Out-of-school activities and education is governed by the Hobby Schools Act (2007) and the Youth Work Act (1999). In 2006, the Government approved the Youth Work Strategy 2006-2013. The objective of the strategy was to devise and implement coordinated and purposeful actions following the actual needs and challenges of young people in different spheres of life. Youth work is one of the activity areas thereof besides education, culture, health care and other fields. In 2013, the Government approved the Youth Field Development Plan for 2014-2020. The general goal of the development plan is for young people to have wide opportunities for development and self-realisation, which supports the formation of a cohesive and creative society.
The Ministry of Education and Research is responsible for youth affairs, planning youth policy, organising youth work and managing the work of the Estonian Youth Work Centre. The Estonian Youth Work Centre develops and organises youth work within the framework of the national youth policy.
A hobby school is an educational establishment operating in the area of youth work, aimed at the diverse development of personal interests, including the cultivation of one’s own language and culture, in different areas of hobby education. The uniform requirements for hobby education have been prescribed in the Hobby Schools Act and the Standard for Hobby Education. These regulations are applicable to all hobby schools, irrespective of their legal status. A significant number among such schools are music, art or dance schools. A network of music and a few dance schools is the basic level in music education pyramid. These schools are mainly financed by municipalities. Since 2017, the state started to finance hobby schools and youth centres through the Estonian Youth Work Centre. A significant part of the funding still comes from the parents of pupils. A number of hobby schools are also private owned. The same type hobby schools unite into NGOs, such as the Estonian Music Schools Union and the Estonian Art Schools Union.
The most popular hobby activities is participating in choirs, orchestras and folk-dance groups. The Song and Dance Celebration is a unique tradition of the Estonian culture and as an integral part of the people’s national identity, the Youth Song and Dance Celebration movement has a nationwide network and an educational programmme.
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