This book explores how Estonia, despite high levels of poverty, has transformed its education system to become Europe’s top performer on PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment).

The engaging narrative uncovers reforms, mistakes and lessons learnt that have been harnessed to create a high-performing, high-equity education system, which includes social and education policies fostering equity, inclusion, learner autonomy, as well as schoolteacher and principal professionalism, autonomy and responsibility. It unearths how easy access to a wide range of data such as perceptions of well-being, autonomy and connectedness, in addition to examination results, builds internal and external accountability, and contributes to collective stakeholder efficacy.

Grounded in research from Estonia and beyond, this is an ideal read for educators, administrators, academics, university students, change agents and parents interested in school system improvement. As equity, equality and inclusion are core drivers of the Estonian education system, this book would also be of interest to those working in social justice, inclusion and diversity.

chapter |5 pages


Setting the stage

chapter 1|20 pages


Challenges and gifts from the past

chapter 2|50 pages

Education system overview

What makes it work

chapter 3|34 pages

Equity and high performance

Raising the bar and closing the gap

chapter 4|36 pages


Aligning implementation with intentions

chapter 5|36 pages


Professional autonomy and high standards

chapter 6|31 pages


Prioritising a formative approach for all

chapter 7|14 pages

Summary and conclusions

Resilience, dissatisfaction and imagination