Sten Kapten: Estonia is bringing AI into education

Sten Kapten

Article content

Estonian kids generally score very high on PISA tests, and similarly to the rest of the OECD countries, the Ministry of Education’s current strategic goal is to implement a personalised education paradigm in Estonian schools. They have launched an AI council to introduce AI into schools and boost personalised education. 


General principles of AI-related decision making

Before exploring use cases and specific activities, the expert group established general principles to introduce consistency into AI-related developments.

“We noticed in other countries that the enthusiasm for using AI can be like a yo-yo. There is a period of great excitement followed by distrust. We want to bring more stability into the field by providing a checklist of principles that would help decision-makers make quick decisions but keep a consistently critical mindset,” says Sten Kapten, advisor to the Ministry on Education and Research and secretary for the council.

“The group aims to publish the guidelines that direct civil servants, school leaders and teachers to consider the notion that AI is here to stay and that we need to learn how to make the most of it,” says Mr Kapten.


Improving metacognition along with practical skills for inclusive education

The council, consisting of educational scientists, teachers, and entrepreneurs, recognised that AI had made its way into education regardless of whether there was support from the ministry or school.

With societal pressure to understand and benefit from AI’s use, the ministry is currently looking into mass courses for teachers, students, and civil servants. These courses would share best practices and provide examples of how teachers could use AI for their tasks in a down-to-earth manner.

“Educating civil servants is important because we want to practice what we preach,” says Sten Kapten. “Our administrators need to be able to stay ahead and show the way rather than passively react to demand.”

With the introduction of AI, metacognition is under pressure. As students can ask large language models to perform certain tasks (such as writing text, solving problems, drawing graphs, and so on), it is important to keep the study process mentally challenging in classrooms and at home.

“Even if the student lets the AI write some parts of homework, there needs to be, for example, an oral exchange to understand the student’s thinking process,” says Mr Kapten.

It is crucial that with the introduction of AI, we are moving towards—not away from—more inclusive education, which builds on the dialogue between the student, teacher, and parents.


AI as a tool for a more comprehensive change towards personalised education

In addition to helping students, AI-based education technology provides teachers with adaptive learning tools. For example, learning software may start each lesson with a short test that checks for the learner’s current skillset. It then provides specific tasks and support that fit the learner’s needs.

Mr Kapten realises that personalised learning has been on the Estonian agenda for a long time. Still, a lack of financial resources, technological development, and teachers has hampered its rollout. AI-based technology can provide the opportunity.

“AI can ideally free teachers’ time to allow them to dedicate more time for personal attention to students. The change is technical and requires a broader rethinking of the teaching process. We consider the introduction of AI as an opportunity to support change in schools,” says Mr Kapten.



Visit us physically or virtually

We host impactful events both in our centre and online for government institutions, companies, and media. You’ll get an overview of e-Estonia’s best practices and build links to leading IT-service providers and state experts to support your digitalisation plans.

Questions? Have a chat with us.

Call us: +372 6273157 (Monday to Friday, 9:00-16:30 Estonian time)
Regarding e-Residency, visit their official webpage.

Find us

The Briefing Centre is conveniently located just a 2-minute drive from the airport and 15- to 20-minute drive from the city centre.

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.

Valukoja 8
11415 Tallinn, Estonia