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Table 15.

Proportion of students enrolled in educational programs compared with total number of students in respective age group

Educational level

 

Age group

1997/98

1998/99

Pre-school level (0 level)

3-6

52.1%

50.2%

 

Basic first stage ( 1. level)

 

7-10

91.8%

88.1%

 

Basic second stage (2. level)

 

11-15

81.0%

81.6%

Source: Board of the National Statistics Commission data

11.1. Children of mandatory school age, who are outside the system

The social stratification taking place in Latvia since 1991 has affected education as well. The number of children not attending school has risen, number of children starting school has decreased and the dropout rate has skyrocketed.

It is difficult to specify the number of school age children not attending school. In 1996 the Ministry Cabinet adapted regulations concerning "Accounting for school age children". Its goal was to provide a complete and accurate accounting of all school age children in Latvia. Technical and bureaucratic difficulties have kept these regulations from being implemented. There is imprecise or non-existent data regarding children emigrating from Latvia; this situation needs to be resolved in order to achieve an accurate accounting of school age children in this country.

In September 1997 the Ministry of Science and Education had a record of 1311 children ages 7 – 15 who were not attending school; 2103 children ages 15 – 18 had not completed the basic school program.

It is quite possible that the actual number of children not in school is considerably higher, because the number of homeless is increasing. Although accurate records are not kept in this regard, many people become homeless due to inability to keep up with communal payments or to repay communal debts. According to law, a family with underage children may be put out of an apartment for non payment of rent without the landlord being required to find them another residence.

Sometimes children find themselves outside the system due to lack of interest on the part of their parents. Usually these are children living in dysfunctional families where the value of education is not appreciated.

Children from families below the poverty level often find themselves in a complicated situation. These children usually are from large families, parents find it difficult if not impossible to provide all the necessities for participation in the educational process such as clothes, school supplies and textbooks.

In rare instances children from wealthy families do not attend school. Parental indifference and disinterest often result from busy and involved professional lives. The question of parental responsibility in the realm of education has not been resolved, nor has the question of their disregard of this responsibility. Paragraph 173 of the Latvian Administrative Criminal Code calls for financial penalties for parents who shirk their responsibilities, but this has been impossible to implement due to the inability of parents to pay the fines.

The annual campaign "School awaits you" (Tevi gaida skola), has become very instrumental in raising public awareness of this problem. The campaign is the result of efforts by the National Centre for the Protection of Children’s Rights, local government and school board officials, and the media as well as the support of community organizations and private individuals. The mission of the campaign is:

To inform the public about the ongoing efforts to achieve a 100% school attendance rate of school age children;

To formulate and implement a mechanism whereby an accurate accounting of school age children can take place; to straighten out the problems with local government inter-communication and methodology coordination systems;

To draw the attention of home owners, housing officials, medical personnel, transportation and social workers, custody and civil courts, the police and educational and cultural facilities to their role in children’s educational rights;

To encourage community organizations and businesses to assist families with the purchase of school supplies;

To encourage the media to cover the beginning of the school year and to emphasize the importance of education;

To utilize available data regarding school age children to assure that each child is enrolled in appropriate educational programs.

The National Centre for the Protection of Children’s Rights started an educational program in 1999 called "A lesson in children’s rights for adults". It deals in part with the situation of children outside the system. The main goal of the program is to educate experts who work in the field of children’s rights such as rural custody court personnel, teachers who work with special needs children, teachers who work at facilities of social correction and social workers who deal with "street" children. As a result of this program, Latvia will, for the first time, have professionally trained social workers equipped to deal with the "street children" situation.

Main accomplishments in basic education 1991 – 1999

A system of academic standards has been established. The standards specify which courses are mandatory, the content of those courses and the main requirements of those courses. Each school may develop its own program of study based on student needs, interests and abilities. Educational decentralization and facility initiative are priorities of the system.

In 1998 the National Standard of Basic Education was formulated, which sets forth guidelines for the mandatory program for the next 10 years.

An effort is being made to balance the content of various courses of study so as to avoid information overload and to achieve true mastery of the subject. The emphasis of the basic program should be on the development of creative self expression, analytical and critical thought processes, communication skills, the ability to judge and evaluate happenings from a moral perspective and study skills.

To assure the inner harmony of the basic program of study, with emphasis on the four major areas of study – languages, societies, the laws of nature, art.

To assure that, along with academic principles, practical application of these principles is taught.

