Initial and continuing VET qualifications are based on professional (occupational) standards that are part of the professional qualifications system.
VET qualifications and professional standards
Source: Cedefop based on ReferNet Estonia.
Professional standards are used for designing VET curricula, curricula for higher education and other training programmes, for assessing learner competences, and awarding a professional qualification. They:
- are based on a job analysis and describe the nature of work; analyses are carried out by working groups designing professional standards;
- describe expected competences as observable and assessable;
- define the method(s) for assessing learner competences and a ‘satisfactory’ threshold;
- define qualifications (EQF) levels.
All professional standards are available in the State register (
). In May 2019, the State register of professional qualifications included 555 professional standards in 93 professional areas.
Uniform requirements for VET curricula and qualifications are stipulated by the VET standard (
). The standard:
- describes the requirements for national and school curricula and the curriculum groups in line with ISCED levels, their objectives and expected learning outcomes;
- determines the terms and conditions for recognising prior learning, volume of study and graduation requirements by initial and continuing VET curricula;
- defines requirements for teachers and trainers;
- assigns the national qualifications framework levels to VET qualification types.
VET schools design curricula for every qualification offered.
Upper secondary VET programme curricula that give access to higher education are based on the national curricula. National curricula are based on professional standards, the VET standard and the national (general education) curriculum for upper secondary schools. Foundation Innove coordinates the process of curriculum design, including cooperation with social partners.
Other VET curricula are based on the VET standard and the respective professional standard(s). Where such standards do not exist, the school must apply for the curriculum to be recognised by social partners.
The vocational orientation curriculum (legal framework introduced in 2018) is not required to correspond to a certain professional standard. This facilitates transitions from compulsory education to VET and/or the labour market, especially for vulnerable groups.
National upper secondary VET curricula that give access to higher education are approved by the education minister.
The VET standard determines how learning outcomes of modules are described:
- profession-specific knowledge are facts and theories acquired through the learning process;
- profession-specific skills are the ability to apply knowledge for performing tasks and solving problems; skills are described in terms of their complexity and diversity;
- autonomy and responsibility describe to what extent the graduate is able to work independently and take responsibility for the results of work;
- learning skills are the ability to manage the learning process using efficient strategies and appropriate learning styles;
- communication skills are the ability to communicate in different situations and on different topics orally and in writing;
- self-management competence is the ability to understand and evaluate oneself, give sense to one’s own activities and behaviour in society, develop oneself as a person;
- operational competence is the ability to identify problems and solve them, plan one’s own activities, set goals and expected results, select adequate tools, act, evaluate the results of one’s own actions, cooperate with others;
- ICT competence is the ability to use ICT tools and digital media skilfully and critically;
- entrepreneurship competence is the ability to take initiative, act creatively, plan one’s own career in the modern economic, business and work environment, apply knowledge and skills in different spheres of life (
Several bodies are involved in designing, updating and awarding qualifications:
- the education ministry;
- professional councils;
- awarding bodies;
- qualifications committees;
- assessment committees.
Stakeholders participating in the design and award of qualifications
Source: Cedefop based on ReferNet Estonia.
The education ministry is responsible for developing a professional qualifications system. This task is delegated to the qualifications authority (Kutsekoda), a private foundation led by a council comprising representatives of the: Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Employers' Confederation; Employees' Unions Confederation; Confederation of Trade Unions; and the education, finance, economic and social affairs ministries. The qualifications authority organises and coordinates the activities of professional councils and keeps the register of professional qualifications.
Professional councils represent 14 job sectors. The councils approve and update professional standards and are represented equally by trade unions, employer organisations, professional associations and public authorities. Chairs of professional councils form a board of chairmen for these councils to coordinate cooperation between them.
Professional councils select awarding bodies (public and private) to organise the assessment of competences and issue qualifications. The awarding bodies are selected for five years through a public competition organised by the qualifications authority. VET providers may also be given the right to award qualifications, if the curriculum of the institution complies with the professional standard and is nationally recognised. Qualifications are entered into the register of professional qualifications. As of 2019, there were a relatively large number of institutions (108) awarding professional qualifications.
The awarding body sets up a committee involving sectoral stakeholders: employers, employees, training providers, and representatives of professional associations. It often also includes customer representatives and other interested parties. This ensures impartiality in awarding qualifications. The committee approves assessment procedures, including examination materials, decides on awarding qualifications, and resolves complaints.
It may set up an assessment committee that evaluates organisation and the results of the assessment and reports to the qualifications committee.
The assessment committee verifies to what extent the applicant’s competences meet the requirements of the professional qualification standards. The assessment criteria are described in the rules and procedures for awarding the qualification or in the respective assessment standard (
A person’s competences can be assessed and recognised regardless of whether they have been acquired through formal, non-formal or informal learning.