Latvian national Observatory report 2000

7. International co-operation for VET modernisation

International co-operation is very important for VET modernisation. It involves new human and financial resources and experience.

International co-operation is an essential part of the Leonardo da Vinci programme. The Leonardo da Vinci programme within its projects helps to develop clever and inquisitive VET teachers, improves vocational skills and knowledge of VET students, motivates VET teachers and students to improve their vocational qualification. 1999 was the first year when Latvia participated fully within Leonardo da Vinci programme, implementing 56 projects with a total budget 350 845 EUR. These projects involved on-the-job-training of students and workers and experience exchange of teachers. The schools most actively participating within the programme are: Riga State Technical College, Olaine College of Mechanics and Technology, Riga Tourism School, Liepaja Secondary Vocational School No.48, Malpils Agricultural Technical Secondary School, Latvian Culture School, Riga Craftsman’s Building Secondary School etc. As a positive example for participation within the Leonardo da Vinci programme must be mentioned Valmiera Secondary Vocational School. In 1999 it drafted three projects and all where accepted. It can be considered that the schools’ interest about the programme has become firmly established. In 1998 30 VET schools or 25% of total number, in 1999 20 or 16% of total, in 2000 22 or 18% of total, were involved within Leonardo da Vinci projects. In total during 1998 - 2000, there were 47 VET schools or 39% of total number involved within Leonardo da Vinci projects. The co-operation took place with Sweden, Finland, France, Great Britain, Germany and other EU countries.

The Professional Education Centre within the framework of the Leonardo da Vinci programme has a co-operation project with ITF (Innovationstransfer und Forschungsinstitut fur Berufliche aus und Weiterbildung) in Germany. The goal of this project is to elaborate a “Self-assessment guide” as a support to VET administrators for preparing their institution for accreditation.

Under the Phare Programme VET 2000 projects “Qualification Infrastructure” and “Development of College Study Programmes” have been implemented. These two projects were an immediate extension of respectively the Phare HIVET project “Development of a Methodology for the System of National Occupational and Educational Standards” and “Strategy for Higher Vocational Education”. Strategy aimed at the introduction of 3 years college education as to be the first stage in higher professional education leading to qualifications at CEDEFOP level 4.

In addition these two projects have been designed and managed in such a way that the Centre for Professional Education - PIC got the opportunity to enhance its projectmanagement skills and expertise with regard to standard development and curriculum development. In that respect these two projects are a continuation of the previous Phare HIVET project “Strengthening PIC”.

The main outcomes of project “Qualification Infrastructure” are:

  • The ITE sector and the Construction sector are described following professional methods of data collection (through professionally designed questionnaires) and data processing. Experts from the Dutch Centre for Innovation of Education - CINOP trained the ITTE working group and the Construction working group in these methods. (January 2000)

  • Occupational Standards for the occupations: “Programmer” and “Manager of Construction Works” have been designed following professional methods in data collection and data processing.

  • Educational attainment targets for the above occupations have been designed.

  • A group of seven Latvian experts are ready to train teachers in the design of written tests. Expert from CINOP delivered to this group a hands-on training in the techniques of written test-design. (September 2000)

  • National Standard for College Education has been designed. This standard now is formally under discussion before it will be sent to the Cabinet of Ministers for approval.

  • With regard to branch committees: Leading associations within the ITTE sector signed a Letter of Intent to set up an ITTE branch committee. The setting up of a branch committee in the Construction sector still is under discussion. It is far from certain whether in other sectors social partners will set up branch committees.

  • Standard Development Manual and Student Assessment Manual are prepared.

  • Finally: a considerable number of representatives from the Latvian ITTE sector, the Construction sector and from the educational field are well trained in the methodology of data collection, data processing and standard-design. Also the PIC staff enhanced to a great extent their expertise in these matters.

The outcomes of project “Development of College Study Programmes” are:

  • In general the basic outcome is: the first year of the programme “Programmer” and “Administrator of Computer Networks” has been implemented in Riga Technical College and in Riga Technical University. The first year of the programme “Manager Building Construction” has been implemented in Riga Construction College. The first year of the programme “Manager Road Construction” has been implemented in Riga Technical University.

  • In September 2000 the necessary equipment has been installed in the participating establishments and the equipment is operational. Teaching aids have been purchased.

  • In order to cover the teacher training necessary for the implementation of the courses the working groups did not consist only of the actual curriculum developers but also of their colleague teachers.

  • In May 2000 the projectmanagement team organized an information meeting with participating establishments about the necessary PR activities to be undertaken by the participating establishments.

  • In March 2000 a proposal for the National Standard College Education have been submitted to the MoES. This standard is now under formal discussion as a preparation for submission to the Cabinet of Ministers.

  • Curriculum Development Manual is prepared.

Within the frames of Phare programme experts from Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) prepared report “The analysis of state’s education policy”. The objective of this report was to analyse the processes in Latvian education system, and with the help of independent experts set up recommendations for further development strategy of education in Latvia.

The international co-operation within continuing education is supported by the Continuing Education Development Foundation. At the end of 1999, the foundation, in co-operation with MoES, Banking Institution of Higher Education and non-governmental organisation “European Movement - Latvia”, started the project “Development of Latvian Continuing Education and Training”. The aim of the project is to raise the level of professional competence of the employed, thus improving their performance under the circumstances of a fast-changing social and economic environment, and alongside with strategies for the accession to the EU. This will be implemented through the development, approbation, delivery, evaluation and dissemination of continuing education programmes (modules) on different finance and economics fields. The project Consortium consists of public, non-governmental organisations, universities and private companies from Latvia, Sweden, Great Britain, Spain.

