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Adult Education and Training Funding in Estonia


Adult education comprises three main paths: formal education, work-related trainingand non-formal training.

Formal education for adults is aimed at acquisition of adult formal education:

  • adults can acquire basic education and general upper secondary education in the form of non-daily study and as an external student and it is free for an adult learner;
  • many flexible types and forms of study are implemented with adult vocational training; generally acquisition of vocational education is free for an adult learner;
  • acquisition of higher education in the part-time form of study is payable, in order to study on a state financed study place one must compete for a full-time study place.

Adult  work-related training has been legalised as a form of vocational training and its financing is carried out through state commissioned education like in case of vocational schools. The Ministry of Education and Research orders adult  work-related study courses (that are free of charge for students) from vocational educational institutions and institutions of higher education that offer vocational training.

Funds for in-service training of teachers whose salaries are covered from the state budget are allocated from the state budget to the extent of at least 3 per cent of the annual wage fund of those teachers. Funds for the support of non-formal education may be foreseen in the state or local municipality budget. The contribution of local governments to non-formal education differs greatly by local authority.

Starting from 2007, the state has financed adult work-related training to a considerably larger extent, also involving European Social Fund instruments. Before that, state primarily financed the training of the unemployed and of specific groups (e.g. teachers, administrators). Presently, the adult work-related training courses held in vocational educational institutions are financed from the European Social Fund.  The Unemployment Insurance Fund continues to organise training courses that are aimed at helping unemployed people to start work. In 2009, the Unemployment Insurance Fund updated the financing schemes for training of the unemployed and started using new training vouchers along with the previous financing schemes. From Enterprise Estonia, it is possible to apply for support for training an enterprise’s personnel. In addition to the above, many more specific courses take place, e.g. in the fields of environment, agriculture, etc.

Fees Paid by Learners

Acquisition of basic and general upper secondary education in non-stationary form of study and as an external student is free of charge. In the framework of state commissioned education, non-payable study is offered also for acquisition of vocational education in non-stationary form of study. Acquisition of higher education in part-time study is generally payable, with the exception of, for instance, teacher training.

Work-related and non-formal training courses are usually payable. Trainings are paid for by the student or his/her employer. In the recent years, thanks to launching of European Social Fund’s aid in Estonia, many work-related training courses are notably less expensive or free of charge for learners or their employers. In 2007, offering of non-payable work-related training courses was begun in vocational schools and institutions of professional higher education.

Financial Support for Adult Learners

Study allowances and study loans are granted only to students who study full time; this means that they are not available to most of adult learners.The state supports the financing of education by an employer and a learner also through tax benefits: formal education or work-related training financed by an employer is not regarded as a fringe benefit; training expenses incurred by a private person are subject to tax exemption regardless of the type of training.

Adult learners have the right to receive study leave during the time of studying. Study leave can be received in the amount of 30 calendar days per year. In case of participation in formal and work-related training, an employee must retain the average salary for 20 calendar days. For graduation from formal education, there is a possibility to receive 15 additional days of study leave during which minimum salary is paid. As a new possibility, since 2009, also full-time students of higher education and vocational educational institutions are entitled to study leave.

For people participating in non-formal education, study leave is unpaid.


Read more: Eurydice

Please note that the new Adult Education Act in Estonia will be in force since 01.07.2015

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