Students have two options after completing basic education; they may attend either the gymnasium or a vocational education institution. The 1993 Law on Basic Schools and Gymnasiums established the gymnasium as the main structural unit of secondary education replacing the former secondary school. Educational standards are established in the national curriculum. This curriculum determines the objectives; duration of studies; relationship of the national curriculum to the school curriculum; list of compulsory subjects together with the number of lessons and their content, options, and conditions for selection of subjects; and graduation requirements.
Study in the gymnasium lasts for three years (grades 10-12). The maximum weekly course load is 35 hours. The national curriculum accounts for 75 percent of the total load, and the remaining 25 percent includes subjects selected jointly by the students and the school. The compulsory courses are mother tongue, Estonian (non-Estonian schools), foreign language A (Estonian schools), foreign language B, mathematics, geography, biology, chemistry, physics, history, civics, philosophy, art, music, and physical education. Certain subjects can be taught in more depth, and schools can develop their own instructional approach or course content. In 2001, schools exist with special focus on language, mathematics, natural sciences, and other subjects. State examinations at the secondary level were introduced in 1997.
Vocational Education: The 1998 Law on Vocational Education Institutions established two levels of vocational education in Estonia: secondary vocational education and vocational higher education. Secondary vocational education (length of study at least three years) has the prerequisites of basic education and one year of general secondary education. Vocational higher education (length of study three to four years) has the prerequisite of secondary education (gymnasium or secondary vocational education). In the 1999-2000 academic year, there were 87 different vocational education institutions in Estonia enrolling 34,312 students, with 3,165 students on the vocational higher education level. Vocational education institutions offer programs in 35 fields of study. The following fields of study are a priority of developmentservices: catering, tourism, hotel management, and trading; logistics (transportation and communications); information technology; electronics; and telecommunications.
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