Latvian national Observatory report 2000

3. Modernisation of vocational education and training in the perspective of life long learning

3.1. Introduction

In 2000 the MoES has drafted the Education development programme 2000 - 2004. It sets the following main objectives for the modernisation of VET:

  • development of VET reform strategies and legislative background;

  • development of a goal-oriented and effective VET institutional structure;

  • implementation of VET programmes that meet the demands of the labour market;

  • development of human resources within VET;

  • elaboration of a goal-based financing system for VET.

3.2: Human Resources Development Strategy and priorities of the National Development Plan

The National Development Plan (NDP) is the most important program document for work with the EU regional policy and structural funds. NDP is developed as one of the basic strategic documents in the state. Its primary task is to characterise the development of Latvia and to initiate changes that in the medium term could facilitate growth of welfare of people and the whole state.

In accordance with the present social and economic situation in Latvia the NDP Steering Group that was set up with the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers of March 7, 2000 has approved five strategic objectives of future development of Latvia. They are:

to promote sustainable development of Latvia raising welfare of every resident;

to encourage growth and competitiveness of an educated and cultured person;

to develop democracy and perfect the system of public administration;

to foster regional development by decreasing and eliminating the unfavourable regional differences and supporting the favourable regional disparity;

to promote integration in the European Union.

At the beginning of 2001 The National Development Plan is just under development. The strategic memorandum is prepared and submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers. It is considered the National Development Plan will be prepared during this year.

The strategic memorandum of NDP gives concentrated view on the current state development and the potential development in the nearest future. It determines such priorities for state socio-economic development within the next six years:

  • Diversification of economic and orientation towards products with high added value.

  • Creation of a favourable environment for business development and attraction financial resources.

  • Increase of skills of labour force matching the needs of the labour market.

  • Development of economic infrastructure.

  • Increases of efficiency of public administration.

  • Integration of society.

  • Development of social infrastructure.

  • Sustainable regional development.

3.3. Preparations for European Social Fund (ESF) implementation

The very basic preparatory steps have been taken. The major part of ESF preparations was done in the framework of the EU Phare Special Preparatory Programme on the ESF including national and local seminars, study visits, simulation game.

3.4. Modernisation of initial vocational education and training

In June 1999, the new Law on Vocational Education was adopted. It provides a stable foundation for improvement of the VET system. The process of transition to a market economy changes the requirements for vocational education. Now the main objective is to prepare specialists that meet the demands of the labour market and have obtained a positive background to continue professional development all life long. If a person has a professional education he has less chances to be socially excluded, and this reduces the social tension in the country.

3.4.1. Structure and organisation of the VET system

In Latvia the initial vocational education and training system includes vocational basic, vocational, vocational secondary and first level higher vocational education. The training in IVET leads to level 1 - 4 CEDEFOP vocational qualifications. The second level higher vocational education is a part of higher education and is regulated by law On Higher Education Establishments. The initial VET system as a part of the education system

In the 1999/2000 school year 8.4% (47,703 persons) of all students involved in education attended the 121 institutions of the initial vocational training system. 74% of total enrolment are young people in the age 15 - 19 and it is 20% of total number of young people in this age group in Latvia.

Pre-schools were attended by 11.4% (65,097 students), all types of comprehensive schools were attended by 64.4% (361,432 students), but higher education establishments were attended by 15.8% (89,509 students). The entry to the initial VET system

In April and May of 1999 the State non-profit organisation Career Counselling Centre performed a survey of 9th and 12th grade students concerning their choice of profession. A total of 1,340 students were surveyed from various urban and rural schools.

The results of the survey show that in April and May 10% of the ninth-graders and 7% of the twelfth-graders had not yet decided where to continue their education.

7% of ninth-graders and 33% of twelfth-graders expressed a wish to work or to combine work with studies, which means that they are potential job-seekers. Compared to the previous year, the number of students with such plans has increased by 9%.

Similarly to the previous year, only a third (32%) of twelfth-graders and ninth-graders (33%) can indicate that they have chosen a profession. The choice of profession is slightly clearer for rural ninth-graders and urban twelfth-graders. The main motivation for choosing a profession is a good salary. Of the 10 most popular professions, 5 are shared by ninth and twelfth-graders, and those are law, law enforcement, computer programming, translation and economics.

The following table demonstrates the real situation concerning students’ choice of continuing education, however there are no statistics available on students who combine studies with work.

 Table 3: Graduates' choice of further education institution (1996 - 1999)

Year of graduation Number of graduates

Carry on studies in

Discontinue studies (%)
secondary schools (%) VET schools (%) higher education establishments (%)
basic schools 1999

secondary schools 1999
VET schools 1999
11703 9 17
VET schools 1999


11703 9 17



Source: CSB data

During 1996 - 1999 the share of basic school graduates that enter VET schools is decreasing. The greatest part of basic school graduates choose general secondary schools, they want to continue studies in higher education establishments or they have three more years to decide what they want to do. The proportion of those who discontinue studies after basic school remains the same. This is a risk group, the rate of unemployment in age group 15 - 19 was 36.6% (in November 1999). This is a challenge for VET system as well to develop measures how to re-enter this group to educational system.

Every year is decreasing the ratio of graduates who just after secondary school enter higher educational establishments, but the total enrolment of higher educational establishments is rapidly growing (see table 22 in Annex 2). Many of secondary school graduates use one or two years after graduating for earning some money for further studies. The rate of unemployment in age group 20 - 24 is 21.3 (in November 1999). The risk group is those who graduate from secondary schools with very low level of knowledge assessment. They can’t continue education and they have no any occupational skills. Educational system does not provide any remedial courses for those who want to improve their level of knowledge. It is also opportunity for VET system to change the situation.