In 1999 the basic program was augmented by the addition of four courses – Health, Introduction to Economics, Civics and Ethics; these courses all improve the socialization skills of the student and assure that he will become a viable citizen in a free market economy and its continued development.

Free market principles have been introduced into the production and distribution of textbooks and other educational materials. Alternative textbooks are available for all mandatory subjects of study.

A unified system of national examinations was initiated in 1997. It is hoped that by the year 2002, a mechanism will be in place whereby it will be possible to analyze the quality levels of education based on these exams; it is intended to establish a system of national quality control as well.

12. SPECIFIC TYPES OF GENERAL EDUCATION

The General Education Law of Latvia provides for the following specific types of general education:

special education,

social correction and pedagogic correction.

Social and pedagogic correction

Educational programs:

Social correction is a program whose methodology and organization are specifically designed for school age children with deviant social behavior.

Pedagogic correction is a program whose methodology and organization are specifically designed for school age children who require supplementary instruction within the limits of the general education program.

In the section of the General Education Law pertaining to social and pedagogic correction, it is stated that centres of pedagogic correction can be established by the federal or local government, any juridical entity or individual. Any institution of learning may open its classes to those requiring social or pedagogic correction. The founder of each particular school determines the acceptance policy at that school.

Pedagogic correction

The goal of pedagogic correction is to promote the mandatory general education of all school age children based on their specific needs.

Institutions of social and pedagogic correction

Institutions of social and pedagogic correction are those institutions of general education, which offer programs in social and pedagogic correction, assuring the availability and quality of the program, working with children from unfavourable families and underage violators of the law.

Pedagogic correction programs are also offered in special pedagogic correction classes, whose purpose is to create favourable conditions for gaining the mandatory general education, assuring that each child’s special educational and/or social needs are met.

Students

Pedagogic correction classes at the general education level accept students:

who require more time and special pedagogic and psychological help to complete the general education program in the specified time;

who have been vagrant, have not attended school for an extended time and for this reason have been unable to attain the appropriate level of education;

whose motivation to learn has not been developed and who consequently have not reached an age-appropriate educational level;

whose family environment does not promote studying, preparing homework and normal socialization.

The number of students in pedagogic correction classes is not to be less than three and not to exceed ten; classes may be combined.

An extended workday is mandatory in pedagogic correction classes in order to provide time for individual studies, preparation of homework, various interest groups, etc.

It is recommended that a social pedagogue and psychologist work with students in this program.

Information gathered by the Latvian education officials shows, that in 1998 there were 37 pedagogic correction classes in Latvia, accommodating 382 students. The number of these classes will only increase with additional responsibility for education being placed on local governments.

Funding

Local governments guarantee funding for these programs. Salaries and taxes are to be paid by federal budget subsidies earmarked for this purpose. Instructors working in pedagogic correction classes can expect a 30% increase in salary.

Social correction

Social correction is provided for those students whose behavior is socially deviant and unacceptable.

Institutions

Institutions social correction and re-education are responsible for implementing social corrections programs.

Students

Students are enrolled in social corrections programs by circuit court decree. Acceptance policy for the programs is set forth by the law "The adaptation of enforced education for juveniles" and Ministry Cabinet decree #226, "Decree pertaining to the acceptance of juveniles into institutions of education and re-education".

Evaluation of pedagogic and social corrections programs

Immediately upon the regaining of Latvia’s independence in 1991, a law was passed abolishing special juvenile correction facilities. The motivation for such a law was, in part, the vision of a democratic, crime free society, and in part an attempt to rid Latvia of the vestiges of a totalitarian system of repressive corrections. This action is now being reevaluated, as social corrections programs are put into place.

At the moment there is one juvenile correction facility in Latvia, "Strautini" for boys ages 11 – 15, set up following the guidelines set forth in the Latvian Education Concept. This facility can accommodate 100 boys. A second facility, "Pilcene" was opened in 1999 for young men ages 15 – 18. A facility for girls, "Naukseni", which can accommodate 60 girls, has also been opened.

The main accomplishments of the pedagogic and social corrections programs 1991 – 1999

The law "The adaptation of enforced education for juveniles" and the Ministry Cabinet decree #226, "Decree pertaining to the acceptance of juveniles into institutions of education and re-education" has been fine tuned and put into practice.

Social correction facilities complying with the guidelines set forth by the Latvian Education Concept, have been established.

Statutes for opening pedagogic correction classes have been established.

