The implementation of the key competences recommended by the European Parliament started in Estonia in 2010 and is now well underway. The recommendation of the European Parliament (2006) defines eight key competences: communication in one’s mother tongue, communication in foreign languages, mathematical and technological competence, digital competence, learning to learn, social and civic competences, sense of initiative and of entrepreneurship, and cultural awareness and expression.

The key competences are defined as a set of relevant knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for personal growth as well as for people's active citizenship. Moreover, the key competences ensure social inclusion and employment of persons and help them to cope in a rapidly changing and globalising world.

In Estonia, the key competences are defined as general education studies within vocational education and training. The key competences that are essential to each specialty in VET are described in national VET curricula as modules. For example, language and literature, mathematics, foreign language, natural science subjects, social subjects, art subjects, physical education, career planning and entrepreneurship are all separate modules within the VET curricula (see link). The key competences that are integrated in all vocational specialties are: learning to learn, digital competence, civic competence, sense of initiative and entrepreneurship and cultural awareness.

In order to create greater consistency between professional education and key competences, the teaching of key competences is also integrated into other modules in the VET curricula. Integrating key competences into teaching vocational subjects is however a challenge for teachers and calls for better cooperation between teachers of vocational subjects and teachers of general education subjects.

Development of VET students’ key competences is supported by the national curricula,which include modules of key competences of the same volume and content forall secondary VET curricula, and vocational subject modules that are also integrated with key competences. The new concept aims to provide vocational education in a way that enables students to establish links between theory and practice and give them the ability to cope successfully in a rapidly changing economy and labour market.

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Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on key competences for lifelong learning and the modules of key competences in secondary vocational education in Estonia