1. Background Information
Rights to education
Every citizen of the Republic of Latvia, its permanent resident, who is entitled to a non-citizen passport issued by the Republic of Latvia, as well as a person to whom a permanent residence permit has been issued, citizens of European Union countries to whom a residence permit for restricted time period has been issued, and their children shall have equal rights to education in Latvia.
Law on Education (1998) - a frame law containing definitions of all types and levels of education and defining the general principles and competences of governing bodies.
Law on General Education (1999)
Law on Professional Education (1999)
Law on Higher Education Establishments (1995, 2000 - amended version)
Governance of the Education System
Education system is administered at three levels - national, municipal and institutional. The Parliament (Saeima), the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministry of Education and Science are the main decision-making bodies at a national level. The Ministry of Education and Science is the education policy -making institution that also issues licenses for opening comprehensive education institutions, sets educational standards and teacher training content and procedures.
Language of tuition
In state and municipal educational institutions the language of tuition is the state language - Latvian. Education in other languages of tuition can be acquired in private educational establishments, as well as in state and municipal educational institutions where they provide educational (study) programmes for national minorities. Any student acquiring basic or secondary education in another language studies the state language simultaneously, and takes an examination in the state language following the nationally set procedure and scope.
In most cases the thesis/diploma projects for getting an academic Bachelor (Bakalaurs), Master (Maģistrs) or scientific (Doctor’s) degree shall be developed and presented in the state language, except the cases stipulated by legislation.
Qualification upgrading and retraining is provided in the state language if it is funded from the national or municipal budget.
The tuition fee for pre-school, basic and secondary education in a state or municipality founded educational establishment shall be funded from the national or municipal budget. A private educational institution may set a tuition fee for providing education.
In higher education programmes the state covers tuition fees for a certain number of students’ places, according to the State Procurement in the respective academic year, and the respective students receive state grants. Each higher educational institution may set a tuition fee for the other students’ places.
Any student is entitled to a state credit for his/ her studies in higher education programmes. A foreigner or non-country citizen pays for his/ her education in accordance with the agreement concluded with the respective educational establishment. The tuition fee for the citizens of European Union countries and their children shall be determined and covered according to the same procedure as for the citizens and permanent residents of the Republic of Latvia.
2. Pre-school education (ISCED level 0)
Children are involved in pre-school preparation from the moment they start attending kindergartens or pre-primary education institutions, it could be from 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 years. But it is mandatory to participate in pre-primary education programmes for five and six year old children who do not attend pre-primary education institutions. The objective of pre-school education is to foster general development of children and their readiness to enter primary stage of basic education. Pre-school education is considered as a comprehensive first stage of general education and all children have to accomplish it until they are 7 years of age. But the time could be prolonged for a year due to certain health or psychological problems on either parents’ or doctors’ request or recommendations.
It can be done at various pre-primary education institutions or at special pre-primary classes at general education institutions. Children with special needs attend special pre-school institutions or classes for children with special needs within general education schools. There are public and private pre-primary education institutions. Public sector institutions require that parents make a financial contribution to cover the cost of meals and managing expenses, but access to educational activities is free of charge. The fee in the private sector institutions covers full costs of the program, except for salaries of pedagogues teaching five and six year olds.
3. Basic education (ISCED level 1 and 2)
9-year single structure basic education (primary and lower secondary education according to ISCED) is compulsory for all children from the age of 7 and it lasts till the age of 16. In some special cases the acquisition of basic education may last till the age of 18. The National Basic Education Standard determines the compulsory content/ curriculum and the content of the final national examinations of the basic education. The aim of the basic education is to provide the opportunities for acquiring the basic knowledge and skills required for community and person’s individual life, for developing value orientation.
Names of educational institutions
Full basic education programmes are provided in educational institutions named basic schools (pamatskola). The educational programmes of the first four grades can be provided by primary schools (sākumskola). Secondary schools may also provide full programme of basic education. Basic compulsory education can also be provided by different educational institutions named vocational school, special education institution, a night (part time) school, boarding school, educational institution of social or pedagogical correction or in any other educational institutions providing partial or full basic compulsory education programmes.
