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3. Characteristics of the VET system


Education in Latvia is divided into 4 stages- pre-school, basic, secondary and higher. According to the content of education it is considered as general (academic) or vocational.

Fig.11. Structure of enrolment in education institutions

Basic education

Education is compulsory for 9 years, including 4 years of s?kumskola (primary school) plus 5 years of pamatskola (basic or lower secondary) and is uniform throughout the country. Graduates receive a nine-year basic school certificate. Children start attending school at 6 to 7 years of age, the minimum compulsory duration of schooling is until completion of the 9-years basic school cycle or until the age of 15 is reached.

The main choice after completing 9-year basic education is between general secondary, vocational secondary or specialised secondary education, see the scheme below.

General secondary education

General secondary education lasts 3 years after completion of 9-year basic education. To be awarded a certificate of general secondary education one has to complete the courses of all the 5 compulsory and in at least 7 chosen subjects, to successfully pass five school leaving examinations. One of these 5 examinations must be chosen at advanced level of the appropriate subject.

The certificate of general secondary education is accompanied by a list of marks that contains the final marks in at least 12 subjects taken and all the 5 examination marks. All holders of general secondary education certificate are eligible for admission to higher education.

Vocational education

It is possible to acquire vocational education in vocational schools, secondary "specialized" (see below") education institutions and schools for craftsmen.

Admission requirements

Admission to programmes of vocational education institutions is possible for persons with a completed basic (9 years) or secondary (12 years) education. Persons who have not finished basic education programme can continue studies in basic vocational schools (arodpamatskola).

The Ministry of Education and Science as well as other ministries that supervise VET schools (Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Welfare, Ministry of Culture) accept admission plans, determine time of admission, numbers of students and general admission requirements. Education institutions announce detailed admission procedures and organise selection procedures which may or may not include entrance examinations for applicants. In some specialities there are specific requirements for health or minimum age.

Vocational education programmes and institutions

At present according to the Law vocational training in Latvia is organised in two kinds of programmes (and institutions) Ė arodizglÓtÓba (vocational education) and vidÁj‚ speci‚l‚ izglÓtÓba (secondary "specialised" education).

The following arodizglÓtÓba (vocational education) programmes are available:

  • basic vocational education (arodpamatskola) programmes for those who have not completed the compulsory basic education course at the age of 15. these programmes qualify for the simplest professions
  • vocational secondary (arodvidusskola) programmes of 2 or 3 year duration. These programmes provide level 2 professional qualifications. Full gnereal secondary education course is not completed in these programmes, therefore the graduates are not eligible for admission to higher eudcation studies
  • vocational gymnasium (arodžimn‚zija) programmes are of 4 year duration. They provide level 3 professional qualifications and a full general secondary education course, thus making the graduates eligible for admission to higher education. This training is in principle equal to the training provided in secondary "specialised" institutions/programmes, please see below.
  • postseconadry vocational programmes consist mainly of vocational training and provide level 3 qualifications to holders of general secondary education certificates .

The institutions providing vidÁj‚ speci‚l‚ izglÓtÓba (secondary "specialised") education are usually named tehnikums or koledĢa. This group of institutions usually provides technical, nursing, music and art programmes, in the recent years also programmes in business and trade. Regardless of the curriculum type, holders of a diploma of secondary "specialised" education are eligible to enter higher education institutions.

Secondary "specialised"education institutions have four-to five- year curricula for holders of a 9-year basic education certificate. or 2-3 year curricula for holders of general secondary education certificate. These curricula provide professional training at a higher level than vocational schools (except the 4-ear programmes of the above) and simultaneously provide general secondary education.

This type of vocational education currently leads to a professional qualification level betweemn level3 and level 4 qualifications according to CIRETOQ classification.

The fate of the institutions of secondary "specialised"education, particularly their programmes for holders of general secondary school certificate, is currently under question.

It is becoming one of the key points in the overall education reform in Latvia to re-organise the secondary "specialised"education programmes into programmes of short-cycle non-university higher education programmes that exist in several EU countries. After reorganisation and upgrading such programmes should lead to level 4 professional qualifications and their credits should become transferable if graduates decide to continue their studies in long-cycle professional higher education programmes.

Access to higher education

In principle, access to higher education is possible for all holders of general secondary education certificates. However, the institutions of higher education are free to specify which optional subjects are to be taken at the secondary school in order to become eligible for admission to a chosen programme. Knowledge of the Latvian language is tested in those cases where the applicant has not had Latvian as the language of instruction in secondary school.

Professional higher education

Professional higher education is a higher education based upon applied sciences. It provides knowledge and skills for professional activities. Higher education institutions may offer higher vocational education programmes:

  • 1-2 year programmes after or concurrently with the academic (Bachelorís degree) studies;
  • programmes of professional studies with duration not less than 4 years after secondary school which lead to diplomas of higher professional education.

Academic higher education

Academic higher education is a higher education based upon fundamental and/or applied science with a compulsory component of research in the study programmes. Academic higher education is divided into two stages. Bakalaurs (Bachelorís) degree is awarded after the first stage, Magistrs (Masterís) degree after the second stage. Bachelorís degree programmes in Latvia last 3 or 4 years. According to Law only 4- years' programmes are considered as completed higher education programmes. Master degree programmes usually last 2 years and a Master degree gives access to doctoral studies.



3.2.1. Social dialogue and industrial relations system

Consultative representation of the social partners is at 5 levels:

-legislative power (the Saeima);

-executive power (the Cabinet of Ministers);

-related issues (labour safety, social security, professional training);

-professional and sectoral level;

-company level.

The Free Trade Union Council was established in 1990 and the Confederation of Employers in 1993. The Trade unions and the Confederation of Employers take part in creating new legislation in the field of social policy as well as in the regulation of employment. All the draft laws in this field are discussed in the tripartite consultative Council with participation of the Free Trade Union Council and the Confederation of Employers.

