A new Vocational Education Institutions Act came into force in September 2013. It aims to ensure greater consistency of vocational training to labour market needs, improve quality, flexibility and availability of vocational training, reduce dropout rates of students, reorganise VET school management, simplify regulations concerning VET teachers, deepen an outcome-based approach, and increase differentiation in funding. To implement the new law, a VET management and curricula reform was launched in 2013.
The act defines new types of vocational training and provides for transition from current types of vocational training (vocational training without a requirement of basic education, based on basic education and secondary education, and vocational secondary education) to new types of training linked to the Estonian qualification framework (EstQF), according to which vocational training takes place at EQF levels 2 to 5. In addition to initial vocational education (IVET), continuing vocational education (CVET) programmes have also been introduced. ECVET was also introduced in this act, making it mandatory for learning outcomes to be expressed through credit points (EKAP). EKAP will be based on the European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training ECVET.
A curriculum reform was introduced as well. It has the following three overall objectives:
- to support implementation of the new curricula system in VET institutions;
- to renew curricula, learning activities and arrangements;
- to improve quality of practical training in vocational education institutions.
To support curricula reform in vocational schools, funds were allocated from the State budget. VET schools may apply for funding to:
- renew current school curricula and compile new school curricula corresponding to Estonian qualification framework levels 2 to 5 (including IVET and CVET curricula, and curricula for acquiring partial qualifications needed in the labour market). The reform will shorten VET programmes’ nominal duration . For some study fields currently offering programmes at post-secondary level, upper-secondary level programmes will also be developed and implemented to broaden students’ choices;
- improve quality of practical training, including modernisation of assessment criteria for work-based training and training of trainers. By end of 2013, training is planned for 1000 vocational trainers, to help students achieve learning outcomes of the new, modernised programmes;
- obtain small-scale investments for generating savings and implementing new curricula, such as purchasing new professional teaching aids, equipment and materials;
- create VET teachers’ traineeships in enterprises and hire guest teachers/professionals from enterprises for VET schools; 10% of VET teachers were starting traineeships in enterprises in 2013;
- integrate general education subjects into vocational training subjects.