Pedagogic correction classes are being offered for students who have been outside the system for a while, giving them the opportunity to continue their education.

13. SPECIAL EDUCATION

Definition

Special education is a general education program including practical skills and professional training, for children with physical and emotional developmental disorders, and severe cases of psychoneurosis and somatic illness.

The goal of special education in Latvia is to create conditions and opportunities for children with special needs to receive an education at any institution of learning while accommodating those needs. At the same time, the program guarantees the child’s resulting psychological and medical adjustment and all-round readiness for a productive existence in society.

Legislation

The basic premise of the development of special education in Latvia is set forth in the Latvian Education Law and the Latvian General Education Law, in which special education is presented as one type of general education.

The concept and implementation of the special education program has as its priority the integration of special needs children into all institutions of general education.

Special education curricula

The Ministry of Science and Education is responsible for establishing the guidelines and content of special education curricula. These curricula consist of specific programs consisting of course and lesson plans for each group classification. The special education curricula are established so that each person, based on his or her special needs and abilities, is able to:

acquire a general education with emphasis on practical aspects;

acquire a professional education with emphasis on social and work skills;

acquire the skills to become a productive and successful member of society.

The requirements and standards of the general education program are adjusted somewhat to assure that children in the special education program are not overloaded beyond their abilities.

There are three levels of special education for children with emotional disorders:

Level A for children with minor emotional disturbances;

Level B for children with medium grade emotional disturbances;

Level C for children afflicted with severe emotional and developmental disorders.

Tutorials in basic education

All special education facilities in Latvia, in the interest of broadening their operations, promote a close working relationship with institutions of general and professional education, attended by students whose special needs correspond to the school’s present program.

In order to promote full integration of special needs children into the general education system, a national Developmental Centre and Integrating School Network is anticipated.

Teachers and medical staff at the Developmental Centre in conjunction with institutions of general education, conduct regular diagnostic tests to determine specific learning disabilities and developmental problems of the children. New instructional and methodological approaches are developed and specific classroom schedules and curricula are planned to address these needs. Programs of individualized education are also developed, the Centre also compiles developmental and medical information on each child, and it organizes and offers classes and seminars for teachers from general education facilities and parents.

The main purpose of the Integrating School Network in working with special needs children is:

to guarantee an educational program compatible with each child’s needs, implementing programs of individualized education

to organize the curriculum so that it complies with the guidelines set forth by the special education program and includes:

-special emphasis on practical application of information

-all-round student research and rehabilitation

-cooperation between parents, teachers and counsellors in developing individualized learning programs, creating a positive and beneficial study environment, and paying attention to developmental disorder compensation, which would promote a more meaningful existence, would allow the person to work and be a fully functioning member of society development of work capabilities and job skills, which would allow the person to effectively compete in the job market upon graduation.

to establish a data base and compile information about children’s development and medical conditions;

to prepare teachers, medical staff, parents and students for the integration of special needs children into school life;

technical preparation of individual schools so they can accommodate children with severe physical handicaps;

cooperation with special education developmental centres.

Special education procurement possibilities

Special needs children can receive special education on the basic, general or high school level at:

-convalescent boarding schools;

-rehabilitation centres;

-institutions of general or professional education, in special education or integrated

classes;

-at home or at medical facilities.

The network of special education facilities corresponds to the existing demand. During the 1999/2000 academic year 10,077 children with emotional and physical developmental disorders, hearing, sight and speech impediments, children with psychoneuroses, eating and breathing disorders studied in the 63 special education facilities and classes in Latvia. Establishment of special education classes at all schools of general education and an integrating school network is being promoted. 70% of the students in special education facilities have multiple disorders.

The special education program is set up as follows:

The first stage for grades 1 – 4;

The second stage for grades 5 – 9.

Since 1990, children who had earlier been considered impossible to teach, have been able to receive an education. Children with severe emotional disorders or several severe developmental problems are integrated into special education facilities. During the 1996/97 academic year there were 62 C-Level classes at 27 special schools with a total number of 366 students. By the 1999/2000 academic year the number of students had increased to 448 and there were 128 C-Level classes with a total number of 667 students. Children with minimal developmental disorders are gradually integrated into schools of general education.

Starting with the 1994/95 academic year, a 9-year special education program for emotionally disturbed children has been implemented. If any special education facility has the staff and financing to add grades 10, 11 and 12 for vocational training, it may do so. During the 1999/2000 academic year there were 48 vocational training classes with an enrollment of 459 students.