Assessment of educational achievements and issued documents
In primary school, i.e. in grade 1 and 2 knowledge and skills in all subjects acquired by pupils are assessed in a descriptive way without marks. Starting with grade 3, some subjects like the Latvian language, minority language and mathematics, but in grade 4 also natural science are already assessed in 10-point scale. But beginning from grade 5, pupils’ achievements in all subject areas are assessed in 10-point scale.
At the end of basic school, students take centralized national examinations and the number and content of these examinations is determined by the Ministry of Education and Science. Pupils, who have received evaluation in all subjects of the basic compulsory education and national examinations, receive a Certificate of basic education (apliecība) and a statement of records (sekmju izraksts). Evaluation in the subjects, where centralized national examinations are held, is recorded in the Certificate of basic education. These documents of basic compulsory education qualify them and serve as a screening criterion for admission to further education and training in secondary level educational programmes.
In case a pupil has not received evaluation in any of the subjects or centralized national tests and examinations, he/she receives a school report (liecība) providing the opportunity to continue education and training in basic vocational education programmes.
Special needs education
Special schools or special education classes within general education schools provide education for children with special needs that correspond to their individual health condition. The structure of special education is very similar to that of the mainstream education providing opportunities for persons with special needs to attain general knowledge and skills with strong emphasis on their applicability facilitating social inclusion.
Vocation oriented education
Vocation oriented education in arts and music is voluntary and provides for a person’s individual educational needs and wishes.
4. Secondary education (ISCED level 3)
There are two types of programmes at the secondary education level: general secondary education programmes and vocational secondary education and training programmes. General secondary education programmes are academically oriented, and their main task is to prepare for further studies, while the vocational secondary programmes are more aimed at acquiring a vocational qualification, i.e. for entering labour market and/or continuing education. When admitting students to the secondary level educational programmes, schools are free to hold entrance examinations according to the basic compulsory education standard, except in those subjects for which students have already received basic compulsory education certificate.
General secondary education programmes
The National General Secondary Education Standard determines the compulsory curriculum of general secondary education programmes. General secondary education programmes are available in the following profiles:
A general education profile, which is characterized by a group of educational programmes without specifically emphasized subjects;
A humanitarian and social profile, which is characterized by a group of educational programmes with special emphasis on humanitarian and social subjects;
A mathematics, natural science and technical profile, which is characterized by a group of educational programmes with special emphasis on mathematics, natural science and technical subjects;
A vocational profile characterized by a group of educational programmes with special emphasis on vocational/ professional orientation (for example, in arts, music, business, sports).
Educational programmes of all profiles contain 8 compulsory subjects that should bear the same name. Each profile has its own 3-6 compulsory subjects. A school may offer some other optional subjects that take no more than 10-15% of the study time, or a school may offer to study in depth one of the compulsory subjects instead. A general secondary education programme in any given profile may be combined with a national minority educational programme, by inclusion of the minorities’ national language and other contents related to minority’s identity and its integration into the Latvian society.
Names of educational establishments
General education programmes are provided in secondary schools (vidusskolas) or gymnasiums (ģimnāzijas). Secondary schools are educational establishments, which provide also full basic educational programmes. Gymnasiums mainly provide only programmes of general secondary education, but they may provide also partial basic compulsory education programmes beginning from grade 7. Gymnasiums have to provide at least 2-3 profiles of educational programmes. Students of one class study the programme of the same profile.
Assessment of educational achievements and documents proving education
When finishing general secondary education programmes, students shall take centralized national examinations and the content and procedure of these examinations is determined by the Ministry of Education and Science, and approved by the Cabinet of Ministers. Graduates have to take 5 compulsory centralized examinations, and out of them one subject is determined by the Ministry of Education and Science, one depends on the selected profile of the educational programme, one is chosen by the school itself, and two subjects are chosen by the student himself/herself.
