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Estonia’s educational success – leading the way for Europe

With top PISA scores in reading, math, and science, Estonia sets the education standard high, investing in knowledge, equality, and sustainability.

On September 1, or the so-called Day of Knowledge, tens of thousands of pupils are preparing to start a new school year. When it comes to education, Estonia takes it seriously — from world-leading PISA results to continuous investments in education, the country is building a solid foundation for the future.

SmartEST in Europe

Estonian schoolchildren have achieved the highest educational rankings in Europe, according to the OECD. In the 2018 PISA report, Estonia topped the list in reading, math, and science, surpassing other European nations.

These international rankings gauge the performance of 15-year-old students in reading, math, and science across 79 countries and economies, including 36 OECD member states, and are conducted every three years.

Estonian students achieved an impressive overall aggregate score of 1,592, making it the highest-ranking European country and placing it fifth globally. Finland, another European standout, claimed the tenth spot with a score of 1,549. At the pinnacle of the rankings, the Chinese region of BSJZ (Beijing-Shanghai-Jiangsu-Zheijang) led with a remarkable score of 1,736, followed closely by Singapore, Macao, and Hong Kong in the top five.


Breaking down the scores, Estonian students excelled in reading with a score of 523, followed by 530 in science, and 536 in math. These impressive figures firmly establish Estonia as a leader in European education, with all eyes on their continued success. The performance is also certainly impacting Estonia’s economy, as its IT sector was recognized as the most competitive in the Emerging Europe region for two years in a row.

Estonia’s remarkable performance in the PISA rankings shows the state’s commitment to providing excellent education opportunities. And no one should be left behind — the government is preparing to increase the age of compulsory education to 18 years of age or until the acquisition of vocational education.

Teachers’ compensations are also rising steadily. The 2023 pay rise should take their salaries to 113% of the Estonian average and reach 120% of the national average in 2024.

Equality and ecology

Due to COVID-related disruptions, the new PISA results will come by the end of 2023, yet there’s a strong belief in Estonia’s continuous success. After all, Estonian students have consistently improved their performance in reading and maths since joining the PISA survey.

What may be even more important is that Estonia boasts remarkable socioeconomic equality in its education system, with a narrower gap between the best and poorest performing students compared to the OECD average. More than 75% of Estonian students embrace a growth-oriented mindset, believing in their capacity for intellectual development. This contrasts with less than half of students in other countries who share the same belief.

Comparing Estonia to the 36 OECD countries (excluding China and Singapore), Estonian pupils secured the top spot in reading, followed by Canada and Finland. In science, Estonia took the lead, followed by Japan and Finland, while in maths, Estonia claimed third place, with Japan and South Korea ahead.

Besides country-wide statistical improvements, there are also smaller yet equally important wins, such as decarbonisation. In the heart of Põlva, a town nestled in the southeastern corner of Estonia, a remarkable high school stands as a beacon of sustainability and environmental consciousness. Polva Gümnaasium, the country’s first nearly carbon-neutral public high school, is powered by green energy and uses smart design, writes Euronews.

Põlva Gümnaasium

This includes 144 solar panels, generating 37.4 kWh of clean energy. The school’s commitment to sustainability extends to more subtle elements, like automated blinds that adjust according to light levels, effectively regulating the indoor temperature.

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