About 8000 children with various developmental disorders attend institutions of general education; they do not, however, receive adequate special help with their studies. The curricula are organized based on guidelines set forth by the Ministry of Science and Education and course and class schedules for special education facilities. Each school may modify and adapt the curricula to comply with general education standards for each specific subject.

Students

Acceptance policy

In order to achieve the integration of special needs children into the general education program, it is necessary to have a school that could guarantee that all children receive a quality education taking into account their capabilities and medical condition commensurate with program standards.

The changes in function of special education facilities are directly related to necessary reforms at schools of general education. These reforms are required in order to successfully implement integration of special needs students and they have three main aspects:

Scientific organization of educational materials and assuring that each school will have the necessary educational program information;

Training of the teaching and medical staff;

Guarantees of necessary funding and legislation.

It is imperative that a change in social attitudes and teachers’ attitudes and behavior result from these reforms. Special education facilities accept children as young as 7 years of age at any time during the academic year, based on recommendations of the regional or national pedagogic medical commission (in the child’s Record) and a written request by the parents.

Children are accepted or discharged from special education facilities or schools of general education based on recommendations of the regional or national pedagogic medical commission.

Each region has a pedagogic medical commission. Their work is organized, directed and coordinated by the Ministry of Science and Education.

Special schools for children with developmental disorders accept children based on medical diagnoses.

In Latvia special needs children fall into one of the following eight classifications:

Children with vision problems

Children with hearing problems

Children with speech impediments

Children with emotional development disorders

Children with somatic illnesses

Children with physical development disorders

Children suffering from psychoneuroses

Children with learning deficiencies and psychic blockage

Guarantee of school supplies

Financing for production and distribution of educational materials for special needs children comes entirely from the national budget. Cost effectiveness is the biggest problem in this case, since production is quite costly and the required amount of materials is relatively small.

Funding

The Ministry Cabinet prioritizes funding for special education facilities and special education classes in schools of general education. The General Education Law states that accredited special education programs are funded by the national budget as prioritized by the Ministry Cabinet.

Special education teaching staff and personnel

During the 1999/2000 academic year 2483 instructors and 240 medical personnel worked in special education facilities and classes.

The existing teacher education programs do not guarantee a special needs child with quality instruction, because:

there are not programs to train teachers to work in integrated classrooms and to work with children whose movements are impaired, who suffer from behavioral and psychoneurological disordering;

Students in the department of education do not receive adequate classroom time in psychology, special education, medicine and social education;

Teachers of special education do no receive enough training in work with children who suffer from severe emotional disturbances or multiple disorders.

Through cooperative efforts with Germany, Austria, Denmark and Sweden, regular courses, seminars and conferences are organized for special education teachers.

Certification

All 63 special education facilities in Latvia are accredited. As of June 4, 1998, 16 of the 63 facility directors were certified, 7 of them in the Expert category, 7 of them in the Highest category and 2 in the Medium category.

At special education facilities, grades 1-4 are combined to work with A-level, F-70 children and B-level, F-71 children using individualized and custom tailored teaching methods and programs. Upon finishing grade 4, the pedagogic board.

Grades 5 – 9 are separated into two levels, A and B, with differing curricula and varying levels of difficulty of subject matter.

All special education facilities, with the exception of the school for emotionally disturbed children, issue a diploma upon completion either at the Basic or high school level. Special boarding schools for emotionally disturbed children issue a certificate of completion. The General Education Law states that upon completion of a special education facility, the student also receives a diploma in basic education.

Employment opportunities, the relationship between training and employability

The work and vocational training requirements at special education facilities have changed:

Emphasis is being placed on providing the student with training and skills that will be useful to him upon graduation, not training that will deny him competitive status in the job market;

Training is being provided in professions in which the student can realistically expect to get a job upon graduation; this requires monitoring of job market conditions, candid appraisal of the student’s medical status, cooperation with vocational training facilities;

A technical and vocational training base is being developed along with an auxiliary farm system. A student’s preparation for life, vocational training commensurate with his abilities and medical condition takes place during the entire educational process.

Students who have completed vocational training classes and who have passed the qualifying exam, receive a certificate from the Ministry of Science and Education verifying this fact.

The Ministry of Science and Education has developed and affirmed regulations "About distribution of professional qualifying certifications at special education facilities", which outline the rules pertaining to the drawing up, the handing out, the registration, the keeping and copying of these certifications.