A Certificate of secondary education (atestāts par vispārējo vidējo izglītību) and a certificate of the passed centralized exams with scores are awarded to all students who have received a positive assessment in all the subjects according to the chosen profile, and the national examinations. In case a student has not received an evaluation in one or more subjects or national examination, he/she receives a school report (liecība). Only a Certificate of secondary education and a certificate of the passed centralized exams give students the right to continue education in a higher-level education programme.
Vocational secondary education and training
The task of vocational education is to provide opportunities for continuing education after graduation from basic school or secondary school, to acquire initial qualifications, develop skills for vocational in-service training, getting also the rights to continue education at a higher education level. Vocational education institutions offer programmes in all branches of national economy.
Good communication skills, knowledge in mathematics, sciences and social sciences, ability to communicate in foreign languages, modern IT application skills – these are the requirements of labour market today, and therefore the acquisition of these subject areas and skills are included in curricula. Besides, in the course of mastering vocational education and training programmes, attention is focused on the development of initiative, understanding of environment protection, intercultural issues, self-development of young people to help them to build their career and life successfully. The study process is organized in the way that the acquisition of theory interchanges with practical training in school workshops, laboratories, and on-the-job courses later in enterprises and organizations.
Vocational secondary education programmes are developed and offered in all branches of the national economy of Latvia. The National Vocational Secondary Education Standard and the Occupational Standards determine the curriculum/ content of vocational secondary education programmes.
Names of vocational education establishments
Vocational secondary education can be accomplished in vocational schools (arodskolas) and vocational secondary schools (named: arodvidusskola, amatniecības vidusskola, arodģimnāzija or tehnikums).
Vocational education and training programmes and admission requirements
Vocational schools provide basic vocational education and training programmes, the duration of which is up to 3 years and vocational programmes, the duration of which is 2-3 years. Applicants with completed basic education are enrolled In both types of vocational education and training programmes, only in separate cases – applicants without completed basic education are also enrolled, but not before the calendar year when they are at least 15years old, in this case they are provided with an extra chance to accomplish the general basic education programme besides vocational training and obtaining a qualification.
The difference between both programmes is the following: vocational basic education programmes are focused on vocational training that gives the possibility to carry out very simple tasks, job tasks corresponding to Level 1 (Level 1 – skills and knowledge are obtained either in an educational institution or through practical work. allowing to perform the most basic work assignments under supervision). While vocational education and training programmes for students with accomplished basic education are focused on acquiring the knowledge and skills required for Level 2 vocational qualification (Level 2 – qualification that allows carrying out qualified workers tasks independently and includes also responsibility for the outcome of one’s own work, that is carried out according to instructions, capability of working in a team).
General education subjects are integrated in the content of vocational education and training programmes to such an extent that the graduates of these programmes are entitled to continue their education in vocational secondary education and training programmes to acquire knowledge and skills required for Level 3 vocational qualification, or to continue their education in general secondary education course (duration of this course is 1 year), thus obtaining the rights to study in the programmes of higher education.
Vocational secondary schools provide vocational secondary education and training programmes, the duration of which is mainly 4 years after compulsory basic education or 1-2 years after accomplishing vocational education or general secondary education.
Vocational secondary programmes are focused on mastering knowledge and skills required by qualification Level 3 (Level 3 – qualification that allows carrying out worker’s duties, including one’s own work planning and organizing. Upon acquiring practical work experience, may take up responsibility for resource allocation and for other people’s work). The amount of general education subjects integrated in the vocational educational curricula qualifies the graduates to enter higher education programmes.
Assessment of achievements in vocational education
The principles and procedure of assessment of the acquired education and training is determined by education standard. In the course of education assessments are carried out in theoretical and practical lessons, seminars, laboratory assignments, project consultations, independent study assignments, subject/ course examinations or tests in 10-point scale. Various methods are used in the assessment: tests, project work, individual and team work, practical period reports.
The acquisition of vocational education programme finishes with 5 centralized examinations. One of them is a national qualification examination or other kind of a national examination. The remaining 4 centralized examinations are held in compliance with the terms and conditions of general secondary education acquisition.
