Excellent IT-skills not expected by Estonian employers

Haridus- ja teadusminister Jaak Aavik­soo ja PIAACi Eesti koordinaator Aune Valk tutvustasid eile uuringut.

PHOTO: Peeter Langovits / Postimees

Youth of Estonia are not lost, but parents-grandparents of theirs are not keen to develop school-time skills in further work life – starting to lag behind...

Basic education provides for solid foundations, in Estonia. Secondary, vocational and especially higher education are not adding enough skills, says an international study on adult skills. As also confirmed by earlier PISA studies on basic school students. 

For the first time, Estonia participated in an international 2011–2012 adult skills study, among 24 countries with 100,000 people surveyed aged 16 to 65.  The study checked functional reading skills, mathematical literacy, and information processing skills while solving problems. 

«We’ve had our gut feeling about some things, in some ways we got our confirmation – positively speaking... Basic education quality is good, a solid foundation to build upon,» summarised Ants Sild, member of educational strategy committee and head of Baltic Computer Systems. «However, when it came to assumed high IT-skills in the nation, we got whipped hard.»

Meaning: Estonian adults are near bottom with problem-solving by IT-means. Only Ireland and Poland did worse. True, four states were not included.

«In addition to poor results, we are surprised by how awkward many adults are with computers,» says the report, on Estonia.

«Figures reveal 10 per cent have no access to a computer; 30 per cent said they were unable to do a test over a computer and the 50 per cent that attempted to do that failed i.e. 72 per cent of grown-ups lack skills to do contemporary jobs requiring information processing,» underlined Mr Sild. «A mere 27 per cent of labour force are able to use contemporary IT-options – starting with sending an e-mail and using a calendar to organise everyday work.»

The study shows that employers are not expecting these skills to the degree people might offer, after getting their education – hampering further development. At 25 years of age, straight out of universities, the skills levels are the best; after ten years, the levels have already dropped.

«After acquiring basic education, the 16 and 19 year olds are the smartest at problem solving; thereafter it goes down. In Scandinavia and other successful states the skills increase till 35 years of age, only then they start to decline,» said Mr Sild.

«As we look at the jobs people do, we do not have skills that should keep improving and be in increasing demand,» said education and research minister Jaak Aaviksoo. «We have not really sensed the need to keep improving our skills, even among the top 20 per cent.»

«Ten years ago, labour markets of Finland, Denmark or Korea didn’t expect these skills, but now they do; and we also must see what we should do for the labour market expectations to change,» said Mr Sild.

Both Aaviksoo, Sild and PIAAC study coordinator Aune Valk also detected positive trends, as functional reading skills and mathematical literacy were above average.

«Firstly, Estonians had good skills levels; secondly, the youth are not lost as they can read and calculate better than parents; thirdly, our basic school is very good, and secondary school is good and higher education is satisfactory,» is how Mr Aaviksoo summarised the positive.

As underlined by both  Aaviksoo and Valk: in comparison to other states, Estonian education has not stratified. 

Regarding levels of higher education, Mr Aaviksoo took a critical stand: «Higher education adds no knowledge. We have numerous institutions of higher education, with people standing in front of the classes basically sharing their life experience; no quality, no challenge, no independent research – just a whole lot of talk. For that, one doesn’t need to attend a university – people have acquired their diplomas, especially the ladies eagerly striving for that. But, as revealed by real life, no value has been added to their competency,» said the minister.