The basic principles of social dialogue are determined by several legislative documents:

  • the Law (Code) on Labour,
  • the Law on Mutual Contracts,
  • the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers on the tripartite consultative Council of employers, state and trade unions(1993),
  • the Regulation on Council of social insurance
  • and the Law on Employersí Organisations that is currently under discussions in the Saeima.
  • Industrial relations are regulated by Satversme, constitutional law "Rights and liabilities of inhabitants and citizens", Law (Code) of Labour, as well as Laws on employment, on medical and social protection of disabled people, on labour protection, on civil service, on public organisations, on Trade unions.

The tasks of tripartite consultative Council are:

  • to analyse the social economic situation in the country;
  • to analyse and prepare proposals for changes in the minimal monthly wage, which is approved by Cabinet of Ministers; as well as to analyse problems concerning labour safety, social and economic development.

The Tripartite Council is a co-ordinating and consultative institution made up of representatives of employers, Trade Unions and the Government. It can act as a mediator in conflict situations between partners, reconsider issues of social and economic development upon request of the partners. The Tripartite Council consists of 12 representatives from each side. Representatives of the Government are appointed by a Decree of the Council Ministers of Republic of Latvia and they are the following: State Minister of Self-government Affairs, Adviser to the Council of Ministers on Welfare Affairs, State Secretaries of Economy, Finance, Communication, Justice, Environment and Regional Development, Education and Science, Agriculture Ministries, Director of Labour Department of Welfare Ministry, Director of the State Labour Inspection.

The Social Security Consultative Council of Employers, Employees and the Government, was set up in 1994. The general direction of the Latvian social insurance system was mainly discussed in the Social Security Consultative Council of Employers, Employees and the Government. Discussions at the meetings of this Council included questions regarding fulfilment of the social insurance budget in the state and the collection of social taxes. The speed of changes in this area can be demonstrated by the fact that seven new laws have been adopted since 1995.

The Labour Protection Council of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Latvia, Trade Union and Employers was set up on May 17, 1994. The Labour Protection Council consists of 15 members, five are nominated from each side. The frequency of meetings is similar to those of the Tripartite Consultative Council. The activities of the Council have lead to practical results and improvements. "Regulations on Elections of Shop Stewards and Activities of Bilateral Co-operation Institutions" has been approved by the Council and an agreement has been reached to propose to the Tripartite Consultative Council to list all the mandatory labour safety activities in the collective agreements and a standardisation program of state labour safety has been approved, etc. Being less "political" than the Tripartite Consultative Council, the Labour Council has been able to establish itself as an advisory group for "technical questions" in a very broad scope of questions regarding labour, labour safety and labour standards.

In some cases the local governments organise local tripartite bodies, which study employment problems, education of unemployed as well as demand of definite professions in their territory.

The involvement of the social partners in VET issues is developing.

The representatives the of Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Latvian Chamber of Craftsmanship, Latvian Confederation of Employers and professional associations of different branches take part in the Working group for drafting of the new Law on professional education, as well as for developing of concept of VET where they represent the interests and express the opinions of the employers.

  • sectoral employerís organisations deal with analysis and studies of their specific interests;
  • Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is involved in education on specialities pertaining to business and economics
  • Latvian Employers Confederation (LDDK) is involved in labour policy studies, i.e. together with support institutions it defines and implements curricula corresponding to the state-of-the-art in the labour market.
  • Latvian Chamber of Crafts is involved in professional education by a Law on craftsmanship adopted in 1993. Trade education and craftsman qualifications can be obtained in state or private trade schools or in the craftsmanship enterprises under the guidance of craftsman. The training programmes are worked out and affirmed by co-operation between Chamber of Craft and ministry of Education and Science.

3.2.2. involvement of enterprises

Main problem: poor link between vocational schools and enterprises.

An important priority for national and local authorities is to encourage and support the re-establishment of links between schools and enterprises.

Lack of sufficient links with enterprises is one of the weak points of todayís VET system in Latvia. Because of the collapse of large industries after 1990, the demand in the industrial workforce is continuously decreasing. Being occupied by their own severe problems industrial enterprises seem much less interested in co-operation with VET schools than previously. For this reason most of the practicable training has shifted from the enterprises back to schools. Unfortunately Latvian legislation does not provide any tax exemption for employers willing to support VET.

The dialogue between school and employer is carried out to provide students with placement for practical training. The practical training at enterprises at present is organised on a case by case basis for such professions as waiters, cooks, interior and exterior workers, bricklayers, car mechanics, welders and others, but the placements are not sufficient.

As regards to unemployed retraining, it should be mentioned, that links between the training institutions and enterprises are developing every year. Some concrete agreements have been concluded between the State Employment Service and the enterprises in order to prepare workforce for them.

For example, sewing firms "Latvija" and "Aurora" concluded agreements this year with the State Employment Service for training 400 workers for them with a guaranteed job upon completion of the courses. The training firm "Buts" carried out this training programme. 100- footwear producers were prepared for enterprise "Daugava" in Daugavpils and almost all of them are currently in work. This process could be continued since co-operation between the State Employment Service and enterprises is developing and increasing.

The co-operation between VET and employers has been re-established in new ways during the last 1-2 years and the main actors from the employerís side so far are the Latvian Employers Confederation, the Chamber of Commerce and industry and the Chamber of Craftsmanship.

In order to determine the employersí opinion on VET, Latvian Employers Confederation, as well as the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and industry have begun surveys among their participants. Surveys show that some employers are ready to organise practical training at the enterprises, but allowances are needed for employers to support training. Such allowances may stimulate employers to support continuing and initial professional education and to find ways for co-operation with educational establishments.

