Graduating from basic school (Põhikool) – the mandatory years of study in Estonia – will not be contingent on exam results for the 2020/2021 academic year, the government has announced.
Concerns had been raised over the effects of the pandemic on children's education, at a time when remote learning has been regularly used. The cabinet announced Thursday that students will be on distance learning to the end of March for older children; previously this had been set in place for one week only, from March 1.
Schools are on their half-term break at the time of writing. The same vacation this time last year was blamed for the entry of the coronavirus into Estonia via returning holidaymakers who had been to alpine ski resorts, though in reality the virus entered the country via many different vectors.
The government said Thursday that graduating Basic School, which covers grades one to nine, will not depend on exam results. Usually students must pass mandatory exams in Estonian (or Estonian as a second language for non-native speakers) and maths, plus one other subject of the student's choice, with at least a "satisfactory" score on 1-5 scale. This year, the result will be expressed as a percentage, which will be entered on the Basic School leaving certificate.
Students could under the normal system submit a written application if they received "weak" or "incomplete" grades in up to two of the subjects examined, while students also had to be graded on the year as a whole, and pass this to at least a "satisfactory" level.
The new regulation enters in force in line with general procedure, ERR reports.
The government agreed earlier in the month that exams could go ahead.
At the end of last academic year, students could opt out of taking the state exams, though fewer than one fifth of the whole student body decided to do so.
Estonia's education system is organized in four levels. Pre-school runs to age seven and results in a certification of progress, while the basic, compulsory system is the nine-year basic school (cf. junior high) – the first three grades of which are called "beginning school" (Algkool, cf. elementary school).
Optional continued secondary education is provided by upper secondary schools (Gümnaasium, cf. high school) and also vocational schools. Completing upper secondary is necessary to go into higher education, and runs through to year 12 (dated from entering basic school).
From 2018, Estonia has come in first place from among European nations in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings.
Statistics on last academic year's state exams are here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte