Estonia National Overview

Updated in June 2018 by Hanneleen Pihlak, International Relations Coordinator at ‎Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre

Overview of Higher Music Education System

There are around 90 primary Estonian music schools to provide a foundation of music education for professional musicians. A total of approximately 9,500 children study on primary level (which is 6.3% of approximately 150,000 children aged 7-16) and a little less than 1,200 teachers teach in these schools. Music schools have different objectives: social, general cultural, music educational and vocational education (the latterfor the direction of training professional musicians). There are currently three secondary-level music schools in Estonia: Tallinn Music High School, Tallinn Georg Ots Music School and Tartu Heino Eller Music School. There are about 450 students in these schools. Passing the secondary level is usually necessary for continuing on studies at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. Professional music education is part of the general higher education system. There are two higher education institutions that offer degree-level studies in music: Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre and University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy. In addition, specialization in music and music teacher training (classroom teaching) are also offered by Tallinn University.
The three cycle system and the credit point system have been implemented by all Estonian higher education institutions. Degree studies in different genres and fields of music on all three levels are offered only by the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre (EAMT). EAMT is an independent institution, which is listed in the Universities Act of Estonia among the six public universities. The graduates of the EAMT are awarded the academic degrees (BA, MA, PhD) like those of the bigger research universities. There are around 600 music students at EAMT. All music curricula are designed according to 3+2 system (180+120 ECTS). Doctoral studies last for 4 years.
Music and music-related curricula at the University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy focus on folk/traditional music, rhythmic music, music technology and music education. Applied higher education studies (1st cycle) last for 4 years (240 ECTS) and master’s studies for 2 years (120 ECTS). The number of music students at UT Viljandi Culture Academy is around 80.
Tallinn University offers integrated studies in visual arts, music and multimedia on BA level (180 ECTS) and classroom music teacher training on MA level. The latter is a joint degree, awarded in collaboration with EAMT.

The governance of the Estonian public universities is regulated by the Universities Act and Statutes of the universities. EAMT as an independent institution under public law is managed by the Council, the Rector and the Rector`s Office, consisting of the Rector, two Vice Rectors and the Managing Director. At least 20% of Council members come from the Student Union. The EAMT Council, consisting of approx. 30 internal members of the Academy, is the highest collegial supervisory board of EAMT. The Board of Governors is composed of 11 representatives of cultural and economic circles as well as representatives of the political parties, who are appointed to the office for three years by the Government of Estonia. The main function of the Board of Governors is to represent the public interests at the Academy. The Rector is the highest official at EAMT, elected for 5 years by the members of the Council, Board of Governors, full professors and student representatives.