It is foreseen in the new Law of Vocational education that professional education should be closely related to the needs of enterprises and organisations. Linking training institutions with enterprises would be one of the directions of social dialogue.

3.2.3. Provision of VET

Educational institutions. The current system of vocational education in Latvia is created on the basis of the network of education institutions existing before 1991 according to the Education Law adopted in 1991. Latvia has quite a large network of small (by numbers of students) vocational education institutions in all the districts except Balvi. In 1997/98 there were 123 vocational education institutions in total, out of them 76 vocational schools and 47 specialised secondary education institutions. 37% of total amount of vocational education institutions are located in Riga.

Vocational education in Latvia can be acquired in about 320 professions and specialities. In recent years the number of students is increasing in programmes of commercial education, service, transport and communication. The number of students is decreasing in agricultural and forestry programmes.

In comparison to 1990/91 the number of VET schools has decreased by 14%. Several changes have occurred in recent years:

Fig.12. Dynamics of number of vocational education institutions (1990 - 1997)

Most VET schools (93%) are under the authority of the state in Latvia, only 8 vocational education institutions are private or municipal. State vocational education and training institutions are under the authority of four different ministries. At the beginning of 1997/98 there were 115 VET schools in total, plese see table below, out of them 57 under authority of Ministry of Education and Science, 38 Ėof Ministry of Agriculture, 14- of Ministry of Culture and 6 of Ministry of Welfare

Fig.13. Breakdown of state VET institutions by authority (1997./98)

Vocational schools for the persons with special needs .Some problems of vocational education and the re-education of disabled people still exist. Previously they were engaged in the manufacture of simple goods, for which there is no demand in a free market system. There were factories and workshops for the visually and auditory impaired where extra money could be earned. Now these organisations struggle with great difficulty for existence and the level of unemployment among the disabled people is very high - about 85%. The total amount of disabled people who are capable of working is about 41,000 out of 126,000. Among this number, the total amount of disabled children is 6,500. The amount of children in the families of disabled people Ė 8,600.

Vocational schools for people with special needs also exist. For example, in the Rehabilitation Centre in Jurmala some professions are available for physically disabled people or the Special school in Valmiera for mentally retarded people.

The State Rehabilitation Centre in Jurmala offers programmes for disabled persons with basic and secondary education. There are some business oriented programs: industrial marketing, business office-worker, computer-oriented programmes, electronics, and also programmes for cooks. Training for disabled persons is possible as full time or via distance learning. The State rehabilitation Centre also provides 2 week courses on professions. A special school for children from families with difficulties is located at the Daugavpils learning centre.

The number of disabled jobseekers trained by State Employment Service was relatively small (only 147 in 1997). This could be explained by the small activity of associations for disabled and insufficient information among disabled people. For training in the State Rehabilitation Centre disabled people must often wait for one year or more.

The amount of imprisoned people was 6,235(1997). They also have (and always have had) serious problems finding work after release from prison. The vocational education institutions that existed in prisons now exist only in two prisons - vocational school No.105 in Jelgava (117 students 1997/98 school year) and Vocational school No.109 in Jekabpils (78 students 1997/98 school year) . The schools offer 1-year technical programmes: lighting electrician, turner, stoker of plant boilers, arc welder, electronics assembler, plumber and gas welder.

Students .Compared to the beginning of the 90's the number of students in VET schools as well as the number of graduates has decreased.

At the beginning of 1997/98 the total number of students in all vocational education and secondary "specialised" institutions together was 45.7 thousand. Compared to 1996/97 the number of students has increased by 4%.

In 1997/98 the total number of students in VET schools was 26.4 thousand, in secondary "specialised" schools- 19.3 thousand. Compared to the previous year the total number of students in VET schools remained the same but enrolment has decreased by 4%. In secondary "specialised" schools the total number of students has increased by 15%, the number of new enrolees has increased by 21%.

It can be seen from statistical data that the number of young people choosing to continue studies in specialised secondary institutions after basic school has significantly increased.



Fig.14. Dynamics of number of students of vocational schools



Fig.15. Dynamics of number of students of secondary "specialised" schools


Fig 16. Breakdown of students of vocational education institutions by type of institution


Tab. 3. Breakdown of enrolees in vocational schools by education in 1997/98

Number of applicants

Enrolled in total

After basic school with certificate

Out of them graduated in 1996/97

After basic school with report

Out of them graduated in 1996/97

After secondary education in total

Out of them graduated in 1996/97

After other schools

With unfinished basic education

13 965

11 593

8 748

7 422



1 300




Tab.4. Breakdown of enrolees in secondary "specialised" schools by education in 1997/98

Number of applicants

Enrolled in total

After basic school with certificate

Out of them graduated in 1996/97

After basic school with report

Out of them graduated in 1996/97

After secondary education in total

Out of them graduated in 1996/97

After other schools

With unfinished basic education

9 369

7 042

4 640

3 988



1 827

1 048




The majority (93%) of students are studying full time, 0,4% in evening courses, and 3,3% in correspondence courses. Compared to previous year the number of students studying in evening courses has decreased by 25% but the number of students in correspondence courses has increased by 21%.


Fig.17. Rate of students of vocational education institutions in total number of persons in respective age group

In 1997/98 VET institutions in total enrolled 18,635 students, i.e. 4.1% more than in the previous year. 23,334 candidates applied for admission to vocational and secondary "specialised" schools, out of them 80% were enrolled. 72% of those enrolled have basic education, 17% secondary education..

Most vocational education students are 15-19 years old. The number of students in this age group makes up 87% of the total number of students in the VET system and 24% of the total amount of the respective age group in the population. The number of students in vocational education institutions and the total number of persons by age group can be seen in fig.15..