In the 1999/2000 school year 47,703 students attended vocational schools in Latvia, which is an increase of 1,366 students or 3% over the previous academic year. Applications for entering vocational schools have been submitted by 23,840 candidates, of those 78% or 18,532 were enrolled. It must be noted that the number of students who pay fees for their training (who do not receive state subsidised training places) increases annually.

In the 1999/2000 academic year 9.5% of all students enrolled paid tuition fees, in the 1998/1999 - 9%, but in 1997/1998 - 6.7%, and in 1996/1997 - 5.85%.

In the 1999/2000, of the total number of students enrolled in vocational education establishments, 1.7% had not completed basic education, 69% had completed basic education, 20% had completed general secondary education, 9.3% had graduated from other schools. Compared with the previous year, there is a slight increase (3%) of those students who enrol in vocational training after completing general secondary school. The training levels and certification of outputs

Basic education stage

Basic vocational education

Students are admitted to basic vocational programmes from the age of 15 and without any limitations concerning previous education. The duration of basic vocational programmes is 1 - 2 years. A certificate of basic vocational education confirms that the student has acquired a basic education and has been granted a level 1 vocational qualification (based on theoretical and practical training to perform simple tasks in a particular sphere of practical activity).

During the 1999/2000 2% of students who had not completed basic education attended remedial groups. These groups are becoming more and more popular, because the number of young people who do not finish basic school is increasing annually. For example, during the 1999/2000 2.4% of students attending grades 5-9 were expelled from general education schools. In order to prevent the social exclusion of these young people, remedial classes are established at vocational schools, where students can acquire both the basic elements of a profession and basic education.

Secondary education stage

Vocational education

Students are admitted for vocational programmes from age of 15 and without any limitations concerning previous education. The Law on Vocational Education provides that students who have entered vocational programmes without basic education must be provided with remedial classes, and, after passing exams, a certificate of basic education should be granted. As there is a lack of specialists and finances to open remedial classes at this level, students are admitted for vocational programmes after acquiring basic education, but remedial classes are part of basic vocational education. The duration of vocational programmes after basic education is 2 - 3 years, but after general secondary education 1 - 2 years. Upon completion of this programme, a certificate of vocational education is granted, indicating a level 2 vocational qualification (theoretical and practical skills required for independent work as a skilled worker). This document is awarded to students who have completed a full course of vocational education and have passed a qualifying exam. Vocational education is not equivalent to general secondary education, graduates are not eligible to continue on to higher education.

In the 1999/2000 29% of students were enrolled in vocational education programmes.

General secondary education

In order to allow those vocational school students who wish to continue their education at the university level to acquire general secondary education, vocational schools offer general academic bridging courses. In these courses persons who have completed vocational education programmes can study the required academic subjects, take general secondary education graduation exams and receive a certificate of general secondary education. During the 1999/2000 2% of vocational school students attended bridging courses, however, it must be added that not all students who wish to receive a general secondary education along side their vocational training participate in these programmes. Some students choose to attend evening school.

Vocational secondary education

Students are admitted for vocational secondary education programmes after completing basic or vocational basic programmes. The duration of programmes is 3 - 4 years after basic education and 2 years after general secondary education.

After the completion of these programmes one receives a diploma of vocational secondary education and level 3 vocational qualification (an advanced level of theoretical knowledge and skills in the profession allowing not only to execute tasks, but also to plan and organise work). This diploma allows students to continue their education at higher education establishments.

During the 1999/2000 62% of students were enrolled in vocational secondary education programmes. These are the most popular programmes offered by vocational schools.

Tertiary education (non-university higher education)

First level higher vocational education (college education) This education can be pursued at colleges. College-type education leads to a level 4 vocational qualification (theoretical and practical preparedness for performing sophisticated executive tasks and for organisation and management of other specialists). The length of studies in these programmes is 2-3 years after completing general secondary or vocational secondary education. Diplomas of first level higher vocational education are awarded as of June 6, 2000. The diploma certifies that the qualification earned by the student corresponds to level 4. An annex in Latvian and English is attached to the diploma. This is necessary in order to ensure that information about the level, context and content of studies is as transparent as possible.

Generally colleges have agreements with university-type establishments that the best graduates may enter the 2nd or 3rd year of university programmes directly. During the 1999/2000 4% of students were enrolled in these programmes.

College-level education is new to Latvia, but there are plans to offer more and more new programmes at this level.

Procedure for granting certificates and qualifications

In order to receive a vocational qualification, one must pass a qualifying exam. The exam consists of two parts: a test of theoretical knowledge and a test of practical skills. The Professional Education Centre of the Ministry of Education and Science is in charge of the drafting of theoretical examination questions and the evaluation of the test questions by professional associations. The qualifying exams are held by educational establishments or training and examination centres (TEC). TEC have not yet been established in all profiles - currently there are 7: auto mechanics, welding, carpentry, electrical installations, tailoring, metal working, interior decoration. Members of the qualification commission are representatives of the labour market. Work is underway to raise the quality of qualifications by improving the work of TEC and developing unified qualification examinations. In the 1999/2000 there were unified examination requirements for 31 profiles.

If the student has met the requirements of an accredited programme of vocational education in order to be eligible to sit qualifying exams, but has not passed the exams, then he receives a transcript that certifies the partial completion of an accredited programme of vocational education.

As the Law on Vocational Education is in force as of September 1, 1999, students who have started educational programmes before this date receive documents certifying education and qualification according to procedures established before this law was in force. That means new and old kinds of educational documents were awarded in 1999/2000.


Back to table of contents                                To the next chapter