European Association for Music in Schools

Music in Schools (EE)

Political framework, school system

In Estonia we have  been regarding singing (including choral singing) as one of  main goals of music teaching to preserve and maintain our cultural heritage and traditions.

Music is a compulsory subject from the first up to twelve grade.

Pre-school, basic and secondary education in  ESTONIA

The Estonian Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020 sees learning as a lifestyle. It is necessary to notice development opportunities and search for intelligent solutions. The learning process itself is based on values like:

Responsibility – people are aware that learning and self-development are their own conscious personal choices as well as responsibility.

Necessity – the learning process is guided by the individual’s personal interests and abilities and supports their development, whilst keeping in mind the requirements of the labour market.

Opportunities – a system of lifelong learning offers high quality, contemporary and flexible learning opportunities that are tailored for individual needs.

Lifelong learning begins with general education. There is a common system applied for general education in Estonia. In practical terms, this means that a common curriculum is taught in all levels of education, regardless of the language of study. The length of the study period consists of at least 175 teaching days (35 weeks) and four intervals of school breaks.

All municipal schools have designated service areas, meaning that the schools must ensure vacancies for all school-aged children living in their designated  area. Parents can influence the school’s development through school board.

General education is divided to pre-school, basic and upper-secondary education.

Pre-school education is delivered to children between the ages of 18 months to seven years in especially dedicated educational institutions. The main aim of the early stages education is to support the child’s family through fostering the child’s growth and development by taking into account their individuality. Facilities for the pre-school education are provided by the local authorities at the request of parents. Pre-school children’s institutions follow state curricula that is specifically formulated for the purpose. Children who have passed the pre-school curriculum will be issued a certificate that records the child’s development. The parents will submit this certificate to the school where the child will be enrolled.

Basic education serves as the mandatory minimum of general education requirement, which can be acquired either partially in primary schools (grades 1 to 6), basic schools (grades 1 to 9) or upper secondary schools that also teach basic school curricula.

The basic school is divided into three stages:

Basic education is made available through two national curricula:

Graduating the basic school requires that the student learns the curriculum at least a satisfactory level together with passing three basic school graduation exams consisting of the Estonian language or Estonian as a second language, mathematics and an exam on a subject of the student’s choice as well as completing a creative assignment.

Following graduation from basic school, there are a number of possibilities for continuation of the educational path. There is a possibility to acquire general secondary education at upper secondary school, vocational secondary education at some vocational education institution or simply an occupation.

General secondary education is acquired at the upper secondary school level. Upper secondary schools are designed to help students become creative, multi-talented, socially mature and reliable citizens who have discovered a field of endeavour that is best suited to their individual interests and capacities for continuing their future educational path. The study programme at upper secondary school is arranged into mandatory and voluntary courses. Graduation from upper secondary school requires the student to complete a curriculum consisting of at least 96 individual courses passed at a satisfactory level as a minimum, passing the state exams consisting of the Estonian language or Estonian as a second language, mathematics and a foreign language exam, passing the upper secondary school exam as well as completing a student research paper or practical work during the entire study period.

Attaining general secondary education entitles students to continue their studies at a higher educational institution or to obtain vocational education.


The National Curriculum in Estonia emphasises integration between different disciplines.

Music teachers are interested and able to integrate music and other disciplines – languages, history, sciences, visual arts, movement.  They are useing technology in music lessons.

Here one can see another danger – they offer less and less  time in music lessons for singing and  for playing instruments.

In Estonia we have  been regarding singing (including choral singing) as one of  main goals of music teaching to preserve and maintain our cultural heritage and traditions.

Music is a compulsory subject from the first up to twelve grade

Amount of music lessons:

Besides  compulsory music lessons it is  common in Estonia that every school has also choirs.

In Estonia music is mostly taught by  qualified music teachers  (there are  few exeptions in primary and basic level where music is taught by classroom teachers).

From seventh grade up to the twelve grade all subjects are taught only by teachers-specialists (regulated by the law).

Basic activities of general music education:

General music teaching in Estonian basic and secondary schools is based on methods by Riho Päts, Heino Kaljuste, Carl Orff and Zoltán Kodály.

Curriculum for Basic School

Music teaching aims to introduce students to the world of music, to enrich the emotional side of their nature, to develop their musical taste and to develop their understanding of musical culture.

Music teaching has the following components: singing, the acquisition of knowledge and skills related to voice and music, improvising, listening to music, rhythmical motion, playing on simpler children’s instruments. Teaching is based on the experience gained through practical musical activities.

From Grade 1 to Grade 3 – teaching is focused on singing a cappella. Alongside with one-voiced songs, the student is introduced to elementary two-voiced pieces (canons). Once a song has been mastered by the student, it may be sung with instrumental accompaniment.

From Grade 4 to Grade 6 – attention is increasingly paid to songs in two voices. The main aspects the student needs to consider while listening to music are the mood, content and form of the piece, as well as its dynamics, tempo and musical patterns.

From Grade 7 to Grade 9 – the student usually takes a great interest in popular music. In addition to teaching songs, including popular songs, and musical theory, attention is paid on rhythm. Well-known classical compositions are recommended for listening at this stage.

Objectives of teaching

The aim of teaching music in basic school is to ensure that the student:

Curriculum for Gymnasium

At the gymnasium level, music is studied in its various styles, sound structures and forms as an art undergoing constant change and development. The history of music is part of the history of culture, and should be approached within a common framework with other important events, art and literature of a particular period. Singing contributes to the emotional side of the history of music.

Supporting Activities in music education

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