The main accomplishments in special education 1991 – 1999

A special education concept has been developed, which specifies the basic formulations in the development of special education (Ministry of Education and Science May 30, 1997, Decree #388).

A plan of action has been developed for the integration of special needs children into schools of general education (Ministry of Education and Science April 1, 1998, Decree #183).

Five special Developmental Centres have been established to facilitate the above mentioned integration process (Ministry of Education and Science April 9, 1996, Decree #146).

The 1989/1990 academic year saw the start of education programs for students previously considered impossible to teach (children with severe emotional disturbances or multiple disorders) in special education facilities.

Vocational training classes were established at special education facilities during the 1993/1994 academic year (grades 10 – 12) to guarantee vocational training and readiness for competition in the job market for emotionally disturbed students.

Statutes have been developed and affirmed regulating the work of the National Pedagogic Medical Commission, the Regional Pedagogic Medical Commissions, special education facilities, and special boarding schools for emotionally disturbed children.

Recommendations by the Ministry of Science and Education have been developed and affirmed regarding the integration of special needs children into general education programs. This will guarantee special needs children the right to a quality education commensurate with their abilities and needs at any educational facility in Latvia.

14. STUDENT PROGRESS EVALUATION

There is a system of educational guidelines and standards determined by the government in place in Latvia. Normative documents determine the following: Goal requirements for specific subjects; course curricula; knowledge and skill level; the description of the optimal level to be reached in each subject; knowledge and skill examination forms.

The student progress evaluation includes the range of information acquired, the student’s attitude toward education and each individual student’s developmental dynamics.

14.1. Testing at the basic level

The government does not strictly monitor teaching methodology; it does, however, set goals that are to be attained by all students upon completion of basic school.

Effective motivation is viewed as a top priority in basic education; reasoning skills and abilities are seen as important as is the dynamics of individual growth and development; acquired knowledge by itself is not what is rated.

There has been no formal grading system in grades 1 – 3 since the 1992/93 academic year; this was modified to include grade 4 in the 1998/99 school year. In grade 4 a 10 point system is used to evaluate the student’s progress in mathematics and Latvian. In schools where instruction takes place in a language other than Latvian, the student’s progress in Latvian is evaluated as well.

Teachers evaluate each student’s progress and notify the parents of the results in writing once a year.

The tests

Tests are administered annually to specific grades to test student’s level of knowledge and skill level.

In grade 1 students are expected to write a diagnostic test about a variety of things; the purpose of the test is to help the teacher evaluate the student’s progress and readiness for grade 2.

In grade 4 (grade 3) students write a final test on a variety of subjects to evaluate overall academic progress; in schools where instruction takes place in a language other than Latvian, students also must take a Latvian language test.

National tests on the basic level test the following:

-Reading ability (student’s ability to read and understand the text)

-Listening ability (student’s ability to listen, process information and follow

directions

-Writing ability

-Basic understanding of the map of Latvia

-Student’s creative development

-Student’s ability to work independently

-Student’s ability to differentiate between the significant and the

unimportant

-Student’s work habits

Upon completion of the basic program, students have achieved a level of knowledge and skills enabling them to successfully continue their education.

Promotion

The fact that a student has been promoted every year does not in itself guarantee that he or she has reached the expected academic level upon completing basic school. There are no government regulations governing promotion of students. There are, however, regulations regarding keeping a student in a grade for a second year. The school’s advisory board reviews all parental requests regarding not promoting a child.

Certification

Students do not receive a diploma upon completion of the first stage of basic school. Each grade has a progress report card, which has been approved by the government. The Ministry of Science and Education has established guidelines for student progress evaluation at the basic level along with criteria to be rated on the report card.

A satisfactory progress report is the prerequisite for continuing on in the next grade. The report card serves as the student’s academic record, even in the event of transferring to another school.

Student evaluation during the second stage of basic school

In grades 5 – 9 a student’s work is graded on a 10 point system.

Upon successful completion of classroom work and national examinations, students receive a certificate of completion along with their progress report.

In the event of entrance exams on the high school level, the certificate of completion serves as the student’s complete academic record as well as a record of all national If a student has not passed any of the mandatory national examinations, he or she receives only a report card.

Special education students receive a certificate of completion after completing the program at a special education facility.

Examinations

In grade 6 students are required to take national tests in their language of instruction (Latvian) literature and mathematics. The language exam tests speaking ability and language comprehension rather than grammar skills.