Total number of institutions
Three on intermediate (secondary) level and two at higher education level: Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy.
Total number of music students
Approx. 450 on the intermediate level
Approx. 700 on the higher education level
Most part (over 90%) of the funding of music institutions comes from the state through Ministry of Education and Research, another part from private sources (incl tuition fees) and foundations.
The curricula is developed by the institutions and are registered by the Ministry of Education and Research.
The majority of EAMT students study classical music, but training in jazz/rhythmic, folk/traditional music as well as in contemporary experimental music, electro-acoustic music and improvisation is offered as well. Both instrumental teachers and classroom music teachers are trained at EAMT. The music department in Viljandi focuses on rhythmic music, folk/traditional music, music technology and music education.
2-cycle system
1st cycle: 3 or 4 years
2nd cycle: 1 or 2 years
1st cycle: Diploma or Bachelor of Arts in Humanities
2nd cycle: Master of Arts, Master of Arts in Education
3rd cycle: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Entry requirements 1st cycle
Secondary level education (high school certificate) and successful audition. General musical skills as well as English language skills (in case of international students) are tested as well.
Entry requirements 2nd cycle
Bachelor Degree and successful audition.
% of students who continue with 2nd cycle approximately 80% – 90%
3rd cycle
Entry requirements at EAMT include master’s degree or equivalent, doctoral research or artistic research proposal, artistic portfolio. The qualification is: Doctor of Philosophy (music and dramatic art or musicology). It is possible to choose between academic research (musicology, music theory and analysis) and artistic research (performance, composition).
Credit point system
The ECTS is used by all institutions as credit point system.
Internationalization has high relevance in the strategic agendas of EAMT and Viljandi Culture Academy. Both institutions focus on developing cooperation with other universities, professional networks and organisations in Estonia and abroad and support students’ mobility and participation in international competitions, cooperation and research projects.
The institutions participate actively in the education programmes of the EU and the Nordic countries, with a high number of partnership agreements with leading music HEI-s throughout Europe and beyond and as active members of the thematic Nordplus networks in the field.
Quality assurance
In 2011 the Estonian Quality Agency for Higher and Vocational Education (EKKA) adopted “The Requirements and Procedures for Institutional Accreditation”. According to this educational institutions must undergo institutional accreditation at least once in seven years. The institutional accreditation is an external evaluation in the course of which EKKA shall assess the compliance of the management, administration, academic and research activity, and academic and research environment of universities and institutions of professional higher education with the legislation and the purposes and the development plan of an institution of higher education. The purpose of institutional accreditation is to support the development of strategic management and culture of quality in higher education institutions, inform interest groups of outcomes of the main activities thereof, and enhance the reliability and competitiveness of Estonian higher education. In addition to institutional accreditation, EKKA organises external evaluations of study programme groups or specific evaluations, focusing on some particular aspect of higher education.
Institutional accreditation or assessment of study programme groups can be performed by a competent quality agency of a foreign state if it has been approved by EKKA. European Quality assurance Register (EQAR) registration is not a prerequisite in this case. However, EQAR registration serves as guarantee that the conformity with the ESG exists and therefore no further investigation is needed. While the assessment can be conducted by a foreign agency, the final decision still has to be made by the EKKA Council which has to endorse the assessment report of the foreign QA agency. In November 2017 MusiQue performed an external evaluation of 1st and 2nd cycle music programmes in EAMT.
Almost 90% of graduates are working on their speciality.
Most of the students are educated for the professions related to practical musicianship (orchestral musician, solo and chamber music performer, composer). Many of the students also take subjects that prepare them for the instrumental teacher’s profession. There are special programmes for the elementary school and high school teachers (subjects with focus on pedagogy, didactics, music culture, music theory and practices), and a musicology programme (subjects with focus on musicology, music theory, music history, music practices). The latter prepares students for professions related to music journalism, editorial and teaching work as well as academic research work.
Academic Year
The academic year starts at the end of August and ends in the middle of June and is divided into two semester (the spring semester starts at the end of January or in the beginning of February).
Overview of the Pre-College Music Education System
There are several possibilities in Estonia to be musically trained prior to entering higher education.

Types of Pre-College Education

General Music School
Estonia has around 90 general music schools. They are funded by municipalities and part of the budget comes from tuition fees. The music schools provide music education outside of the general education system, and are, as a rule, open to students of all ages. In reality, most students are children and youths. Students are usually selected through entrance examinations.
Most schools offer two types of courses: general music studies (aimed at amateurs), and pre-professional music studies (preparing students for music studies on the next level). In reality, the distinction between these two types is not so strict and only about 2% of the graduates of general music schools continue professional studies in music. Both curricula include not only instrumental training, but also ear training and theory lessons, as well as ensemble/orchestra playing.
Vocational training (Music Schools
There are two vocational schools in music in Estonia: Georg Ots Music School in Tallinn and Heino Eller Music School in Tartu. These institutions provide both music education and general education. However, students can also go to other schools to receive their general education, and only take music- related classes at the music school. Most of the students start their vocational training in music school at the age of 16. Heino Eller Music School in Tartu has also a youth department where students can already enter at primary level (6/7 years of age).
Music School graduates receive a professional diploma, which allows them to take professional jobs. However, the majority of the graduates continue their studies in higher music education.
Music Schools are independent from the HEI, but they work together closely. For instance, graduation exams of the music schools are often regarded as entrance exams to EAMT.
Education at a music school is free of charge.
Private Music School
The number of private music schools and studios is growing, especially in Tallinn where there are not enough study places in municipal music schools.
Music Gymnasium
There is one Music Gymnasium (Tallinn Music High School) in Estonia, which was established in 1961. It is a special primary and secondary school that provides music education at an advanced level together with general education. Its education is aimed at preparing students for the entrance level of higher music education institutes. The Music Gymnasium is independent from the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, but many teachers from the Academy teach at the Music Gymnasium as well.
Preparatory Course
The Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre offers a maximum two-year Preparatory Course for talented young musicians who are not at entry level yet. The course, focusing on main studies, ear training and language training (if necessary), prepares students for the entrance examinations of the Academy. Students of the preparatory course have to pay tuition fees.
Private tuition
There are professionally qualified teachers that provide instrumental and vocal tuition, outside of any institutes or general education systems. Private tuition is considered to be quite expensive and is therefore not very common.

