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.


The Latvian education system – 2012


Latvian system (© Onisep / Elise Veteau)




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.


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

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.


Key figures

  • In 2010, the number of pupils and students in Latvia, taking into account all levels, stood at 389,000.
  • In 2011, the proportion of 18 to 24 year-olds who had left the school system at an early age stood at 11.8% in Latvia compared to 14.1% in the European Union.
  • In 2010, 28.9% of Latvian pupils in the 2nd cycle of secondary education were enrolled in the vocational stream. This compares with an average of 44.2% in the European Union.
  • The VET system comprises 5 levels of qualification in various sectors of activity.

Sources: Eurostat, Latvian Ministry of Education