In grade 9 students take basic school final exams. There are mandatory written exams in their native language (Latvian) and algebra, tests in sports and a foreign language, and tests in two other subjects of the student’s choice. Students attending a school where instruction is in a language other than Latvian must pass a Latvian language exam.

14.2. Latvian students’ achievements as compared to students of other countries

According to the national bulletin "Education for All", covering the period 1991 – 1999, Latvia has participated in two international student progress studies.

Latvia took part in two studies sponsored by The International Association for the Evaluation of Education Achievement: "Reading Ability" and "The Sciences".

Latvian student results in the "Reading Ability" study

The "Reading Ability" study was the first international study that Latvia participated in. The study was conducted in Latvia a year later than in the other participating countries; for this reason the results were not included in the international reports.

Group A: Students ages 9 and 10

The reading test consisted of word recognition, reading for comprehension of a narrative, descriptive writing and graphically presented information (tables, maps etc.).

The study showed that the reading level of 9 and 10 year olds in Latvia was on the average level of the other 27 countries (see Table16.).

Table 16.

Table 16. Average level of literacy in group A

Place

Country

Form

Average age

Average literacy

       

all types of texts

narrative

texts

description text

documents

1

Spain

3

9,7

569

568

569

569

17

Latvia

3

9,8

502

488

485

534

25

Venezuela

3

10,1

383

378

369

374

According to the study, girls scored higher than boys.

According to the study, the scores vary greatly by region.

This study does not provide adequate information to compare the reading ability of urban students with that of rural students.

Group B: Students ages 14 and 15

The reading test consisted of reading for comprehension of narratives, descriptive writing and graphically presented information (tables, maps etc.). The students’ results were considerably below average in this age group; Latvia was 25th of 32 countries participating.(see Table 17.).

Table 17.

Average level of literacy in group B

Place

Country

Form

Average age

Average literacy

       

for all types of texts

narrative

texts

description

text

documents

1

Spain

8

14,7

560

599

541

580

25

Latvia

8

14,1

479

487

466

485

32

Botswana

9

14,7

330

340

339

312

According to the study, girls scored higher than boys.

This study does not provide adequate information to compare the reading ability of urban students with that of rural students. The study showed that Group A students had surpassed the average level of comprehension of graphically presented information, but lagged behind in comprehension of narratives and descriptive writing. The study showed that Group B students were below average in all three, with the greatest deficiency being shown in basic reading ability.

Latvian results in the 1992 Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)

Latvia took part in the TIMSS in 1992, the analysis of results took place in 1993/1994.

Three groups of students participated in the TIMSS:

Group A consisted of students from two consecutive grades with the greatest number of 9 year olds (grades 3 and 4 in Latvia); 9 and 10 year olds.

Group B consisted of students from two consecutive grades with the greatest number of 13 year olds (grades 7 and 8 in Latvia); 13 and 14 year olds.

Group C consisted of students from the last year of high school; they took part only in the physics study.

Latvian results were highest in the algebra and geometry part of the study, especially among 13-year old students.

Comparatively low results were posted in proportionality. Results for the 14-year olds were similar. The study showed that Latvian students were well educated in theory, but problems requiring practical application skills resulted in lower scores.

Even before the final study results were posted in 1995, Latvia had established a new, three-part examination system (theoretical, practical application, creative ability) to better evaluate student progress and achievement and to better identify areas needing improvement in mathematics and the natural sciences.

Main achievements in student progress evaluation 1991 – 1999

The Educational Curriculum and Examination Centre was established in 1994 under the auspices of the Ministry of Science and Education. The Centre guarantees development of general education curricula, academic goal diagnostics and educational quality control. It is also responsible for the development and dissemination of various forms and documents, specific programs of study and educational standards.

A student progress evaluation system based on internationally accepted criteria has been established.

Examinations of student progress are coordinated with the requirements of basic education standards.

A system of student progress evaluation not based on grades is in place in the first stage of the basic program.

Students’ progress in the second stage of the basic program is graded on a 10 point system.

A system of national testing was established in 1997. By 2002 it is hoped to establish an effective mechanism of educational quality diagnostics and control on a national level.

15. TEACHERS AND INSTRUCTORS

Work requirements

The Education Law, ratified June 1, 1999, states that any person having earned or any person in the process of earning an accredited degree in education may apply for a teaching position in the educational system. A diploma or equivalent document certifies the above.