According to their education young people in Latvia in the 90ís can be divided into several groups. One group plans to enrol into higher education studies to ensure their future development and well being. The number of applicants in higher education institutions in Latvia is increasing and more and more young people are studying abroad. This results in an increase in the number of students in general secondary schools. Another group consists of young people who have either not completed or only just completed basic education but have already interrupted their studies.

Approximately 15% of secondary school graduates and 40% of basic school graduates enter VET institutions each year.

Fig.19. Breakdown of students of vocational and professional secondary schools by programmes (1997/98)

Drop outs

Quite a large percentage of students have dropped out before graduating each year. From September 1st 1996 to September 1st 1997 dropouts from VET schools were 3,085 (13,3% of the total number of students) and from secondary "specialised" schools 2,554 (11,7%). Most dropouts are in the first year of studies. Dropouts after the 1st year of studies were 54% in VET schools and 51% in secondary "specialised" schools. These results are obtained from Statistical Bureau school enquiries. Breakdown of dropouts by cause is seen in Fig.18.

Fig.20. Breakdown of dropouts by cause (01.09.96 - 10.09.97)

Vocational education institutions with regard to language of instruction

Number of students and their language of instruction in schools of vocational and of secondary "specialisedí education







Secondary "speciali-sed"


Vocational education

Secondary "speciali-sed"



Secondary "speciali-sed"


Language of instruction - Latvian

14 612

61 %

12 031

70 %

26 643

65 %

15 597

63 %

12 096

72 %

27 693

67 %

17 046

65 %

14 229

74 %

31 275

68 %

Language of instruction - Russian

9 399

39 %

5 143

30 %

14 542

35 %

9 118

37 %

4 637

28 %

13 755

33 %

9 354

35 %

5 043

26 %

14 397

32 %


* data from LR Ministry of Education and Science Division of Information and analysis

Today teaching within professional education is carried out in the Latvian and Russian languages. The total number of students studying in all vocational education institutions of Latvia at the beginning of the school year 1997/98 was 45.5 thousand, including 31.3 thousand (68%) studying in Latvian and 14.4 (32 %) in Russian. Statistics show that during the school year 1997/98 Russian is the language of teaching for every fourth student (26%) at secondary "specialised" education institutions, and every third student (35 %) in vocational schools.

Comparing the data of the last three school years it can be concluded that the proportion of students studying in Russian, against the total number of students, decreases, and this tendency is similar in both - secondary "specialised" schools as well as in vocational schools.

The situation in the vocational education institutions differs in accordance with the Ministry under the authority of which they are. Only in vocational education institutions under the authority of the Ministry of Welfare is the whole study process carried out in Latvian. In the vocational education institutions under the authority of the Ministry of Culture 91 (5%) students have Russian as an instruction language and under the authority of the Ministry of Agriculture - 1.5 thousand (12%).

The largest number of students having Russian as their instruction language is in vocational schools and secondary "specialised" education institutions under the authority of the Ministry of Education and Science, 11.7 thousand (43%) students.

Statistics show that in 1997/98 in comparison with the previous school year the number of students with Russian as their instruction language in the existing public and municipal vocational education institutions has decreased, but in private institutions Ė it has increased.

Analysing the situation according to regional distribution in Latvia it can be concluded that the largest number of students with the language of teaching in Russian is in Riga - 6.6 thousand, in Daugavpils - 3.3 thousand, in Liep?ja - 1.9 thousand students.

Of the total number of students with Russian as their language of instruction 46% are studying in Riga and 40% - in the Latgale region.

The studying processes in the groups with Russian as the language of instruction are carried out in both Russian and Latvian. In 1997/8 the Professional Education Centre investigated how much the state language has been used in the studying process at vocational education institutions under the authority of the Ministry of Education and Science.

The research information shows the following:

1. In more than 50% vocational education institutions in the groups with Russian as the language of instruction part of general subjects and professional subjects are taught in Latvian. The number of the subjects taught in Latvian is gradually increasing.

2. Teaching aids and professional terminology vocabularies in Latvian are being developed in vocational education institutions.

3. Teacher training is being organised so that knowledge of the Latvian language will reach the highest possible level.

Number of students and their language of instruction in 1997/98

according to the VET institutionsí subordination


Vocational education

Secondary "specialised" education








Ministry of Education and Science

10 723

59 %

7 491

41 %

18 214

100 %

5 236

55 %

4 240

45 %


100 %

Ministry of Agriculture

5 553

84 %

1 027

16 %

6 580

100 %

5 650

92 %


8 %

6 164

100 %

Ministry of Welfare





1 560

100 %


0 %

1 560

100 %

Ministry of Culture





1 684

95 %


5 %

1 775

100 %



70 %


30 %


100 %







17 %


83 %


100 %


33 %


67 %


100 %


* data from LR Ministry of Education and Science Division of Information and analysis

Main problems

In accordance with point 9 of the chapter Education and Culture in the Governmental Declaration and considering the results of the above mentioned analysis, the main problems to be solved can be identified in order to make it possible to provide in full vocational education programmes in Latvian.

At present the main obstacles in achieving vocational education programmes in Latvian are:

  1. The level of knowledge of Latvian among students who have finished basic schools with Russian as the language of instruction does not meet the requirements of basic education standards.
  2. There are no resources and teaching aids in Latvian for professional subjects.
  3. There is not a sufficient number of teachers able to teach professional subjects in Latvian.

Demographic changes

(see fig.21. next page)

The future number of people in relative age groups should be kept in mind when planning study places at schools. Due to the relatively high natural growth of the population at the beginning of the 80ís and also in future years (except 2000 and 2001) the number of students in secondary education institutions will increase. Due to the decrease of the birth rate in the years following the early 80ís, the number of potential students will decrease after 2004 which indicates that the orientation of the vocational education system should be started now. These trends should be kept in mind also when planning teacher's education.

Employment of graduates

Employment of graduates is one of the most important indicators for evaluating the quality of education programmes.

