Family life in Estonia

Living in Europe | Access to the culture of the host country/language courses, Day care, schooling & family related issues | Estonia

About Estonian family life

Estonian families are usually individualistic where a young couple lives separately from their parents. An average family has 1-2 children. The extended family meets at important holidays such as Christmas or jubilee celebrations, but extended family reunions are also popular. The genealogy of Estonian families mostly reaches back to the 18th century, and earlier information is vague or was destroyed in the Great Northern War (which took place from 1700-1710 on Estonian territory). Considering Estonia’s modest population (1.3 million), it is not rare to find a distant relative in the course of a casual conversation.

Estonian family life is more or less closed to strangers. However, when a colleague invites you home, you should seize the opportunity. Forming close friendships takes time, but once you are accepted, you will find sincere and faithful friends.


Day care and schools

It is possible to choose the educational institution for the child according to the language of instruction, the ownership (private, public) and at the level of general education according to the curriculum followed in school.

Preschool and day care

The preschool education is acquired either in a preschool child care institution or at home, and its acquisition is the responsibility of the child’s parents or guardians.

There are four types of preschool child care institutions – day nurseries (for children 1 to 3 years of age), nursery schools (for children 1 to 7 years of age), special nursery schools, and nursery-primary schools.

Local governments must provide the opportunity to attend child care institutions to all children between 1 and 7 years of age who live in their catchment areas if this is requested by their parents.

In general, children stay at home until the age of 1.5 years. Until then families receive the maternity and parental benefits and one of the parents can stay home. Most day-care centres do not accept children younger than 1 year. Also read general information about schools in Tallinn.

In municipal day care centres the parents pay for the cost of meals as well as a small tuition fee. Although most children go to municipal day care centres, privately owned day care centres exist as well. Additionally, babysitters can be found with the help of friends, agencies or through newspaper advertisements and very commonly through Facebook. Municipal day care centres have queues, so you should register to them as soon as possible (directly after birth).

Admission to preschool

The citizens of Tallinn may choose for their children any municipal preschool that has available vacancies. The application may be sent directly do the head of the institution or the application process can be done online through the state portal

In Tartu there is one centrally administered queue, applications for registering should be submitted to the Tartu City Government educational department.

The working language in the public childcare institutions is mainly Estonian, but there are some that work in Russion There are also several international day care centres in Tallinn and Tartu (mostly private).

Basic education and secondary schools

To attend the school is obligatory from the age of 7 to the age of 17 or until the acquisition of basic education. Municipal schools are prevalent; some schools belong to the state and a few are privately owned. At municipal and state-owned schools there is no tuition fee, and parents must only buy school supplies.

Possibilities for education in English can be found in the two biggest cities – Tallinn and Tartu.

In Tallinn there are five schools that offer education in English.

In Tartu there are two schools that offer education in English

  • Tartu International School educates students from age 6 to 15 (forms 1-10). Tartu International Daycare is governed by the same non-profit organisation. All these three are private institutions; thus, a tuition fee must be paid for the studies.
  • IB Miina Härma Gümnaasium. Forms 1-12. Municipal school.

There is also a Finnish School in Tartu

You are welcome to contact the EURAXESS services centres for advice on suitable schools. If there are any problems with finding a school, EURAXESS centres will help you to contact the local government education office, who will advise you on possibilities for tuition of your child. As the number of English-speaking children in schools is growing, schools have become more experienced in meeting the needs of children, who are coming from abroad. Please consider the level of English of your child, tuition in languages other than Estonian, Russian and English can be difficult to organise.

Parents may choose a school for a child if there are vacant places in the selected school. A school is required to make sure educational opportunities for each child who resides in the school’s catchment area. Some schools do not have a catchment area and may accept pupils on the basis of admission tests or other requirements.

A child should be registered at a school by the 1st of June, for schools with admission tests earlier, and for that parents should submit to the school an application for admission together with a copy of the child’s personal identification document or birth certificate. In the event that your child has already attended school, documents certifying education obtained abroad or in another school in Estonia must also be presented.

Admission to upper secondary school takes place on the basis of admission tests and results from basic school. In most schools, admission tests to upper secondary level take place in March or April; the local education board can give you the exact dates.

The academic year

The academic year usually lasts from 1st September until June of the following year. It consists of a study period, examination period, and holidays, which include one week in the autumn, two weeks at Christmas, one week in the spring and a long summer holiday. As of the academic year 2017/2018 there will be 5 holidays proposed by the state, adding a “ski-holiday to the end of February – beginning of March. Please note that the school owners (local governements) will keep the right to decide the holiday schedule differently, following certain rules. The greatest number of lessons per week varies from 20 lessons (grade 1) to 34 lessons (grade 9). At upper secondary school the number of lessons may be 35 or even more.

You can find more information about the pre-school, basic and secondary education on the website of Estonian Ministry of Education and Research.


Useful links:

Ministry of Education and Research. About Pre-school, basic and secondary education

Estonian State portal General overview pf pre-school, basic and secondary education, directions for applications and admission

Admission to preshool in Tallinn Application instructions, list and map of preschools

General information about schools in Tallinn

Preschool in Tartu. International daycare, admission, costs

City of Tallinn. Education. Kindergartens, schools

City of Tartu. Education. Schools.

Going to school in Estonia (PDF, 759 KB)

The International School of Estonia

Tartu International School

Tallinn International Kindergarten

Väike Päike international daycare in Tallinn, works in English and Finnish

Pere24 – website for searching babysitters, domestic helpers, tutors and more (choose the language from the menu)

Pihel OÜ. Babysitters, housekeepers



See also:

Estonian e-services and the Estonian state portal

Calculator for determining final date of parental leave (page only in Estonian).

Calculator for finding out amount of parental benefit (page only in Estonian).