PISA study: the Estonian basic education is the best in Europe

According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, a premier global metric for education, compiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the results of Estonian 15-year-olds are the best in Europe and among the strongest in the entire world.

The PISA study of 2015 concentrated on natural sciences and also tested pupils in mathematics and functional reading.

According to the study, the knowledge and skills of Estonian 15-year-olds in biology, geography, physics and chemistry are among the best in the world – the first in Europe and third on the global scale. The number of top achievers who can solve extremely complicated tasks, is higher than ever before – standing at 13.5 per cent, while the OECD average is eight. Among the European countries, Estonia has the least low performers – over twice as little compared with other countries’ averages, the Estonian ministry of education said in a statement.

Estonian teachers and schools are determined

The Estonian minister of education, Mailis Reps, said the results showed the Estonian schools are ambitious and teachers very determined at their jobs. “We’ve developed our education system, dwelling on the correct principles, because the effect of these changes will also be seen in 10-15 years,” she said. “I’m glad that we’ve ensured and kept the status of a top country in the field of education, despite our more austere means compared with other countries.”

In mathematics, the Estonian youths came second in Europe together with Switzerland, and ninth in the world. Almost 90% of the Estonian youngsters have at least the basic knowledge in mathematics, which puts Estonia among the five best countries.

In functional reading skills, Estonian pupils come third in Europe and sixth in the world.

The PISA study takes into account the students’ ability to use their knowledge. “That is why these results are more important than just the testing of knowledge,” Gunda Tire, the administrator of the Study in Estonia, said in a statement. “We want to know whether the youngsters are ready for the challenges in the future and how the Estonian education system supports that.”

On the downside, the PISA study said that although the gap in the results of boys and girls has decreased, there are still more weaker boys than there are girls. The study also pointed out that there is a significant difference when comparing Estonian and Russian-language schools in the country.

PISA was introduced in 2000 and has tested pupils every three years since. The OECD’s PISA 2015 tested around 540,000 15-year-old students in 72 countries and economies on science, reading, maths and collaborative problem-solving. The main focus was on science, an increasingly important part of today’s economy and society.


Cover: Estonian schoolkids (the image is illustrative.)

20 thoughts on “PISA study: the Estonian basic education is the best in Europe”

  1. Scam, fake, no way, the schools are way underfunded, this study doesn’t really mean that the education system is better it could also just mean that the children are learning more themselves.

      1. The % of the GDP spend on something doesn’t mean that the country in question doesn’t mean much, because GDP % only shows how much of the countries yearly earned money they spend on something. It doesn’t actually show how much “RAW” money they spend on each student or the equipment or the buildings or the teachers. Nor does it say anything about the quality and quantity of the teachers.
        As someone who has spent a long time studing in Estonia (the “poorer” region of it) i can say that the school buildings were collapsing, the equipment was just missing, overall presence of any kind of money was missing. GDP spending should be tought of kind of like money and inflation, if the GDP of a country is low (kind of like Estonia) then the % of the countries GDP spent on education or anything else should increase and decrease (even though that i would not like) depending on if the countries GDP is quite high (like the USA). Just saying that a country is spending this and that much of it’s GDP on something doesn’t mean much at all.

          1. Sorry to hear you have it so tough. I know families in Estonia, they live in small towns and villages. Their children receive excellent public education and school facilities are very modern and of high standard.

        1. So- all I have to know, is that all the tests done were the same for every child and every country- the results show the truth…

    1. USA schools are extremely well funded, but they don’t beat the OECD average.

      Apparently Estonia has sufficiently funded the schools and has lots of smart students.

      The USA has many many students with very low abilities. The USA actually does a pretty good job considering how many very low ability students we have.

      Congratulations to Estonia. I would love to visit someday. Seems like an absolutely lovely country. Best to you!

      1. My point was that more funding doesn’t mean smarter students.
        Also thank you.
        No one should visit Estonia though, unless you want to freeze to death with despair, depression and vodka. Also it is quite dark(don’t know about Tallinn or Tartu though).

        1. Could you please shut up, you don’t know about the 2 biggest cities yet you think you have an opinion about the country.