It should be mentioned that there could be several reasons of unemployment, for example:

  • small number of work places in region;
  • high number of graduates in a particular speciality in local labour market;
  • lack of correspondence between the content of education programmes and the requirements of the labour market;
  • low quality of programmes of education institutions.

On the 1st October 1997 88,591 unemployed persons were registered at State employment service, out of them 1,052 were state and municipal VET school graduates from 1996/97. This represents 1.2% of the total number of unemployed persons.


Fig.21.Changes of number of students in 9th grade (forecast)

The number of unemployed VET school graduates has significantly decreased compared to the 1st October 1995. One of the most important reasons for the significant decrease in the number of unemployed graduates is the amendment in the Law on Mandatory Social Insurance for Unemployment. Amendments made in January 7th 1997 do not envisage unemployment benefits for persons that are not subject to social insurance including graduates from VET schools. Also the number of vacancies registered in State Employment Service has increased and the total number of unemployed persons has decreased.

Unemployment of graduates and authority of schools. The highest rate of unemployed graduates also for this year is observed in graduates from municipal schools- 12.4%, from schools under the authority of the Ministry of Agriculture- 11.2%, Ministry of Education and Science- 8.3%, Ministry of Welfare- 4.0%, Ministry of Culture- 3.3%

Unemployment of graduates and education programmes The highest number of unemployed graduates is observed for graduates from programmes of craftsmanship and industry, services and home economics, agriculture and forestry.

Provision of vocational education programmes

Main problem: to modernise curricula with a proper balance between general and vocational subjects and theoretical and practical training

The educational programmes of VET were traditionally orientated to the acquiring of a specified profession. In the soviet period full general education programmes where always included in the secondary VET curricula. However frequently, general education subjects were taught rather formally even if their presence in the curriculum decreased the number of hours devoted to vocational training and therefore the results of the education were not always good enough.

In 1992 the first reform of VET was carried out. The compulsory full coverage of the general education in the 3- year vocational programmes was cancelled. The vocational programmes still comprised a general education component and the relation of the number of general education lessons to profile courses and practice was defined. However graduates of the 3-year VET programmes are not eligible to enter higher education institutions, a graduate of the 3-year vocational programme has to start studies from the very first year also in the secondary "specialised" education institutions.

An experimental so called gymnasium course in VET schools was created in 1994/95 which gave the possibility for the best students to enrich their general education level so that they could receive also a full general secondary education thus becoming eligible to enter university studies.

As mentioned above, in the past, the VET programmes in Latvia were created with an aim to acquire necessary professional skills, programme design was based upon the description of professional requirements in each vocation. The main emphasis was thus put on practical skills. Unfortunately no attention was made to the development of core skills that could in future ensure a continued self-training and adaptation to the new work situations.

At this time the situation in the development of study programmes has changed. Due to several international joint projects (at this moment mainly in education in commercial subjects) other criteria have developed with emphasis on the content of education such as professional competence, social competence, methodological competence, which together could help to fulfil the demands of the national economy:

  • knowledge and skills in the profession;
  • good knowledge in the sciences connected with the life, environment;
  • ability to work creatively and with initiative;
  • capacity to study independently, to relate studies to real situations,
  • capacity to increase qualifications and to change professions in the short term;
  • ability to work in teams, and possession of good communicative skills;
  • ability to work in non-standard situations.

Curricula of vocational education institutions comprise general subjects as well as special subjects of professional training. The number, amount and ratio between the different courses depends upon the type of educational institution at the given education level. All subjects in these programmes are compulsory. They are divided in 3 blocks:

  • practical training;
  • professional education;
  • general subjects.

The share of theoretical and practical training for schools under the supervision of Ministry of Education and Science is the following:

Tab.7. The share of practical training in the curricula of initial VET for schools under the supervision of Ministry of Education and Science

Name of school type

Duration of studies (years)

Theoretical studies

Practical training and practical placements

Pre-diploma practice (hours)

vocational basic school





vocational basic school





vocational secondary school





vocational gymnasium





l secondary "specialised" school




1000- 1200

Practical training is provided in laboratories and enterprises etc. It gives students the possibility to experience real work in an enterprise and to use the acquired knowledge. Professional subjects give the necessary theoretical knowledge for professional activities and general subjects (Latvian, foreign language, history, physics, etc.)- and reinforce general knowledge.

Quality assessment

Main problem: lack of overall system of standards and qualifications

Until now the awarding of qualifications in VET was the competence of only education institutions.

Subjects in educational institutions are tested by examinations, in educational programmes by qualification examinations, state examinations, and presentation of diploma project/work. A 10 point system is used for the evaluation of knowledge and skills. Independent examination commissions take part in qualification examinations. A Commission for qualification examinations includes representatives from employers, branch associations, educational institutions and centres of vocational education. Qualification examinations according to regulations of Ministry of Education and Science have 2 parts: the testing of practical skills and theoretical knowledge. Theoretical knowledge is assessed in a written test, which is uniform for all students for the speciality. Practical skills are tested by the student performing practical tasks.

Assessment of qualification

The organisation of centres of practical training and examinations based on existing VET institutions has begun in order to ensure equal requirements for the award of qualifications. Student knowledge and skills are tested according to qualification requirements. Five such centres are already operational: for welders, interior and exterior workers, tailors, electricians, metal workers.

The Ministry of Agriculture has also created 3 regional agricultural centres and 5 specialised (gardening, modern technologies of food processing, agribusiness, forestry, cereals and sugar-beets) centres in order to improve and develop new education programmes in agriculture and to create an independent qualification examination, as well as to organise improvements of qualification and retraining.

A united State examination for nursing qualifications, compulsory for all school-leavers from nursing schools was established in 1994. Only the passing of this examination gives access to registration as a nurse.