The State Employment Service also has co-operation with foreign partners to improve the competence of its staff in work with clients, to raise accessibility to information about the situation in the labour market and SES services. During 1999 successful co-operation was going on with partners from Sweden, Denmark and Lithuania.

Teacher and trainer training ETF project involving Latvia and Lithuania “Reshaping the focus and structure in VET teacher and trainer training” is continuing. In 2000 about 40 teachers from higher educational establishments and VET schools took part in the project. Such activities are carried out in 2000:

  • the methods for labour market demands research are acknowledged;

  • the needs for VET TTT according to the demands of labour market are acknowledged;

  • the cooperation with partners in Lithuania is established.

In 2001 it is planned to

  • to support positive changes in VET institutions;

  • to elaborate a strategy of TTT in Latvia;

  • to promote the professionalism of higher educational establishments staff in vocational pedagogy.

The co-operation between National Observatories of the Baltic States started in 1997, when the first workshop of Baltic National Observatories took place. The main output of the workshop was a concluding declaration on vocational education and training and labour market research. The second workshop was held in 1998 in light of the “Common Education Space” agreement (the three Baltic states signed this in summer 1998). The agreement on co-operation between National Observatories to carry out comparative studies on VET legislation, systems and regulated professions was reached.

The third workshop was held in November of 1999. The protocol of common understanding between the ministries of education of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania and three National Observatories was signed. It proposes co-operation and co-ordination in VET research at national, regional and school levels. The protocol stresses the necessity to involve experts from all three countries in the assessment of VET institutions, as well as necessity to carry out research on joint training in professions where a low number of specialists is needed.

Additionally, in autumn of 1999 the Consultative Inter-governmental Council on implementation of a common education space at secondary education level was established.

The result of Baltic Observatories co-operation is a joint report “The comparative analysis of VET and regulated professions in Baltic States.”

8. Conclusions: challenges and further needs

1. The Law on Vocational Education adopted in 1999 is a good legislative foundation on which to base reforms within IVET. The enforcement of the Law is the main objective for changes.

2. The Law on Vocational Education determines new level of vocational education - first level of higher vocational education, which leads to level 4 vocational qualifications. Such educational programmes are provided by colleges. There are plans to offer more and more new programmes at this level. At the same time awareness raising must be done within society. Often employers do not know what level specialists are prepared by colleges. The conservatism of society is demonstrated by the fact that part of the population thinks that first level higher vocational education obtained at universities is more valuable than the same programme obtained at colleges which have grown from IVET schools.

3. In moving towards the EU and joining the mutable European labour market, life long learning becomes a priority. To make reforms in this field more purposeful it is necessary to adopt the Law on Adult Education. The Law on Education (in force as of 1 June 1999) chapter 46, article 3 states: “The content of adult education programmes, the procedure for developing and approving these programmes, standards of adult education, funding and other issues are regulated by the Law on Adult Education and other laws”. The draft law was introduced to Saeima in 1998, but it is not adopted yet. Legislative alignment is the primary requisite to start reforms in adult education.

4. The MoES implements the state policy and development strategy in education. The MoES has elaborated a new draft of the Education development strategy programme 2000 - 2004.

5. Every year decreases the number of employees in industry and increases the number of employees in the services. So VET schools should continue reducing technology oriented programmes and increase services oriented programmes.

6. The existing infrastructure of VET schools should be used more goal based for ensuring of continuing vocational education and training.

7. In order to prepare a qualified labour force, VET schools must be provided with the newest technologies and best teachers. Social partners are already involved in the elaboration of professional standards and educational programmes, they join the work of Training and Examination Centres. The next step should be the implementation of state policy that stimulates enterprises to participate in the provision of VET equipment and places for on-the-job training.

8. Low salaries cause the lack of well-qualified teachers. The law On Vocational Education states that starting from September, 2004, only persons with pedagogical education will have the right to teach at VET schools, but nothing is done at the national level to stimulate teachers to stay at schools. The responsibility for obtaining pedagogical education is left to schools and teachers themselves, and there is no extra salary to support concurrent work and studies. Social partners are also insufficiently involved in the continuing education for VET teachers.

9. Funding must be provided for the development of remedial classes at VET schools for those who enter VET with a low level of prior knowledge. At the same time it is necessary to improve the work of vocational guidance and counselling in order to help youngsters choose the right profession.

10. VET is one of the ways to ensure the population with access to the labour market and a means of subsistence. So its duty is to involve representatives from different target groups in order to limit social exclusion and tension in society. It is necessary to open new educational programmes for people with specific needs. The implementation of such programmes is hindered by a lack of co-ordination between different ministries, e.g., training for unemployed and disabled persons is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Welfare, prisons - under the Ministry of the Interior, but VET schools under the MoES, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Welfare.

11. There is an emerging trend of CVT commercialisation. If large and economically stable enterprises can afford to invest in the education of their employees then small enterprises are struggling simply to survive. There is also a “grey” labour market in the country, that is, people are working without benefit of a labour contract and social guarantees. The adult education centres founded by local governments can help their population, but only in the case that they have money. So it can be considered that access to CVT is not equal for all. It is the duty of legislators and government to limit this form of discrimination.

12. Many positive changes have happened in VET during 1999 - 2000. Their continued existence is determined by the fact that a new generation who have been born and educated in an open and democratic society are entering VET both as students and as teachers.

End of the text. Further chapters are annexes

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