The government supports Estonian as a second language and foreign language learning by learners in VET and higher education, to ensure better career opportunities and mobility.
Analysis of PIAAC data (programme for the international assessment of adult competencies), indicates that very good Estonian and foreign language skills can increase employment and reduce wage gaps between different social groups. Estonia is one of the EU member states with the highest share of migrant background population: about 30% of 1.3 million are native Russian speakers. In VET, more than 20% of learners study in Russian. Although it is mandatory, VET graduates of migrant background often have insufficient Estonian language skills to find a good job. In some study fields, there is also a need for better foreign language skills.
Since 2016/17, all VET schools may apply for additional support to provide their students with Estonian as a second language and foreign language learning opportunities. The latter is offered more in services programmes. Schools are encouraged to use innovative approaches combining formal and non-formal learning methods (language camps, site visits, student exchange programmes, intensive language courses) and to collaborate with other education institutions and employers to increase the effectiveness of language training.
At the beginning of 2017, about half of VET schools have launched language training projects: more schools will join the scheme in the years to come. Under this measure, around 1 800 VET and higher education learners will be offered additional Estonian language as second language training; 1 200 will be offered foreign language training by the end of 2018. The training is jointly financed by the European Social Fund.