A new type of qualification examination for VET students in several specialities was introduced in 1997. In this year such examinations of students of 27 professions of different branches took place.

To transfer completely to this system of assessment of qualifications there is a need:

  • to involve the social partners in the development of the content of examinations
  • to solve problems of financing for the practical part of examinations as materials are quite expensive
  • to allocate financing for the development and copying of tests

Assessment of theoretical knowledge

Working groups organised by the Centre for Vocational Education are developing tests for the assessment of theoretical knowledge. The test consists of 60-80 questions for the assessment of knowledge in special subjects- technology, materials, technical drawing, business, etc. Students of the same profession have to sit the examination at the same time in the whole country.

If the test of theoretical knowledge is passed successfully students are tested in practical skills by performing a practical task according to the profession.

Positive aspects of this testing system are:

  • assessment of theoretical knowledge of students is wider and unified
  • there is a possibility to test skills and to assess them by unified criteria
  • there is a possibility to compare objectively knowledge and skills of students of the same profession acquired in different education institutions
  • the body of questions and tasks for the assessment of knowledge and skills is being developed. It will be used for the organisation of qualification awards in future.

Quality assessment of programmes and institutions is carried out through programme accreditation. In 1997 a new Decree on accreditation of VET education programmes was developed. Unfortunately there are no improvements or changes in the accreditation process foreseen in the new Decree. Accreditation includes a complex evaluation of programme quality, of pedagogical staff and of the basic provision of the school. Accreditation gives the right to the school to award state recognised diplomas. The Department of Professional Education of Ministry of Education and Science is responsible for the accreditation of VET programmes.

The existing mechanism of accreditation of VET programmes does not yet ensure the necessary control of the quality of education programmes. Due to this fact in order to make the accreditation process more effective it is necessary:

  • to develop new regulations for accreditation
  • to create an independent institution which will organise the accreditation of VET programmes.

Training of pedagogical staff

4.5 thousand pedagogues are working in VET institutions. The pedagogues working in vocational education and training institutions traditionally are specialists with appropriate secondary special or higher education in the vocational field. Most of them do not have a specific pedagogical (diploma) education.

Until now, in Latvia, there were no specialised higher education institutions for the training of teachers in VET or for providing pedagogical courses for specialists in the appropriate fields who wished to start working as VET teachers. Different pedagogical higher education institutions offer different study programmes in general pedagogics, pedagogical psychology, educational philosophy, curriculum subject theory and didactics.

Continued education course programmes for teachers are offered in higher education institutions and in other institutions such as:

  • pedagogue continued education support centres (Vocational education and training centres, Pedagogue educational support centre);
  • international support by different organisations (British Council, TEMPUS projects, PHARE, bilateral co-operative projects with Germany's and Denmark's Ministries of Education, Canada's College Association, Baltic country and Nordic country co-operation projects).

The main items in content of continued education course programmes are in the methods of subject teaching, methods of evaluation of education results, philosophy and methodology of education. These courses encourage the professional independence of teachers, as well as the ability to plan pedagogical processes and to take responsibility for the results obtained as well as the improvement of professional skills.

Several years ago within the DELATE project (in collaboration with the Danish Institution of Teachers of Vocational Education) for the first time there was an attempt to introduce some order in the education of teachers of vocational schools. In 1997 the project was successfully completed with a developed conception about vocationally pedagogical education of teachers of vocational education. During this project the following products were developed:

  • a concept paper for a vocational pedagogical teacher training programme
  • a draft education order for the basic vocational pedagogical teacher training programme
  • a draft curriculum
  • a draft for two sets of guidelines for participants and for teaching practice supervisors
  • a draft for teaching materials
  • study plan and materials in connection with the development of teacher trainers

It has been planned that already in January 1998 the education of teachers of vocational educational establishments will start in five Latvian universities: Riga Technical University, Latvian Agricultural University, Riga Pedagogical and Education Management University College, Liepaja Pedagogical University College and Rezekne University College. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Education and Science has still not prepared a regulation on vocational pedagogic education and as well as this financial issues have not been solved.

Professional counselling

Main problem: insufficient professional orientation in basic and secondary schools

Fig 22. Choice of basic school graduates

The fact that 56% of basic school graduates continue learning in secondary schools may partially be explained by the weak professional orientation and counselling system, because there are more secondary school graduates among jobseekers than professional education establishment graduates.

The main organisation responsible for vocational orientation and guidance is the Professional Career Selection Centre, which works under the authority of the Ministry of Welfare's Labour Department. It was created 10 years ago and its main objective is to give consultation to students and unemployed persons on the choices pertaining to questions of educational and professional decisions. Simultaneously it is currently fulfilling the functions of methodical and co-ordination centre for professional orientation in Latvia.

The Centreís basic activities are:

  • Student counselling, that is, assisting students to recognise their interests and abilities, introducing young people to professional content and the means of attaining a speciality and their regulations as well as encouraging independent decision making in relation to education and career selection.
  • In 1997 7,000 school leavers consulted the Professional Career Selection Centre, that is about 14% of students leaving schools (forms 9 and 12).
  • Unemployed consultation. The main objectives - to assist the unemployed in selecting the most suitable type of work in the case of re-qualification, as well as in mastering job searching methods and skills to present oneself to an employer. This work is done on a contractual basis with the State Employment Service. 2,407 unemployed persons sought consultation in 1997.
  • Co-ordination and teaching work in the field of professional orientation in Latvia. The Centre has developed the Professional orientation concept for the Republic of Latvia, which was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers in November of 1994. The centre provides training of VET teachers in vocational counselling and professional orientation. A programme has been developed and teaching has been carried out for administrators of Job Search Clubs.
  • Scientific and methodological work - working out new methods of research and approval, including the creation of a computerised database. A professions register has been created, where in a standardised way working conditions are described and the psychological features and requirements of an employed person are stored.

