In the middle of the Mediterranean is one of the world’s smallest island countries – Malta – which is also the smallest EU member state. To compare – Estonia has an island the same size – Muhumaa – with only about 2,000 inhabitants, but compared to Malta, it seems as if all the people living in the capital Tallinn could be accommodated in such a small area.

Estonia and Malta are two different places in Europe, united by the fact that they are both small countries in European terms, which is a good advantage when seeking to create cooperative relationships aimed at implementing the use of digital solutions in education. Estonia has become a role model for digital education as Estonians have made ICT work for education. Estonia, a Baltic nation of just 1.3 million people, has attracted the attention of world leaders, academics and venture capitalists thanks to its high-tech digital society.

The numbers speak for themselves: tax forms are completed online in under five minutes; 99 per cent of Estonia’s public services are available on the web 24 hours a day; and 99 per cent of schools had already been using some type of e-solutions before COVID-19; and 95 per cent of schools use e-diaries. Today, the Estonian schooling is mostly conducted in the cloud.

Digital learning is any type of learning that is undertaken with the support of digital technology, ranging from online courses teaching coding skills to the gamification of classrooms; education and lifelong training are being transformed by digital technologies. The Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) conducted a study in 2019 to measure learning outcomes, digital infrastructure and policies, and people’s attitude towards digital learning in 27 EU countries. When CEPS assessed European countries’ performance in digital learning, it found that smaller countries performed well above average. Malta came in fifth position on this ranking, showing that recent infrastructure and education investments are paying off.

Estonia, as the absolute winner of 2019’s index, also shows that very determined policy actions, even in a small country, do matter, and other countries could learn from future-oriented small EU countries. Digitalisation in the education is the future trend in the world and all countries should find ways how to benefit from the application of technology in education.

Two years ago, Malta’s Ambassador to Estonia and Finland Kenneth Vella wrote to me to ask whether Estonia would be interested in establishing some form of collaboration in the educational field. Vella had already been successfully promoting Finnish education and pedagogy in the Mediterranean for a couple of years. He proposed to diversify and extend a partnership also with Estonia, after being impressed by the progress Estonia is making in the field of education.

The following are the first results of our joint activities this year.

The characteristics of Estonia’s early childhood education were discussed at the first Estonia-Malta joint webinar. President Emeritus Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, president of Eurochild in Malta, delivered a message about early childhood education and care (ECEC), and how to give children a voice. The other guest speakers, ECEC experts from Estonia Tiina Peterson and Maria Jürimäe, shared information on the history, culture, philosophies, policy, practice, curricula, pedagogy, and the joys and pleasures embedded in the early years sector of Estonia. Valerie Sollars gave an overview of the history of early years education in Malta.

The interest towards Estonian education and its solutions was very high and, therefore, we decided to organise another series of collaborations in different topics, also introducing Estonian educational digital solutions. The well-being of children and youths and successful Estonian educational tools in this regard were discussed in the beginning of April. Experts from EdTechs of Helge, Clanbeat, Triumf Health and SpeakTX gave answers to the questions such as how can we empower students to take an active role in their life, how can technology improve mental health, and how can we build confidence through support services.

In April, we also focused on the topic of how to teach important future skills – STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics), entrepreneurship and cyber security – and Estonia’s successful digital educational solutions which were presented by speakers from Tallinn University, Merkuur Mobile Workshops, Bizplay, CTF Tech, Junior Achievement Estonia, and also from the Education and Youth Board. Different IT platforms and e-solutions from Estonia were introduced by experts in May. The digital revolution in Estonia continues to use modern digital technology effectively in learning, teaching and research. ELIIS made a presentation on how a kindergarten platform has changed early childhood education. There was also a demonstration on how eSchool helps schools and homes with its school management platform. Edumus believes that the future of education will be hybrid and introduced its platform connecting schools with professional specialists, and DreamApply demonstrated Europe’s leading admission management solution for education institutions.

The last webinars were organised by Education Estonia also in collaboration with Mindfulness with Elaine and also with Vella. As a result of these joint Estonia-Malta online collaborations, follow-up activities have already started with Estonian EdTech solutions. Maltese schools and private sector educational institutions are planning pilot projects with many Estonian EdTechs for the coming autumn.

Maltese schools and private sector educational institutions are planning pilot projects with many Estonian EdTechs for the coming autumn

Besides, the Malta’s Ministry for Health is very interested in the SpeakTX solution. A conference on the topic of well-being is being planned for autumn in Malta. During the conference, there will be reference to how Estonia is tackling difficulties and challenges related to mental health.

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