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6. EQUALITY OF EDUCATION

Paragraph 3 of the Latvian Education Law (1998), which went in to effect on June 1, 1999, guarantees equality in education for all residents: "Every citizen of Latvia, any person having the right to hold a non-citizen passport, any person having permanent resident status, any citizen of a European Community nation having temporary resident status and their children have the right to an education regardless of their financial and social status, race, ethnic origin, sex, religious or political affiliation, health, profession or place of residence".

Paragraph 4 of the Education Law defines the mandatory nature of education in Latvia: "The basic school or continuation of acquiring basic education until reaching the age of 18 shall be mandatory."

6.1. Educational opportunities for special needs children

To assure true educational equality, special attention is paid to programs for special needs children and children with behavioural problems.

The main directions of these efforts include:

Special education programs are designed based on the level of emotional and physical disorder;

Special education curricula are designed based on the health and capabilities of the students;

Special education includes personality analysis, correction, medical treatment and rehabilitation;

Special education takes advantage of alternative teaching methods;

The integration of children with mild disorders into regular basic programs and special classes at regular basic facilities;

Special education and training for adult invalids;

Development of a special education program for prisons.

A significant accomplishment in line with "Education for All" goals was the series of programs started in 1990 for the education of children previously thought to be impossible to educate.

Social and pedagogic correction classes have been established, allowing children with behavioural problems to complete their basic education.

More details in the section "Special Education".

6.2. Educational equality for ethnic minorities

Basic education in Latvia is available in Latvian, Russian, Polish, Hebrew, Ukrainian, Byelorussia and Gypsy. Children of minorities can attend minority schools or classes. The National Standard of Basic Education states that, in order to facilitate the integration of minority children into Latvian society and to facilitate their continuing education in Latvia, special attention must be paid to teaching them Latvian. Students attending minority programs are required to take Latvian as a second language.

Along with the basic program, children at minority schools also learn about their respective history and culture.

Latvian in minority schools is taught at the highest levels in order to assure that the student will be able to continue his education in Latvian. More details in the section "Mandatory Basic Education".

6.3. Availability of education regardless of parental financial status

A significant provision in the national educational guarantee is the availability of education regardless of parental financial status. According to the Education Law Basic education is free. Private schools can charge tuition.

Pre-schoo land basic education at public schools in Latvia is funded by the national and regional budgets. Regional governments and various community organizations provide educational assistance to poor families.

Foreigners contract with individual schools regarding tuition costs.

Citizens of European Community nations and their children have the same rights as Latvian citizens and permanent residents regarding tuition costs.

6.4 Gender equality in education

Availability of education is usually not a problem in economically developing countries such as Latvia. Basic education in Latvia is a mandatory nine-year program (seeTable1.).

Statistics pertaining to gender equality in education after 1991 show that women have equal educational opportunities, equal rights to stipends and assistance; therefore, it can be said that there is no gender discrimination in education in Latvia.

Table 1.

Statistical information based on student gender for 1997/98 academic year.

Educational level

Total

Girls

Pre-school education

 

68437

 

32853

Grade 1-6

 

209554

 

101205

Grade 7-9

 

95001

 

47338

Grade 10-12

 

42699

 

26502

High education establishments

 

64948

 

35503

Source: National Statistics Commission data , 1998.

The discrepancies in numbers of boys and girls attending school in Latvia are not due to discrimination against girls, but rather a result of demographics. The number of boys born each year far exceeds the number of girls born annually.

Looking at the enrollment of girls in pre-school, basic and secondary programs, it can be seen, that in basic programs, which are mandatory, the number of girls is proportional to the number of girls in that age range. Secondary school is not mandatory in Latvia, and usually attracts those students interested in further education. Here the proportion of girls is significantly higher, attesting to the fact that more girls are interested in pursuing higher education.

Analyzing data regarding education beyond the secondary level, it can be seen that the average educational level of women is higher than that of men (see Table 2.).

Table 2.

Ratio of males and females having completed secondary school, middle level professional training and higher education in 1989

Age

Urban

Rural

Females %

Males %

Females

Males

20-24

96.1

92.4

88.7

81.9

25-29

94.0

88.8

83.1

74.4

30-39

88.9

88.1

71.7

60.6

40-44

83.9

74.2

57.9

47.4

45-49

73.5

64.9

43.7

31.1

50-54

63.8

59.2

33.9

27.2

55-59

48.3

49.2

23.0

22.5

60-64

44.0

45.9

19.1

20.9

Source: National Census data, 1989.

Latvian Statistics Commission data shows that in 1995 most organised educational efforts were attended by women (see Table 3.).

Table 3.

Proportion of females in adult education programs

Programs of study

Percentage of females enrolled

German language

81.1

French language

70.7

English language

69.6

Cultural education

66.5

Health and environment

68.1

Practical art

58.2

Family education

88.8

Economical education

49.9

Marketing

61.0

Source: National Statistics Commission data, 1996.

Considering statistical information regarding gender equality in education and "Education for All" indicators, it can be stated that both sexes have equal educational opportunities at all levels`.

Number of pre -school education institutions 1993-1998

Years

1991

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

Pre–school education institutions

1120

636

651

607

609

591

585

Schools with pre–school education groups

     

135

160

174

168

Private pre–school institutions

 

4

4

9

14

20

30

Source: Ministry of Education and Science National Revenue Service operational data

Figure 1.

Source: Ministry of Education and Science, National Revenue Service operational data

Enrollment data of pre-school age children

By 1999 57% of all five- and six-year-old children in Latvia were attending a

pre-school education facility.

Parental interest and involvement in their child’s overall development and education is increasing and they are more concerned with adequately preparing them for the basic program (see Table 5., Figure2).

Table 5.

Number of children who started grade 1 from the 1996/97 academic year to the 1998/99 academic year

Years

1996/97

1997/98

1998/99

Children who started grade1

36437

36925

33797

Children who attended a pre–school education facility

28455

20000

19104

Figure 2.

Source: Ministry of Education and Science, National Revenue Service operational data

In rural Latvia poor infrastructure and widespread demographics make it problematic for parents to transport their children to pre-schools. Special transportation arrangements on the part of the schools are cost prohibitive at this time.

Lack of vacancies at pre-schools also create problems for the parents. One of the parents, most often the mother, gives up her right to employment, which creates even more financial hardship for the family; all of this results in a psychologically stressful and socially unfavorable environment for the child.

Private schools are not an option for most parents because of tuition costs.

The need for more qualitative and accessible pre-school education facilities is underlined by the fact that the greatest number of repeaters are in the first couple of years of basic school. This clearly shows that children are entering basic school inadequately prepared. This trend is more pronounced in rural schools; urban pre-school programs are much better attended.

Private pre-schools

Numerous pre-school education facilities have been established since 1991. According to Ministry of Science and Education statistics, 28 private pre-school education facilities had been opened as of January 1, 1999; 2 private pre-school programs had been established at 2 existing schools during this time. The cost of tuition and other expenses at private pre-schools is incurred by the parents. For this reason, these schools are not an option for poor families.

Minority opportunities in pre-school education

Just as in the case of mandatory basic education, any resident of Latvia is guaranteed the right to pre-school education in his native language. Pre-school programs are taught in Latvian, Russian, Polish, Lithuanian and other languages. Statistics show, however, that Russian is the most often used language at minority schools (see Table 6.). Only a handful of pre-school programs are in reality taught in another minority language. In all minority schools, where instruction is in a language other than Latvian, all children are required to learn Latvian as well.


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