EdTech: Estonian thriving development cooperation

development cooperation, Team Estonia and Kenya

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Education in Estonia is free for everyone, and Estonian children have scored in the top positions on PISA tests for years. Combine this with an innovation-driven mindset and autonomy of schools and teachers, and Estonia is an ideal testbed to develop new educational technologies and distribute them beyond our borders. Estonia has recently directed its efforts into development cooperation, and ed-tech plays a central role.

Small but smart 

Being a small state creates unique conditions for cooperation between private and public entities and different branches of the government.

Development cooperation is curated by The Estonian Centre for International Development (ESTDEV). It works closely with  Education Technology Estonia (EdTech), an umbrella organisation for technology companies. They cooperate closely with the Ministry of Education of Estonia to better understand Estonian needs and share Estonian know-how more widely than just focusing on technology. This kind of close-knit network is beneficial both domestically and internationally.

“Interest in Estonian expertise is quite big not only among individual countries but also among the World Bank and organisations such as Global Partnership for Education. But since we do not have ample resources, we must think carefully about what expertise we can offer and how to utilise the private sector’s know-how,” says Kristi Kulu, Programme Manager for Education at ESTDEV.

“So, instead of flooding them with resources, we think with the recipient countries about their needs and the steps to achieve them. We want our projects to solve real problems in recipient countries.”

One of the most important outcomes of this kind of cooperation is the sustainability of development cooperation results and the systematic implementation of technologies. For example, ESTDEV led the building of a kindergarten in Ukraine and then supported the capacity building of the teachers. This included introducing the well-used Estonian-made teacher-parent digital interface Eliis. Instead of using it in just one kindergarten, thanks to cooperation with local authorities, it has been implemented in 16 kindergartens in Ukraine.

Support for teachers is the key to success domestically and abroad

According to a recent survey, at least 75% of Estonian teachers use digital tools. Besides Elliis, which is used in most kindergartens, among the most widespread are eKool, a platform through which students, teachers and parents communicate, and Opiq, a cloud-based learning environment.

“We see two drivers for implementing new technologies in education,” says Sabina Sägi, Head of research cooperation at EdTech Estonia.

“The demand comes from the children. They are well versed with technology and recognise that digital skills are necessary for getting a good job.”

“But the immediate driver for supply is the support that EdTech offers teachers. With so many technological solutions on offer, this makes the difference. Even the best gadgets will gather dust without proper and continuous schooling.”

Similar tendencies are visible also globally. According to Ms Kulu, the most successful projects are the ones which have a high-level framework and address the educational system as a whole.

For example, the history of cooperation between Estonia and Kenya dates back many years and is formalised in an agreement between the two countries’ ministries. This has allowed us to focus on harnessing Estonian know-how in the context of reforming the Kenyan education system.

“We are addressing the teacher’s competencies on many levels, from cooperation between universities to exchanging talented IT students to implementing specific software,” says Ms Kulu.

Specifically, in the Digital Explorers talent exchange program, 10 out of 20 Kenyan talents in Estonia are interning in education technology companies.

Success stories in Kenya

Cooperation between Estonia and Kenya is visible on many levels. For example, 60 school directors recently visited Estonia to see how technologies are used in the classroom. In April 2024, an Estonian trade mission to Kenya focused on intelligent solutions for education innovation.

Regarding specific ed-tech solutions, two of our most successful ones in Kenya are the Opiq, as mentioned above, a cloud-based learning environment, and Triumf.Health, a mobile game promoting children’s mental health and socioemotional learning.

Cloud-based learning in Kenyan schools

Founded in 2014 in Estonia, Opiq offers digital study materials and a learning environment that facilitates teachers’ work. Its success in Kenya is notable, given its size and cultural heterogeneity. Today, Opiq contains fully digital textbooks from Kenya’s leading educational publishers and hosts over 120 study kits. Opiq even has its headquarters in Kenya to ensure the environment is constantly developed and improved.

According to Antti Rammo, CEO of Star Cloud and the developer of Opiq, the main challenge in expanding to Kenya was finding the initial partners.

“The Estonian honorary consul, with an impressive network, significantly contributed to finding partners. The development cooperation project initiated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also played a key role. Once initial relationships were established, identifying potential partners in Kenya was not difficult,” says Mr Rammo.

Addressing mental health in the education system

Another internationally recognised technology, Triumf Health, has been targeting the mental health of children aged 7-12 through severe evidence-based gaming in the context of education. In their subscription-based game environment, children are guided through a fun journey through Triumfland to empower them and teach them skills to build mental resilience.

Recognising their evidence-based method, Triumf Health was the world’s best tech in the health and wellbeing category in 2022 at the UN World Summit Award.

“The need for mental health support has grown, and we have shown that technology can relieve the problem,” says Dr. Kadri Haljas, CEO and founder of Triumf Health.

“But when we leave mental health issues to the medical system and don’t deal with them at schools or home, we are mostly focused on dealing with consequences. I am therefore pleased to see that countries all over the world are waking up to the fact that mental health needs to be addressed within the education system”

These are just two examples of successful development cooperation results. Although small, digital technologies allow Estonia to contribute to education worldwide well above its weight.




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You will find us on the ground floor of Valukoja 8, at the central entrance behind the statue of Mr Ernst Julius Öpik. We will meet the delegation at the building’s reception. Kindly note that a booking is required to visit us.

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