Counselling in the Centre is also possible for students of professional and higher education establishments, the employed population and for job seekers. The Centre has a mobile consultation group for students of schools in rural areas.

Professional Career Selection Centre has 5 branches- in Daugavpils, Liep?ja, L?v?ni, Rezekne and Valmiera.

The Centreís development plans include, opening consultative affiliates in all districts of Latvia.

Impact of labour market on vocational education

Regardless of the recent changes and considering the controversial trends in the labour market, labour market experts forecast the following changes in employment structure, which the VET system needs to be adapted to:

  • employment and demand for labour force in agriculture and especially in agricultural production will continue to decrease. This means that the demand for all levels of agricultural specialists also will decrease
  • employment and demand for labour force will decrease also in industrial sectors. This will be caused by both rapid privatisation and the modernisation of production processes. This could increase the level of unemployment, especially in the cities
  • serious structural changes should be expected in the service sectors and employment and the demand for labour force will increase in the service sector, especially in the small towns and rural areas

The expected changes will cause very serious problems since radical change will be necessary in the vocational education of employees. Serious research is needed in order to understand what kind, numbers and what kind of qualifications will be needed. However, before such a study is performed, the following main trends of the expected changes may be indicated:

Decreasing trends in:

  • the number of civil servants;
  • the number of employees in health care and education will decrease slightly due to a decreasing number of inhabitants and births;
  • demand for employees in transport and communications will decrease quite significantly;

Increasing trends in:

  • demand for employees in social care due to the ageing of Latviaís population;
  • demand for employees in finance, use of property and real estate, leasing and commerce.
  • demand for employees in state defence, lawyers, policemen, border guards, customs officers
  • demand for employees in public utilities, social work and individual services, tourism managers, etc.
  • demand for employees in other branches of services will stabilise or slightly increase.

The total demand for labour force should decrease in Latvia, nevertheless the rotation process of professions will become more active. It is expected that not only some professions but also whole groups of professions may disappear (e.g. traditional specialists of metallurgy, loaders, low qualification engineers of different specialities known from previous years). The demand for computer specialists, financial specialists, accountants, and managers is expected to increase at the same time. It will be necessary to intensify training in entrepreneurship in rural areas and small towns in order to help the excess workforce to begin different employment activities.

When comparing the possible changes in both offer and demand of labour force, one can see that the imbalance in the labour market could still increase. In addition to this, the impact of factors limiting unemployment will decrease in the future. As a result, the situation in the labour market will become more dynamic, the changes should become more rapid and more radical. This all means that the system of vocational education has to become more reactive. The different qualifications necessary for the labour market have not been studied in Latvia so far.

The data of the State Statistical Bureau shows that a greater part of professional programme graduates are not working in their professions. This fact gives proof of the need for improvement of vocational education programmes which should become wider and offer the skills and qualifications needed in the labour market.

It should be noticed that an employee during his/her working life will usually need retraining more than once. This is one of the reasons why education programmes must provide a sufficiently comprehensive professional education base and make students ready not only for one profession with a short specialisation but for a family of occupations.

The successful approach how to cater for labour market demand is shown by the Latvian Maritime Academy.

Example of Latvian Maritime Academy

The Latvian Maritime Academy (founded the 1st October 1989) has become firmly established in the maritime labour market in Latvia and world-wide. Its organisation, curricula and future plans have been developed with the help of the International Maritime Organisation and in line with the guidelines of that organisation. The LMA trains maritime officers strictly in accordance with STCW 78 requirements, as amended in 1995 and EU directions 94/58/EC, as amended in 1995. Maritime and general English are given special prominence in the curricula. Emphasis is also placed on subjects related to European transport corridors and integrated transport systems, stressing modern technology, the environment, safety, and compliance with international standards ISO 9000, ISO 14000, etc. The LMA is prepared to co-operate with foreign companies and offers its graduates to companiesí abroad for work in the capacity of junior officers. LMA graduates are trained in accordance with international standards and are anxious to take up careers in the maritime business.

Total number of LMA graduates and workplaces



On board ship

Latvian Shipping Company

On board ship

Foreign Companies

Shore services






Marine Engineering





Marine Electrical Automation









Grand total






The LMA has positive feedback on its graduates from present employers and the demand for LMA graduates increases annually.

The employment of Latvian merchant marine officers by foreign firms is presently a special priority since 18%-20% of Latvian mariners are out of work. The forecasted overall economic development of Latvia does not suggest rapid industrial growth in the foreseeable future. These circumstances make it necessary for Latvia to facilitate the employment of its mariners by foreign firms, thus contributing to reducing the shortage of qualified shipsí officers world-wide, which according to ITF data will reach 2,0.000 by the year 2000.


3.3.1. Adult education


Fact: In Latvia so far close co-operation between the initial vocational education and training, adult education and training organised by employers has not been established. However, a shift in this direction can be observed.

  • In 1993 in co-operation with the Ministry of Education and Science and the International Co-operation Institute of the Association of Adult Education of Germany the Association of Adult Education of Latvia was established.
  • In 1995 the Cabinet of Ministers approved the statutes of the Adult Education Centre. At present there are 26 regional Adult Education Centres. The Adult Education Centre regulations have been developed, reflecting the need to develop adult education centres using the existing education institutions as a basis, delegating to them small target financing and precise functions, including the responsibility for information exchange between educational institutions at district and state level; the development, within limits, of pedagogical and organisational qualification improvements, of teaching materials, and of programme distribution. Much still needs to be done in order to improve the co-operation between schools, employment services, the labour market, information distribution organisations and employers. In several regions Consultative Councils of Adult Education have been created as consultative advisory institutions but without having the status of a legal entity. These Councils are usually created by the Adult Education Centres and municipalities.
  • A Consultative Council of Adult Education at the Ministry of Education and Science was affirmed by in November 1996. Almost all organisations involved in continuing training are represented in this Council including 23 members from different governmental and non-governmental organisations.

