Education and Research for the start of the school year during the spread of COVID-19 mentioned that “every educational institution and its manager must plan how to mitigate risks while bearing in mind that class learning and teaching must be provided to grades 1 to 6 and students with special needs as long as possible and to those who do not find distance learning suitable”.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Electricity: No information has been found on a Universal Access Policy (UAP). The 2003 Electricity Market Act regulates various aspects related to electricity, including its production, distribution, sales, imports, exports, and transit, as well as the economic and technical management of the power system. Article 76 specifically addresses the concept of universal service. It does not address education specifically.
Computers and devices: No information has been found on a “one laptop per child” OLPC policy and subsidies to parents and/or students for the purchase of technological devices. In 2014, Estonia decided to adopt a “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy for students, rather than implementing large-scale device roll-outs across the country. This means that students are expected to use their devices for learning, and for those who do not have devices, schools will provide a common set of devices.
The Education and Youth Board (Harno) website refers to the initiative “Igale koolilapsele arvuti” (A computer for every schoolchild - from Person to Person) that was born on a facebook group as an Estonian civil movement. To get a computer as part of the “A computer for every schoolchild" initiative, students must contact the social worker of their local municipality.
In the midst of the covid-19 pandemic, the initiative called "A computer for every student" facilitated the connection between families in need of computers for remote learning and individuals or organizations possessing unused devices in their homes or workplaces. In less than 2 weeks, approximately 500 computers were exchanged through this voluntary project.
Internet connectivity: The Estonian Riigikogu (Parliament) passed the Telecommunications Act in February 2000, which included Internet access as part of its universal service. Article 5 of the act states that the telecommunications services specified include Internet, which must be available to all subscribers regardless of their location, and at a standardized price.
By 2001, all Estonian schools were provided with the Internet in 2001 but the modernization and upgrading the digital infrastructure of schools is ongoing.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
Estonia has been making efforts to use technology for teaching and learning, since the 1996 Tiigrihüpe (Tiger Leap) programme was launched in February 1996 by Estonian President Lennart Meri, it was followed by the creation of the Tiger Leap Foundation in 1997 by the Ministry of Education and private sector ICT firms for implementation. This ambitious programme aimed to equip schools with modern information and communication technology, which included ensuring that all schools had access to the internet and basic teacher training. Since the launch Tiger Leap programme, Estonia has been continuously upgrading the digital infrastructure of schools.
Consequently, the 2012 ProgeTiger programme was launched to develop the digital literacy and competence of both teachers and students. In addition to that, the 2012 IT Academy programme was created to address the shortage of ICT professionals. It is a cooperative effort involving the Estonian state, universities, vocational schools, and ICT companies to improve the quality of ICT-related education, promote research in the field, and ensure adequate labor resources. In vocational education secondary education, it aims to improve the quality of formal IT education and make studying attractive by offering high-quality study programmes and teaching, motivating study providers and organizers, and collaborating with higher education institutions and entrepreneurs. The programme includes activities such as curriculum development, improving the quality of teaching, and updating technical resources for conducting studies.
The "Technology and Innovation" initiative is developed to ensure that students are prepared for the demands of the 21st century. By integrating technology into all subjects and offering elective courses and extra-curricular activities (in the field of technology education, such as programming, robotics, 3D graphics, and computer science), the government has made it a requirement for all primary school teachers to integrate technology into their teaching across different subjects which means that teachers are encouraged to use a variety of technology tools in all subjects to enhance learning and engage students such as interactive whiteboards, tablets, or other devices to supplement their lessons.
Estonia has a comprehensive approach to using digital solutions in education. The government and private companies provide ICT services to schools and kindergartens to support teaching and learning, with digital solutions for school management, e-diaries, and learning materials. Students of all levels can access free digital learning materials that can be used anywhere with a smart device and internet connection through the e-Schoolbag. Many schools use the e-learning environment Moodle, which is offered for free by the government. Estonia also has an e-testing and e-assessment system (EIS) for national and school-based exams.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Estonian Ministry of Education did not create an official platform. Instead, they recommended the use of a collection of digital solutions put together by the Estonian initiative called Education Nation. These solutions include a range of online tools and platforms that can be used for remote learning and teaching.
The Education and Youth Board (Harno) website provided Information, instructions and advice for organizing distance learning. It also mentioned that digital learning may not be appropriate for all students and teachers, and suggested that continuing to use familiar tools such as textbooks, workbooks, and other resources available at home, such as magazines, board games, or even kitchen scales, could be safer and effective for distance learning. Distance learning was also supported through various Facebook groups, and teachers also share helpful ideas on platforms such as YouTube. Teachers can collaborate and plan topic-based projects, research and creative assignments to achieve multiple subject goals at once. They can also offer students choices between topics and provide feedback on several subjects based on a single work. Sharing work among teachers for feedback and distributing work to students for familiarization and feedback is also encouraged to help students learn from their peers. The Harno training center provided customized training courses to support distance learning for teachers, educational technologists, and school leaders. These courses were conducted through distance learning, led by a practitioner trainer, and are available free of charge. Additionally, the center offered internal digital competence training for school teams, also provided through distance learning. All webinars of the Harno training center can be found on the Harno YouTube channel.
The Spread of the Coronavirus and the Field of Education: Guidelines page of the Education and Youth Board (Harno) website, there are instructions, materials and advice to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the field of education.
