Day care centres and schools

A boy with Estonian tricolour

In Estonia there are possibilities to choose the educational institution for the child according to the language of instruction, the ownership and at the level of general education according to the curriculum followed in school.

The preschool education is acquired either in a preschool child care institution or at home, and its acquisition is the responsibility of the child’s parents or guardians.

There are four types of preschool child care institutions – day nurseries (for children 1 to 3 years of age), nursery schools (for children 1 to 7 years of age), special nursery schools, and nursery-primary schools. Most child care institutions have 1–3 groups of children and are mainly located in rural areas. Child care institutions in cities usually have up to 12 groups. However, the maximum number of groups in new child care institutions is smaller.

Local governments must provide the opportunity to attend child care institutions to all children between 1 and 7 years of age who live in their catchment areas if this is requested by their parents.

In general, children stay at home until the age of 1.5 years. Until then families receive the parental benefit and one of the parents can stay home. Most day-care centres do not accept children younger than 1 year.

In municipal day care centres the parents pay for the cost of meals as well as a small tuition fee. Although most children go to municipal day care centres, privately owned day care centres exist as well. Additionally, babysitters can be found with the help of friends, agencies or through newspaper advertisements. Municipal day care centres have queues, so you should register to them as soon as possible.

In Tallinn each day care centre has their own queue of applications for registering to the day care centre. In Tartu there is one centrally administered queue, applications for registering should be submitted to the Tartu City Government educational department.

The working language in childcare institutions is mainly Estonian, but in many places there are childcare institutions with Russian working language and private childcare institutions with English working language.

To attend the school is obligatory from the age of 7 to the age of 17 or until the acquisition of basic education. Municipal schools are prevalent; some schools belong to the state and a few are privately owned. At municipal and state-owned schools there is no tuition fee, and parents must only buy school supplies.

Possibilities for education in English can be found in the two biggest cities – Tallinn and Tartu, where the International School of Estonia, Tallinn International Kindergarten and Tartu International School run. The International School of Estonia accepts students up to grade 12 (17-18 years of age). Tartu International School educates students from age 6 to 15. There is also Tartu International Daycare which is governed by the same non-profit organisation. All these three are private institutions; thus, a tuition fee must be paid for the studies.

If your child needs tuition in English, but you prefer the municipal educational institution, you should contact as the first step the school you are interested in sending your child to. Miina Härma Gümnaasium in Tartu and Tallinn English College already has obtained the right for tuition on the basis of International Baccalaureate Organisation programmes, which give international education at the primary level (at the moment in 1st and 2nd grades) and for the gymnasium level (years 10-12).

In September 2013, Tallinn European School was open. The school follows the European School curriculum. The languages of instruction are English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Finnish and Estonian. The owner of the school is INNOVE Foundation and therefore the tuition fee must be paid, except for children whose parents work in the institutions/agencies of the European Union or are the employees of Tallinn European School.

You are welcome to contact the EURAXESS services centres for advice on suitable schools. If there are any problems with finding a school, EURAXESS centres will help you to contact the local government education office, who will advise you on possibilities for tuition of your child. As the number of English-speaking children in schools is growing, schools have become more experienced in meeting the needs of children, who are coming from abroad. Please consider the level of English of your child, tuition in languages other than Estonian, Russian and English can be difficult to organise.

Parents may choose a school for a child if there are vacant places in the selected school. A school is required to make sure educational opportunities for each child who resides in the school’s catchment area. Some schools do not have a catchment area and may accept pupils on the basis of admission tests or other requirements.

A child should be registered at a school by the 1st of June, for schools with admission tests earlier, and for that parents should submit to the school an application for admission together with a copy of the child’s personal identification document or birth certificate. In the event that your child has already attended school, documents certifying education obtained abroad or in another school in Estonia must also be presented.

Admission to upper secondary school takes place on the basis of admission tests and results from basic school. In most schools, admission tests to upper secondary level take place in March or April; the local education board can give you the exact dates.

The academic year usually lasts from 1st September until June of the following year. It consists of a study period, examination period, and holidays, which include one week in the autumn, two weeks at Christmas, one week in the spring and a long summer holiday. As of the academic year 2017/2018 there will be 5 holidays proposed by the state, adding a “ski-holiday to the end of February – beginning of March. Please note that the school owners (local governements) will keep the right to decide the holiday schedule differently, following certain rules. The greatest number of lessons per week varies from 20 lessons (grade 1) to 34 lessons (grade 9). At upper secondary school the number of lessons may be 35 or even more.

You can find more information about the pre-school, basic and secondary education on the website of Estonian Ministry of Education and Research.

Other pages to find more information on day care centres and schools

EURAXESS – Researchers in Motion – Services