Documents proving education
Nationally recognized vocational education document is issued after the completion of an accredited vocational education and training programme, passing vocational qualification examinations and other examinations required by the national vocational education standard.
Depending on the type of vocational education programme, all students who have passed the final subject and qualification exams are awarded a diploma or certificate: a diploma of vocational secondary education (diploms par profesionālo vidējo izglītību), a certificate of vocational basic education and training (atestāts par arodizglītību), a certificate of vocational initial education and training (apliecība par profesionālo pamatizglītību). Only holders of a diploma of vocational secondary education are eligible for access to tertiary education: colleges or university professional education programmes.
5. Post secondary education (ISCED level 4)
Vocational continuing or in-service training programmes can be acquired also after graduating general secondary or vocational education and training institutions (duration 1 to 3 years) or in vocational upgrading/ development programmes (duration not less than 160 study hours, which may be considered as part of the qualification). Internationally this level is called post-secondary, non-tertiary education. In Latvia this type of education is classified as secondary stage education. These programmes are focused towards mastering purely professional skills and knowledge in line with the requirements of the respective qualification level. The study process, assessment of achievements are organized in a similar manner as it is done in other vocational secondary education and training programmes.
6. Higher education (ISCED level 5)
The admission procedure is not centralised: each higher education institution has its own admission board and criteria. From the year 2004 entrance examinations are replaced by the results of the national centralised secondary education examinations.
A Certificate of secondary general education (atestāts) or Diploma of vocational secondary education (diploms) is required to continue education at the level of higher education, both for academic higher education programmes or higher professional education programmes. The admission to these study programmes is mostly competitive, based on the results of centralized examinations. Higher education institutions may set additional requirements concerning some specific prior education or training, special fitness or previous qualification (for example, in arts, music, sports). At least five months before the enrolment procedure begins, higher educational establishment shall inform which general secondary education programmes correspond to the respective study programme, which centralized examinations have to be taken, as well as what the additional requirements are. The selection procedures in different higher educational establishments and in different programmes may vary. These procedures mainly depend on the competition for each vacancy/students’ places (both the state funded and self-financed). Some selection procedures include also interview with the admission board representatives.
In case a secondary education Certificate or Diploma has been obtained abroad, then, in compliance with the Law on Higher Education Institutions, this document has to be submitted for experts’ comparative conclusion to the Academic Information Center (Akadēmiskās informācijas centrs) (For more detailed information, please check website: http://www.aic.lv)
Names of education institutions
The system of higher education in Latvia is binary since the Law on Education Establishments sets a difference between academic and professional higher education but it is not strictly institutionalised. Universities and other institutions of higher education mostly run both academic and professional programmes. Tertiary level or higher education is provided in colleges and higher education institutions.
A college (koledža) is an educational institution that provides programmes of the first level of professional higher education. Colleges are the newest type of professional education institutions in Latvia. Colleges have been developed as independent education institutions or as structural units (or just as a first level study programmes) within higher education institutions. In spite of the different names of education institutions, the legal status of college education is the same, because the requirements for developing and providing education programmes are unified.
A higher education institution (augstskola) is an institution of the tertiary level education that provides second level professional higher education programmes and academic higher education programmes. Higher education institutions are divided into university and non-university higher education institutions.
University type higher education institutions are the ones, where education is focused on scientific and research activities in science area, thus they mainly provide academic education programmes and related professional programmes. In non-university higher education institutions study work is focused on mastering professional knowledge and skills. In these higher education institutions research work is being carried out in specific areas of science, national economy or art.
There can be distinguished three groups of programmes: academic programmes leading to academic degrees, professional programmes based upon the standard of the first academic degree, thus making graduates eligible for further academic studies, and the applied professional programmes oriented towards higher professional qualifications but not providing background for direct admission to further academic studies.