The country aims to eliminate nationwide implementation of distance learning starting in 2022. Past results have demonstrated the effectiveness of employing localized approaches to distance learning in specific cases and regions.
Digital competence has been a key focus and one of the eight main competences included in 2022 National Curriculum for Elementary School Regulation and the 2021 National Curriculum for Highschool Regulation. The curriculum also includes ICT and STEM subjects in their curricula “technology and innovation - the student is sought to be innovative and able to use modern technologies purposefully, who can cope in a rapidly changing technological living, learning and working environment”. This has been a long-term effort in Estonia, with the 2012 ProgeTiger National Programme providing every student from kindergarten to vocational school with access to high-quality IT education and providing them with “the skills they need to cope in the future: Robotics, programming, and STEAM subjects”.
The 2021 Framework for Students' Digital Competence, based on DigComp 2.1, comprises five dimensions including information and data literacy, communication and cooperation in the digital environment, digital content creation, digital security, and troubleshooting.
The 2002 Framework Requirements for Teacher Training Regulation states that the purpose of general education studies is to shape the teacher's competence that include developing “the ability to use the possibilities of information and communication technology” (article 18) both in the initial and in-service training (article 1).
The 2022 e-Estonia Guide guide mentions that the 2012 ProgeTiger initiative aims to provide teachers with the necessary skills to become competent educators in subjects such as ICT, coding and robotics. Additionally, the project is designed to encourage non-digital subject teachers to incorporate technology and digital solutions into their teaching practices “While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for online learning, the constant development of ICT skills through teacher training and integration in the national curricula is helping to equip the younger generation with modern 21st-century skills”.
The in-service teacher traning programmes on technology are mainly funded from European Social Fund. They are provided for instance by Tallinn University, University of Tartu and Tallinn University of Technology.
2.4.1. Data privacy
The 2016 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) serves as the fundamental regulatory foundation for data protection in Estonia. The GDPR has been implemented in Estonia through its own legislation, the 2018 Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA). The national supervisory authority in charge of implementing these legislation and giving guidance to data controllers and processors is the Estonian Data Protection Inspectorate (DPI).
The DPI has issued the guide Notification of a Child in Need and Data Protection to encourage professionals working with children to report child abuse without endangering the child protection worker or children's assistants. The guide is intended for education, social, health, and law enforcement workers to help them fulfill their obligations under the principles of personal data protection while reporting child abuse. The guide provides information on when, how, and to whom information about a child in need can be transmitted without the consent of the child or their legal representative, and the legal provisions that can be relied upon. The guide aims to assist anyone who notices and cares about a child in need. The principles of data protection should not be a barrier to reporting child abuse, and the guide ensures that people's right to privacy is protected.
Though no information has been found targeting specifically educational institutions and student schools.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
In September 2010, Estonia became a part of the European Union Safer Internet Programme through the launch of a project and non-profit called “Targalt internetis” (Smartly on the Web) in partnership with the Education and Youth Board (Harno). The ongoing project targets, children, parents, youth, and teachers. It defines “Cyberbullying” as “a form of school bullying distinguished by the use of electronic means of communication: mobile phones, web cameras, and Internet sites” and provides recommendations and tools of response.
The 2020 Recommendations of the Ministry of Education and Research for the start of the school year during the spread of COVID-19 highlighted that “bullying can take place outside school building or in cyber space” and that “the Ministry has provided increased financial support to organizations focused on preventing and raising awareness about bullying, in order to ensure a safe learning environment for all students. The Ministry has also collaborated with the Ministry of Social Affairs in Estonia to produce a mental health guidebook and is currently producing a no-bullying education guidebook”.
In Estonia, there are several mechanisms in place to coordinate education technology. Firstly, the national curriculum is available digitally in a portal run by the Education and Youth Board, under the conditions and procedures agreed between the Ministry of Education and Research and the publisher.
The Education and Youth Board (Harno) is a government agency of the Ministry of Education and Research that deals with the implementation of Estonian education and youth policy. It is responsible for coordinating the IT Academy program and the ProgeTiger program, which are supported and funded by the Estonian government through the Ministry of Education and the European Union (ESF).
The ProgeTiger programme is a joint initiative by the Ministry of Education and Research and the former organization HITSA, which has been running since 2012. HITSA's activities were transferred to a new national authority, the Education and Youth Board (Harno), on August 1, 2020.
Additionally, the 2030 Digital Society Development Plan has been prepared under the leadership of the Ministry of Economy and Communications, which outlines the country's goals and strategies for digital development in all areas, including education.
Digital competence development work is coordinated by the Digital Competence task force and Harno, with the involvement of experts from Tallinn University, the University of Tartu, and various schools. The group meets monthly to adapt, validate, and pilot digital competence frameworks and assessment instruments for different educational contexts.
The Digital Competence Council, which represents key stakeholders, receives reports from the group twice a year. Harno then uses the digital competence frameworks to provide relevant professional development for teachers and define expected learning outcomes for students across all key stages of learning. Harno is also responsible for designing, delivering, and improving diagnostic online assessment instruments.
No information has been found on national regulation that bans the use of mobile phones in schools. At the local level, due to several incidents of bullying, the Lähte Coeducational Secondary School in Tartu County has implemented a ban on the use of mobile phones, both within classrooms and during recess periods.