With a half-century of Soviet rule behind it, independent Estonia began a process of thorough educational reform. In addition to a restructuring of curricula, the government began a reorganization of the secondary school system with the goal of increasing specialization among the country's high schools. In 1993 there were some 215,000 elementary and secondary school students in 724 schools across Estonia. About 142,000 students were enrolled in Estonian-language schools and about 70,000 in Russian-language schools, mainly in Tallinn and northeastern Estonia. In addition, there were individual schools teaching in other minority languages, including Hebrew, Swedish, and Ukrainian. Estonian-language schools offer twelve years of education--nine elementary and three secondary. Education in Russian-language schools lasts eleven years. Under a 1993 law, education was made compulsory up to the ninth grade. Estonia's vocational education network is also extensive, with seventy-seven schools across the country and about 26,000 students in 1993. Literacy is nearly universal.
Estonia's system of higher education centers on six universities. Tartu University, founded in 1632, is the country's largest, with about 7,600 students in 1993. The Tallinn Technical University had about 6,800 full-time students in 1993, and the Tallinn Pedagogical University had about 3,150. The Estonian Agricultural University in Tartu had about 2,800 students, and the Tallinn Art University and the Estonian Academy of Music each enrolled about 500.
Higher education was restructured in the early 1990s into a four-year system after the five-year Soviet system was dropped. A new degree structure comparable to the Western one of baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral degrees was established. Soviet ideological subjects such as "scientific communism" were abandoned soon after the independence movement began in 1988. With the help of exchange programs and guest lecturers from the West, new programs were begun in economics, business, foreign languages, religion, political science, and sociology.
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