To apply for a teaching position, the applicant must have an advanced degree in education or the equivalent in one of the sciences, the arts or work experience; this is in compliance with the Ministry of Science and Education regulation #74, October 16, 1996 pertaining to the training of educators.

Teacher education opportunities in Latvia

Teacher education is offered at educational facilities with accredited professional and academic programs of study.

Teachers can get the highest level of professional training by taking professional courses of study, which have been coordinated with the Latvian Professional Classifier and the capabilities of individual facilities. Along with guaranteeing the highest level of academic and professional education, colleges and universities also offer students the opportunity to raise their existing level of qualification or transfer to another area of specialization in the field of pedagogy.

Teacher education programs are 4 – 5 years long with an additional 2 years required for a Masters degree. Upon successful completion of the program of study, the student is awarded a college diploma and certification at a particular educational level – pre - school, Basic Stage I – and in a particular subject or subjects at the basic or secondary level, or certification for work in a specific aspect of education.

General requirements for work in education

Certain requirements exist for teachers at every level of education. Pre-school and basic school teachers are required to have an advanced professional degree in education. At the secondary level teachers are required to have an advanced degree in the subject or subjects to be taught as well as an advanced professional degree in education (see Table 18, Figure3.).

If qualified applicants with the required credentials are not available, the educational facility may hire an applicant without such credentials in order to assure the continuity of the educational process. These contracts are usually for one year.

Table 18.

Distribution of educational personnel in percents among Basic Stage I (primary schools) schools, Basic schools and special education schools in the 1998/99

 

Basic Stage I stage

Basic school

Special schools

Having advanced teaching degree

64.92

69.34

65.2

Having other advanced degree

 

3.83

5.05

5.69

Having a secondary pedagogical education

20.83

1.39

13.73

Having a secondary professional education

4.17

4.92

6.82

Having vocational certification

 

0.25

0.36

0.33

Having a secondary school diploma

6.08

5.93

8.32

Figure 3

.Source: LR Ministry of Education and Science Division of Information and analysis, 1999.

Until 1994 teacher education programs were available at the University of Latvia and professional teachers’ colleges, teachers’ institutes and speciality secondary facilities, and pedagogic classes at art or music schools. Upon completion of programs at teachers’ institutes of speciality secondary schools, the individual was qualified to teach at the pre-school or basic the first stage. There are teachers with this level of training teaching speciality subjects such as home economics, vocational studies and computer sciences, because upper level programs of study in these areas had not been established.

Statistical information about the 1998/99 academic year and information pertaining to age of educators from the 1995/96 to the 1997/98 academic year, shows us that the greatest number of teachers with advanced academic and professional education degrees in general education programs were 30 –39 years old (30.6%) and 40 – 49 years old (24.5%); this trend continues with 31.4% of teachers being in 30 – 39 year age range and 25.8% being in the 40 – 49 year age range. The number of teachers under the age of 30 has increased, however, from 18.6% to 20.8%.

The main social problems encountered by teachers are the following:

The teaching profession is not considered to be a prestigious one in our society;

The teaching profession is considered a feminine profession in our society;

Heavy workloads do not allow teachers time for continuing education; salary increases do not solve this problem.

Teachers’ salaries are low and are not commensurate with level of qualification, difficulty of the job and social significance of the profession.

The educational level of new teachers (having less than 2 years experience) has declined.

About 80% of teachers having worked for 10 years or more have advanced degrees. Only about 50% of teachers having worked for 2 years or less have advanced degrees.

The overall quality of educators has decreased since 1991. At present only 78% of teachers have any kind of upper level education.

In order to motivate students to enter the field of education and to keep experienced teachers in the profession, a restructuring of teachers’ salaries took place in 1995. More details in the section "Financing for ‘Education for All’ goals and objectives".

In order to raise the social prestige and status of the teaching profession, psychological and moral factors as well as professional income are important considerations.

Increasing skill levels in the educational profession

In realizing educational strategies in Latvia, an important consideration is increasing the skill levels of educators. The social reality of life in Latvia affects the field of teacher education as well; not all teachers in the profession have the necessary credentials, especially at the pre-school level

16. FINANCING WHICH CORRESPONDS TO THE GOALS AND OBJECTIVES OF "EDUCATION FOR ALL" PROGRAM

16.1. National budget educational expenditures

Like other former Soviet republics and post-socialistic countries, Latvia is in an economic transition and, based on its Gross National Product, can be considered a medium income nation.

