Latvian national Observatory report 2000
MODERNISATION OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING IN LATVIA

3.4.1.4. Organisation of the training provision within each level

In Latvia during 1999/2000 121 vocational education establishments were in operation, of those 5 private (offering accredited programmes), 5 local government operated and 111 state operated. State operated schools are under the jurisdiction of different ministries: 52 under the Ministry of Education and Science, 6 under the Ministry of Welfare, 38 under the Ministry of Agriculture, 15 under the Ministry of Culture. This division of administrative responsibility is a relic of the Soviet era, when each sector was responsible for its own human resource development. Such fragmentation does not, of course, encourage the development of a unified education system, therefore one of the government’s priorities is to establish a leading role for the Ministry of Education and Science.

The largest number of vocational education establishments can be found in Riga and other larger cities. During the 1999/2000, 43 of 121 vocational education establishments were located in Riga. There is at least one vocational school in every district (except one - Balvu district).

Training in approximately 220 profiles can be acquired at vocational education establishments...

 Table 4. Enrolment in VET schools by field of studies (according to the National Classification of Education, 1999), 1997/98 - 1999/2000

Code Fields of studies 1997./98. 1998./99. 1999./2000.
Total

45672

46237

47703

0 General education

714

722

696

011 General programme

714

722

696

2 Humanities and art

1981

1839

2983

21 Art, music and choreography

1821

1605

2803

22 Humanities

160

234

180

3 Social sciences

6019

7312

7852

32 Information and communication sciences

47

55

43

34 Business and administration

5831

7088

7646

38 Law

141

169

163

4 Physical sciences and mathematics

421

197

828

48 Computer sciences

421

197

828

5 Engineering and manufacturing

22034

21710

16734

52 Engineering and engineering trades

*

*

9370

54 Manufacturing and processing

*

*

2031

58 Architecture and construction

*

*

5333

6 Agriculture

4616

4391

2348

62 Agriculture, forestry, fishery

4449

4244

2196

64 Veterinary sciences

167

147

152

7 Health and welfare

1560

1684

1885

72 Medicine, dentistry and pharmacy

335

333

178

76 Health and social care

1225

1351

1707

8 Services

7894

8278

10230

81 Personal services

7077

6599

6959

84 Transport services

247

895

2178

85 Environmental protection

44

-

78

86 Civil and military defence

526

784

1015

* data not available

In 1997 the unified Classification of Education of the Republic of Latvia was enacted, but in December of 1998 a new version was approved, which had been harmonised with the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED-97). This means that statistics are based on two different classifications and are difficult to compare.

As can be seen from the chart, the largest number of students are enrolled in engineering and technologies programmes, however, this number has a tendency to decrease yearly. A significant decrease has also occurred in the number of students enrolled in agriculture programmes. This can be explained by the general depression in the agricultural sector which followed after the period of optimism in the early nineties. Service sector programmes are becoming more and more popular. These programmes also include new profiles such as designer-stylist. Each year the number of students enrolled in social science programmes also increases, and the number of programmes offered in management increases, too.

Student incentive. There are two incentives offered to students of vocational education establishments: student dormitories and personal maintenance grants.

Of the 121 vocational education establishments in operation during the 1999/2000 academic year only 20 schools did not have student dormitories. 32.5% of students require dormitories and vocational schools can meet 99.5% of the demand. Rental costs in dormitories are comparatively very low, which is why students much prefer them to other types of housing. Generally dormitories also contain public catering services, which allow students to take their meals cheaply on-campus.

Each full-time student at state and local government operated vocational education establishments receives monthly a minimum personal maintenance grant of 4.5 LVL from the state. In planning the average monthly grant budget, institutions calculate an average of 8.5 LVL (which is the average grant) per student per month. Each institution has its internal regulations on what categories of students can receive a higher grant. The maximum maintenance grant can be 27 LVL per month. Depending on the kinds of agreements with enterprises in which the school has entered, students may also receive part of what they have earned during their practical training placement.

Along with the grant, full-time students are reimbursed 50% of their travel expenses from home to school.

Both the opportunity to receive cheap housing and the maintenance grants are factors that attract students from low-income families and persons who feel the need to become financially independent to vocational education establishments. The fact that students of vocational education establishments are more strongly motivated to begin living independently than students of general secondary education institutions is also indicated by the study performed by the University of Latvia Institute of Philosophy and Sociology: “A sociological portrait of Latvian youth”.

Dropouts. Each year there are students who leave vocational education establishments without completing a full course of study. In the period from 1 September 1998 to 1 September 1999, 13.8% of students left vocational education establishments. This same level of school leaving has existed also in previous years. Half of the early leavers (51.4%) were first year students.

A comparison of the reasons for leaving school among students having completed basic education and those having completed secondary education indicates that in both groups the main reasons are a lack of success in their studies and truancy, which could be attributed to the lack of a realistic view of abilities and interests on the part of the students. This is an issue for vocational guidance specialists, who should help young people choose the right profession. Young people who have completed secondary education most often discontinue their studies due to family circumstances and more seldom transfer to another school.

The second most frequently mentioned reason for dropout of first year students is their very low level of knowledge entering VET schools. General education programmes are considered to be completed even if marks in all subjects are 1 = very, very poor. Entering VET schools where programmes are considered to be completed if final marks are not lower than 4 = almost satisfactory, it is very hard for students to reach such a level.

For example, of all students, who enrolled in MoES VET schools in the 2000/2001, 33% had in their education documents marks in at least one subject of 3 = poor or lower.

Extra financing should be provided for remedial classes to allow students to increase their knowledge.

 

It is obvious that students who transfer to another school continue their education, but there are no data about what happens to the others.

 

Language of instruction. Teaching in vocational education establishments takes place in two languages: Latvian and Russian. In the 1999/2000 academic year the language of instruction for 12,002 students, or 25% of the total, was Russian; in 1998/99 it was 28%, but in 1995/96 it was 35%. This shows that the number of students for whom Russian is the language of instruction is gradually decreasing.

The “Law on Education” (1998) determines that starting from September 1, 2004 the language of instruction at state and municipal VET schools for all newly enrolled students is the state (that is Latvian) language. This rule has already been in force in higher educational establishments from September 1, 1999. This may cause the decrease in the number of students with Russian as the language of instruction. There are no data on how many graduates of basic schools with Russian as the language of instruction continue studies in VET school groups with Latvian as the language of instruction.

As there is still three years this rule comes in force, the situation can change in such ways: 1) this clause will be changed and state and municipal VET schools will continue to provide education in Russian; 2) the private institutions will provide education in Russian and state schools will lose a great number of students. Taking in mind the number of Russian speaking people in Latvia it will not be easy to implement Latvian as an only language of instruction in secondary education stage at state and municipal schools. This matter is still under discussions.

Student/teacher ratio.

During the 1999/2000 academic year 5,380 educational staff were employed at vocational education establishments where they taught 47,703 students. The ratio of teachers to students is 1:8.8; in the previous academic year it was 1:8.5, but in general education schools the ratio is 1:9.4. The ratio of teachers to students is influenced by the fields of music and art, where there is much individual instruction. For example, at schools under the Ministry of Culture the teacher-student ratio is 1:2.4, but at schools under the Ministry of Education and Science it is 1:12.

 

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