More than just a reform, Latvia has totally overhauled its education system since its independence in 1991.
From nursery school to university education and lifelong learning, every field has been restructured in depth. Vocational education and training (VET) has been reformed to adapt to the needs of a constantly changing economy.
The law on vocational training has laid down targets for vocational qualification in parallel to mainstream knowledge and skills. Social partners have been called on to identify fast-growing trades, define the professional adaptations required, and offer pupils work experience etc. Finally, measures have been taken to bridge the gaps between rural and urban areas in order to guarantee equal opportunity in education for all.
To make the VET system more responsive to labour market needs, the Ministry of Education and Science has designed a new apprenticeship-type scheme called ‘work-based learning’, introduced in 2013 in six vocational education institutions. The scheme includes flexible curricula (according to occupation characteristics) and promotes sharing responsibilities of teaching (theory) and training (practice) between school and enterprises.
Most VET students (85%) study at upper secondary level. The distribution of students between general and vocational upper secondary education is 61:39 in favour of general education. The State will continue to run vocational education competence centres that, in addition to VET programmes, provide teaching methodology, continuous teacher training and validation of non-formal learning.
The Latvian education system – 2012
The vocational pathway in Latvia
Schooling is compulsory from 6 to 18 years of age.
Basic education covers a period of 9 years: 4 years in primary education (Sakumskola), followed by 5 years in the 1st cycle of secondary education (Pamalskola), after which pupils obtain a certificate of basic studies (Atestas par pamatizglltibu).
Pupils who have not finished their primary education by the age of 15 can enter the Arodskolas to follow elementary vocational training. They may then continue their studies in vocational secondary education.
After Pamalskola, pupils can choose between:
- mainstream secondary education (Vispareja vidizglillba) validated by a general certificate of secondary studies (Atestats par vispareja videja izglillbu). Holders of the Atestas can continue in higher education.
- Technical (Videja speciala izglitiba) and vocational (Arodizglillba) secondary education studies are validated by a certificate of basic vocational training (Aplieciba); a certificate of secondary vocational training (Atestats) and a diploma of secondary vocational training (Diploms). Only the Diploms give pupils access to higher education.
Apprenticeships concern crafts and are not particularly widespread.
Higher education is divided into:
- university pathways
- higher VET pathways which vary in duration. At the end of their studies students are awarded a professional qualification and a Bachelor’s degree (Bakalaurs) when studies cover a period of 4 years. Students may also continue to obtain a Master’s degree (Magistrs) in higher vocational education and training.
- The VET system comprises 5 levels of qualification in various sectors of activity. (CSP – 2015)
- In Latvia, the unemployment rate in 2015 for all education levels combined was above the OECD average (9.5%,compared to the OECD average of 7.0%). (OCDE – 2017)
- By 2015/2016 27 938 students were enrolled in vocational schools.