Total expenditures for education from the national budget (includes local and regional budgets) in 1991 were 1.5% of the Gross National Product; this amount had increased to 4.9% by 1994.

In 1994, the percentage of educational expenditures from the national budget in proportion to the Gross National Product had increased from 4.2% to 7.7%. In 1995 total educational expenditures from the national budget were at 16.8%, which is the highest indicator during the time period covered by this report. In 1996, total educational financing was 16.2%, in 1997 it was 16.7%, in 1998 it had decreased to 14.7% (Figure 4.).

Figure 4.

National spending for education as a percent of total national budget expenditures 1995 - 1998

Source: Latvian Yearbook of Statistics, 1998.

Percentages in educational spending have increased since 1991, but considering that the Gross National Product is low, educational reforms are taking place without adequate financial resources.

The cost-per-student factor

During the time period covered by the report, a new, successful system of educational financing has been established. A transition has taken place whereby education is financed by a number of financial sources. The new system of financing is based on decentralization of the board of education and the trend toward de-monopolization.

In 1997, cost per student became a factor in educational financing. Starting that year, funds were allotted to regional governments based on the number of students in the respective region. Because there is no statistical information pertaining to family spending on education, it is difficult to assess the amount of funding from various sources invested in the education of one student.

The Latvian National Budget Economic Classifier does not provide information about expenditures per student by educational category – pre-school, basic and secondary. Information on expenditures per student in general education is available from the educator salary fund and amounts paid into social security. The amounts are as follows: in 1994 – 114.41 Ls, in 1997 – 158.38 Ls, in 1998 – 177.9 Ls and in 1999 – 184.47 Ls.

The amount of financing varies according to level of education. Expenditures per student consist of local and regional funding and teachers’ salaries. The information for 1998 is as follows: at the Basic Stage I level 120 Ls came from government funding and

134.08 Ls came from teachers’ salaries; at the Basic Stage II level 120 Ls came from government funding and 178.6 Ls came from teachers’ salaries.

Local and regional budgets also pay for rural students' transportation to the school closest to his or her home.

The national budget provides funding for the purchase of textbooks.

Educational spending per student in Latvia is relatively high because of low population density in the rural areas. Regional expenditures vary greatly; they are based on the number of students per class and financial capabilities of local and regional governments.

16.2. The expense structure in general education

Expenditures in general education consist of four main categories:

Expenses pertaining to teachers’ salaries and mandatory social security payments;

Expenses pertaining to the educational process such as textbooks,

supplies and other educational materials, visual educational aids,

educational inventory and teachers’ continuing education;

Expenses pertaining to the maintenance and upkeep of school buildings,

such as cost of electricity, heat, water, purchase of inventory not directly related to the educational process and salaries and social security payments for technical personnel;

Investments in educational development including major projects such

as construction of new schools, capital repairs and renovations of

existing buildings, significant changes in pedagogic procedures.

Spending for teachers’ salaries

Teachers’ salaries are currently based on a workload of 21 classroom hours per week. Individual salaries are affected by the educational level of the teacher and the length of time he has been in the profession.

In 1997 a special fund was earmarked in the national budget for expenses pertaining to teachers’ salaries and social security payments; this was in compliance with Ministry Cabinet regulation #480.

In 1998 this method of payment was set forth in the law "Pertaining to the 1998 national budget".

This fund covers salaries for teachers in general education and 95% of salary expenses for personnel at extracurricular centres.

The monies in the fund increased as teachers’ salaries were increased by an average of 4.5% in July 1998.

This increase, as well as the increase in national minimum wage, were both considered when projecting expenses for1999.

The national budget covers all costs pertaining to special education facilities for special needs children including special boarding schools, special education kindergartens as well as all other types of boarding schools.

Local primary schools are still locally funded.

Teachers with advanced degrees and teaching experience receive higher salaries than first-year teachers per work load.

School directors have access to about 10% of the salary fund to award in the form of special bonuses for outstanding job performance; these amounts can add up to about 20 – 30% of the teacher’s salary in some instances.

The principal or director of each school is responsible for the allotment of available funds for salaries and bonuses.

Recent salary reforms notwithstanding, the financial situation of the teaching profession continues to be problematic. Teacher’s salaries tend to be significantly lower than the average salaries of any other federal employees.

This disparity between education and other professions in the job market is a determining factor in the type of person entering the teaching profession. According to national statistics, teachers’ gross salaries over the last 6 years have been noticeably lower than the national average wage, which translates to an average of 35.04 Ls less


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