Estonia, situated at the center of old-world Eastern Europe, is one of the least dense nations of the continent. This country is known to be safe, clean and relaxed. For these reasons, it attracts immigrants from around the world, mainly Asia and other parts of Europe.
However, moving to a new country with children can feel like a bit of a lottery. What will the education system be like? Are there entertainment options for children in and around the major cities?Below we take a look at what it’s like to move to Estonia as a family.
Despite going through some drastic changes in the last few years, educational standards in Estonia remain among the highest in Europe. School attendance is compulsory for all children between the ages of seven and seventeen. Expats can choose to send their children to a state-run school. However, the language used for education in these schools is either Estonian or Russian.
Most of the young non-Estonian-speaking foreigners attend The International School of Estonia situated in Tallinn. Other well-reputed institutes for foreigners of include The International Kindergarten, Tallinn European School and Tallinn English College. The local consulates of most countries also organize educational programs for their citizens living in Estonia.
In addition to their academic curriculum, the international schools offer their students a wide range of stimulating extracurricular activities ranging from dancing to archery and from rugby to photography.
Estonia offers good higher education opportunities in both English and the local languages. The main universities providing multi-lingual courses include University of Tartu, Tallinn Technical University, Tallinn University and the Estonian Business School.
Homeschooling, though rare, is a legal and recognized form of education in Estonia. However, according to the Ministry of Education, there are certain stipulations and procedures that need to be followed. The child has to be registered at a school and needs to undergo assessments at least once every semester. If the assessment result shows that the student isn’t keeping up with the national curriculum, he will have to return to a regular school.
Most of the children in Estonia are involved in outdoor sporting activities, regardless of their age, gender and nationality.
The country has four national parks along with numerous natural reserves, all of which are excellent for hiking or trekking. Almost all these areas have well-marked paths for people to enjoy the beautiful countryside on foot. Places like Otepa and Saarema Island are the best for hiking, trekking, cycling and horse-riding.
Much of Estonia lies on the coast, so water sports have become very popular with both locals and tourists. Apart from swimming, children often spend their summers canoeing, kayaking, water skiing, snorkeling and scuba diving.
Tallinn and its neighboring areas have several attractions for children.
The Kalev Chocolate Factory and Museum is a unique and thoroughly enjoyable experience for most kids. At this factory, children learn how their favorite treats are made and read up on the history of chewing gum. The museum displays antique chocolate boxes as well as a marzipan exhibition. The best part for most children is visiting the shop to buy some of the local produce.
No child should leave Estonia without visiting the Tartu Toy Museum. This establishment opened in 1994 and is situated in one of the old, wooden buildings. Children can browse through an enormous collection of local toys from the 19th century right up until the present day ones. There are more than 1,000 types of dolls and rare puppets, which take up a major part of the display. The museum also houses a collection of toys from other countries. The highlight are the playroom and craft rooms, where children actually get to be a part of the action.
The Tallinn Zoo, which houses more than 5,000 different species of animals, is also a popular attraction with children. After looking at the polar bears, Siberian tigers, chimpanzees and crocodiles, families can hit the on-site playground for lunch and further recreation.
Some of the other attractions that children should not miss in Estonia include the Estonian Open Air Museum, the State Puppet & Youth Theater, the Miia Milla Museum, Seaplane Harbor, the Maritime Museum, the AHHAA Science Center, the Energy Discovery Center, Vembu-Tembumaa Amusement Park, Lottemaa Theme Park, Kalev Spa Water Park, the Skypark Trampoline Center and Nomme’s Adventure Park, to name just a few.
In summary, Estonia is a small, peaceful, safe and clean country with plenty of learning opportunities for children. Expat families building a new life here will likely find it easy to make themselves at home.