Education Minister Jevgeni Ossinovski weighed in on the debate on turning secondary level education compulsory, saying that the demographic which does not complete 12 grades of education is costing the economy 50 million euros annually.
An organization of employers last week said Estonia should make the secondary level – after nine grades – compulsory, as the economy needs more educated workers, and Mart Laidmets, a deputy secretary general at the Ministry of Education, said the problem lies in pupils dropping out.
Ossinovski told uudised.err.ee that the ministry is looking into the possibility of mandatory 12 grades, and is conducting an analysis.
He said nine grades is "not enough" in the 21st century and statistically, the 15 percent of the work force with only a basic education earns only slightly more than the average salary.
“It is a great waste of human resources, which Estonia cannot afford,” he said, adding that the cost is 50 million euros annually. He said the question is not about rules, but the fact that too many students drop out.
He said 97 percent of pupils continue after the ninth grade, and the dropout rate should be tackled first.
On average in the EU, 27 percent of vocational school students study in a work-based study program. That figure is 90 percent in Germany, but only 2 percent in Estonia, Ossinovski said. That means more vocational school pupils must learn the practical side in companies, not in schools.
He said the ministry is working on such a program, which should give 8,000 people a chance to learn the ropes in a business by 2020.