Additional Information

Music and Arts in General Education
Music is a compulsory subject in all primary schools. Mostly there are two lessons (45 min each) a week. In gymnasiums music is an elective subject. Choral singing is a popular extracurricular activity in many schools.
Students entering Higher Music Education
Most students come from vocational training institutes and from the Music Gymnasium.
Special Facilities for Talented Students at Pre-College Level
Estonia has many competitions on regional, national and international level. There are also many youth orchestras at local or regional level.

Overview of Music Teacher Education System

The Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre is the main HEI in Estonia that trains instrumental and vocal teachers for music schools. Viljandi Culture Academy of Tartu University also offers teacher training programmes.

Instrumental/Vocal Music Teacher Education

Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre (EAMT), Viljandi Culture Academy of Tartu University (VCA)
EAMT offers 1st cycle programme “Instrumental Pedagogy” (180 ECTS) and 2nd cycle programme “Instrumental and Vocal Pedagogy” (120 ECTS) for students interested in pedagogical career. In addition to that, 1st and 2nd cycle music performance programmes include considerable amount of pedagogical studies (partly compulsory, partly electives). Students who choose pedagogical subjects in the amount of at least 45 ECTS get extra qualification “Music School Teacher” (as the minor field of specialization).
VCA offers 1st cycle programme “School Music” (240 ECTS) and 2nd cycle programme “Teacher of Arts and Technology” (120 ECTS). Both broad programmes include an option to specialize in instrumental teacher training.
Pedagogical studies include general educational sciences and psychology as well as musical didactics. An important component of pedagogical studies is pedagogical practice: the students have to teach young children (mostly individually but also in groups) under the supervision of an experienced instructor. Research element is included in the curriculum already in the 1st cycle, but it gets a more prominent place in the 2nd cycle (research paper on a pedagogical topic).
Pedagogical studies include general educational sciences and psychology as well as instrumental/vocal didactics. An important component of pedagogical studies is pedagogical practice: the students have to teach young children (mostly individually but also in groups) under the supervision of an experienced instructor. Research element is included in the curriculum already in the 1st cycle, but it gets a more prominent place in the 2nd cycle (research paper on a pedagogical topic).
Teacher training in EAMT focuses mainly on classical music and classical musical instruments, although pedagogical studies are offered in jazz/rhythmic music as well. VCA is mostly dealing with jazz/rhythmic and folk/traditional music.
EAMT and Viljandi Culture Academy actively support the international mobility and participation in international cooperation projects and network activities. Both instututions are members of the Nordplus Network for Nordic Music Education (NNME), promoting international reflection and development of music education.
Graduates of the Bachelor programme can work as conductors of amateur choirs, leaders of music hobby groups or continue studies in the Master’s programme. Graduates of the Master’s degree programme can become music teachers at Estonian elementary and secondary schools as well as in kindergartens.
Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
Both EAMT and VCA offer CPD courses for active teachers.