Academic higher education programmes are based upon fundamental and/or applied science; they usually comprise a thesis at the end of each stage and lead to a Bachelor’s degree (bakalaurs) and Master’s degree (maģistrs). The academic degrees are awarded in a certain area of science (there are 8 groups of different branches of science – education sciences, humanitarian sciences, social sciences, nature sciences, engineering sciences, agricultural sciences, health sciences, environmental sciences. Each of these groups includes several sub-branches of science). Duration of Bachelor’s programmes may be 3 to 4 years at different institutions. The 3-4-year Bachelor’s degree programme is considered as a complete academic qualification. Master’s degree is awarded after the second stage of academic education and requires at least 5 years of university studies.
The Law on Higher Education Institutions and the Law on Vocational Education and Training stipulate a two level professional higher education – the first level professional higher education or college education (2-3 years) leading to the professional qualification Level 4 (diploms par pirmā līmeņa profesionālo augstāko izglītību), and the second level professional higher education leading to the qualification level 5 (2-3 years). The first level professional higher education programmes or college programmes offer to acquire complicated professions (bank staff, business specialists, IT specialists, legal assistants, engineering technicians), and neither studies nor further activities are related to scientific research work. The qualifications of the graduates correspond to professional qualification Level 4 (Level 4 - qualification that allows to perform the execution of complex tasks under changing conditions, to take responsibility for the allocation of resources, to organize and manage the work of other specialists and/or workers), that allows him/her to compete in the labour market or to continue his/her education in a consecutive programme for obtaining a higher professional qualification. These programmes are considered to be "non-university" higher education programmes.
The qualifications obtained in the second level professional higher education programmes correspond to professional qualification level 5. (Level 5 – the highest qualification of a specialist in a given occupation. Provides the capacity for independent analysis, to take decisions, to design and/ or plan, to organize, manage, to control and/ or carry out scientific research activities in a given branch). Usually professional Bachelor’s (Bakalaurs) degree in a certain branch of national economy is obtained simultaneously with the qualification. These programmes are considered to be "university" higher education programmes.
Having mastered a programme of professional higher education, students are awarded a professional qualification or a professional Bachelor’s degree that can be followed by further 1-2 years of professional Master’s studies. The Master’s degree (Maģistrs) of higher professional education is awarded if the total duration of studies is at least five years.
There can also be the so-called "short" second level professional higher education study programmes (1-2 years), where a qualification is obtained on the basis of the previously acquired first level professional higher education or academic Bachelor’s degree. In total the duration of professional qualification Level 5 study programmes is not less than 4 years after secondary education and not less than 2 years after college education.
7. Post graduate education (ISCED level 6)
Master’s degree or the equivalent degree (graduates of 5-6 year professional higher education programmes in Law and Medicine can continue education at postgraduate level directly) is required for admission to doctoral studies (Ph.D.). Doctoral studies last 3-4 full-time years. They include advanced studies of the subject in a relevant study programme (or an equivalent amount of independent research while working at a university, research institution, etc.) and a scientific research towards doctoral thesis. Publications in internationally quoted scientific journals are required before public defence of the doctoral thesis as an integral part of a study programme. The Council of Science appoints Promotion Council and sets the procedures for an award of Doctor’s degrees.
8. Grading system
Educational achievements are assessed in a ten-point system: 10 with distinction (izcili), 9 excellent (teicami), 8 very good (ļoti labi), 7 good (labi), 6 almost good (gandrīz labi), 5 satisfactory (viduvēji), 4 almost satisfactory (gandrīz viduvēji), 3 weak (vāji), 2 very weak (ļoti vāji), 1 very very weak (ļoti, ļoti vāji).
The mark 8 (very good) has the same function as the mark A in the ECTS grading scale – it means that the knowledge and skills correspond fully to the expected maximum level. Marks 9 and 10 are evidence of knowledge and skills substantially higher then expected at the appropriate level of learning and are therefore somewhat like A+ and A++. Grade 7 (good) is approximately equivalent to B in ECTS, 6 can be compared with C, 5 with D, and 4, which is used as the very lowest pass mark – with E.