          1. Well yea, i do think i have an opinion, what is wrong with having an opinion. 2 biggest cities, yea they are, and so what ? What do you mean by me not knowing about the 2 biggest cities ? It can be dark in those cities as well. The northen hemisphere is darker and cooler than the souther hemisphere. It really seems that you don’t get what i meant or said.

          1. Ok…visiting and living are different things, you do know that right ? Also do you know something about jokes, sarcasm and such ?

        2. Joanne Chiusano Kapp

          I failed to mention that I visited Estonia in the winter time I found it even more beautiful. I loved sleighing between Finnish candles.

  2. Andres Mäesaar

    It is kind of funny to see people discussing about topics regarding Estonia without the actual presence of one. Well worry no more because I am here to shine some light upon this subject.
    Number one : How would you measure the rating of an education system – based on test scores or based on students innovation and happiness?
    If you look at Estonia from the first perspective then yes we are very good at taking tests and studying for them but on the other hand our students are among one of the most miserable people on this planet. The reason being overstudying, overdemanding parents and depressed teachers. My partner was a secondary school teacher in Estonia and by her opinion the teachers lounge was the most depressed place where you could set your foot. All the young teachers (and there arent many) whose enthusiasm had been wiped clean already during their master’s studies were just staring at the wall and silently regretting their career choice and on the other side there were the people who are just a few years from the seemingly annualy prolonged retirement age who just dont really care anymore.
    So if you have unhappy students and faculty but great test results would you say your country has a good education system?

    Regarding the state of schoolbuildings and educational equipment it is sadly true that most of the buildings are in a bad need of renovation and updating from the still so present Soviet vibe. Heck the secondary school I went to about 13 years ago had constant talks of getting a new science lab and gym every year but instead they took year 10-12 out of the schools curriculum and closed down the school just after s few year I graduated – and this was in the middle of the capital.

    It is funny that Estonia always looks up to Finland if we want to compare ourselves to someone but we never do that regarding education. The finns are also on the top of the list but they have achieved this by reducing the workload of students and teachers alike and introducing systems where the students have to solve problems rather than to just study the correct answers.

    So there you have it! Estonia is a country bursting with culture and the people who are supposed to teach the next generation about it are unmotivated, unhappy and underpayed – a gas station clerk in Statoil makes the same amount of money as an enrty level secondary school teacher!!
    I will just let that last fact settle in while and see what you guys think.


    1. I am sorry but you have no idea about the subject since all of your claims are false and based on myths and not actual data.
      Here is why:
      If you actually had bothered to open the actual PISA research papers then maybe you would have seen that we are quite average when it comes to student happiness.
      Where do you see schools in miserable state because i havent managed to see one for a really long time(unless you mean the deserted ones in some places). There is nothing wrong with a schoolhouse built before 1991 if it has been maintained properly. Besides they are building new schools(Central State High Schools mainly) and the local governemnt’ s ability to take care of the existing houses should become better after this year´s local elections(amalgamations are finalized).

      Regarding Finns: where do you think we got the idea to implemant 5 school holidays came from and why dont they grade students in half of the elementary schools. The usage of Kiva program(anti-bulling program developed in Finland)

      Also when it comes to the design of teachers lounge and coffee options: this is not the problem of the Education Ministry and overall education system because it is the problem of school board and the local government. It is unreasonable to even try to push these things outside the local government level.
      The minimal wage you can legally pay to ANY teacher is 1050eur while the average is 1200(source:The Ministry of Education and Science) a gas store clerk makes: 700-800 eur(the upper is if you are a supersalesman source:cvkeskus)

    2. Andres—just because you are Estonian does not mean your anecdotes carry greater weight than the actual research that has been conducted. Anecdotally, I could oppose your position by talking about the many wonderful schools I have visited in Estonia and the many very lively teachers I have met. But neither my anecdotes nor yours are comparable in insight to the systematic observation of data in the study!

  3. I wonder if studying well in a traditional school system is related to introversion, because all the top achievers seem to be mostly introverted societies with very few really extroverted people.

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