Minister of Education and Research Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) believes that vocational adult education should not be free.
"Today, we have resources in vocational education and training that are not being used as planned. The primary purpose of vocational schools is to assist graduates to establish a career; nevertheless, we are training a disproportionate number of persons who already have both an education and a profession, and who can perform effectively in the labor market," Kallas told in an interview on ETV+.
The minister explained that these people are interested in acquiring additional skills and knowledge, which is why they attend vocational schools, where such training is currently offered for free. Training for adults is advantageous, but adults should pay for it themselves, she said.
"All taxpayer resources should go to those who are 16, 17 and 18 years old," the minister added.
Mati Lukas, director of the Ida-Virumaa Vocational Education Center, partially agreed with the minister's position.
"If we are talking about education based on individual interests, it should be paid for by students. If we are talking about retraining or continuing education, it should be provided at no cost," he told ERR's Russian-language radio news.
Lukas said that it is difficult to justify that if a person has an education and wants to study for another profession, the taxpayer should pay for it.
Ade Sepp, a member of the board of the Estonian Association of Estonian Adult Educators Andras (AEAE Andras) and the director of training at the Kuressaare Regional Training Center (KRTC), is much more critical. Sepp said that the implementation of the minister's proposal would drastically reduce the opportunity for lifelong learning.
"At the moment, this learning is taking place at the expense of people's work and family life. It's not an easy decision at all to come and study for, say, a year or two. In any case, adult learning requires a lot of effort and a lot of motivation. If it becomes fee-paying, people will no longer have the opportunity to acquire vocational education and training to the extent that they do today," Sepp said.
According to Sepp, Estonia is among the EU leaders in adult education. If further education becomes fee-paying, many people will have to give it up due to lack of financial resources.
The new national budget strategy (RES) points to a renewed increase in the share of drop-outs in vocational education. At the same time, the share of adults (aged 25-64) with special and vocational education has increased. These trends are worth keeping an eye on, according to the RES.
"Failure to curb drop-outs from upper secondary education and vocational education and training and the increase in the share of 18-24 year olds, who are not in education or training will also have an impact on the share of adults with special and vocational education in the coming years," the RES states.
Editor: Kristina Kersa