The state concept for adult education was accepted by the Minister of Education in February 1998. The concept for adult education as a solution of adult education problems foresees the following:

  • to improve the current situation including carrying out analysis,
  • to conduct the organisation of measures necessary for continuing development,
  • to promote further involvement of employers,
  • to promote the role of professional associations,,
  • to implement legal regulations.

The adult education concept foresees as one of its main goals:

  • providing everyone with the possibility of perfecting their knowledge corresponding to their interests, needs, age and previous education level;
  • to compensate for the scarcity of education during the transition period;
  • to solve social adaptation and integration problems and develop adult education system with regards to the concepts of life-long-learning.

Concerning in-company training, it is known, that in some enterprises there already exists an important component of in-company training in that: new employees are trained in foreign languages, computer skills, management, business and/or appropriate professional skills.

For example, the state joint stock company currently under privatisation GRINDEKS which is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Latvia is among those organisations where the mastery of working skills is considered essential in the future development of the company and its competitive ability in the market place. The company "Grindeks" includes 630 employees, 90% of them participate in training programmes every year. The company carries out 20 training programmes every year.

However, when training personnel for internal needs, companies do not provide any diploma for training, therefore they are not obliged to report or undergo any quality assessment by the Ministry of Education and Science or any related structures. For these reasons precise information on in-company training is absent.

At least 136 institutions in Latvia have been active in adult education in 1995 and at least 112,000 students have attended these institutions. Approximately 100,800 students participated in adult education programmes in 1996 and 120,907 in 1997. Investment of employers in continuing training has more than doubled in comparison with 1995.

Due to the requirement of clients, organisers of continuing training lay the emphasis on professional training. There is no precise data on the age and education level of learners, but there is a predominance of 19-40 year olds. It should be mentioned that involvement in adult education courses is rising with reference to the growth in education levels.

Fig.23. Financing of adult education

Investment of employers in continuing training has more than doubled in comparison with 1995.

Due to the requirement of clients, organisers of continuing training lay the emphasis on professional training. There is no precise data on the age and education level of learners, but there is a predominance of 19-40 year olds. It should be mentioned that involvement in adult education courses is rising with reference to the growth in education levels.

Continuing training activities are also carried out by many organisations- Entrepreneurship Support Centre, Chamber of Commerce and Industry (see annex), Adult Education Association, regional adult education centres, Latvian Adult Economic Education Association, Professional Education Centre and others.


For example: Continuing training for nurses is carried out by the Professional Education Centre under the supervision of ministry of Welfare. These include post-diploma courses:

  • for specialisation, 10 courses and 455 participants in 1996,
  • for improving qualification, 48 courses and 4,762 participants in 1996,
  • for employees of medical establishments with/without medical education, 4 courses in 1996.

The second type of training courses for nurses are carried out in hospitals or medical establishments. The employer - a hospital or a medical establishment, finances and carries out this type of course and is evaluated by the Professional Education Centre. These kind of courses are carried out in many regional hospitals. In 1996 there were 2098 participants.

3.3.2. Unemployment retraining

The State Employment Service is responsible training and retraining of the unemployed.

The Latvian State Employment Service has offered many different training programmes and courses for the unemployed, which include the acquisition of new, necessary skills on labour market issues (see fig.24. next page). In 1996 74 different courses were offered. 104 different training programmes were offered in 1997. Special attention was paid to professional courses (for example, welders, cooks and accountants). The great demand was for programmes with wide basic education in some occupational families (plasterer-bricklayer-tiler; baker-confectioner) or acquiring necessary knowledge in entrepreneurship (hairdresser; roofer).

It is important for Latvia, where the growth of industry is not very fast, that the number of offered specialities is great enough to allow a graduate to find a job in a short time.

In 1995 34.5% of all retrained unemployed persons found a job, in 1996 Ė 25.3%, and in 1997 Ė 49.7%.

Of course, finding a job after retraining varies according to district and depends on the development of the economy in each area. For example, in Ventspils 92.2% of all retrained unemployed persons found a job, in Saldus district 69.4%, in Riga 57.1%, but in Riga district 31.4%, Liepaja district 20.8%, Talsu district 30%, and Daugavpils district 34.8%.

The funds assigned for unemployed retraining:


Funds (Lats)


2 122 250


2 169 180


2 324 193


Fig. 24. Unemployed persons trained by State Employment Service


3.4. SCHOOL Manager training

In terms of school managers, the situation is the following:

  • a large number are of pre-pension and pension age;
  • a significant number of administrators have worked at one place of employment for a long period of time;
  • the state has a minimal achievement in administratorís education and training;
  • not all school administrators have higher pedagogical education.

For the assessment of school managers the MoES together with the involved professional institutions and ministries are organising the regulation of the registration of school directors which will start in 1999.

The MoES, Department of Vocational Education Development organise seminars for school managers in order to improve their knowledge on the innovations of school management and new regulations regarding professional education.

Some training courses especially for school administration are organised in the Professional Education Centre and within the framework of EU Phare programme projects.

Courses for school managers in the framework of the EU Phare programme "Profesional Education Reform in Latvia" have included the following:

  1. Implementation of education programmes 27.03.96: 33 participants.
  2. Implementation of education programmes- exchange of school managersí experience 02.07.97: 40 participants
  3. Development of education establishment -strategic planning. 5-seminar cycle together with the BERIL programme. 1997:. 36 participants
  4. The role of general education in professional education. In the framework of HIVET programme. 27.11.97: 30 participants.

School managers were also involved in different activities (conferences, training visits) in order to become acquainted with experience from other European countries.

The success obtained in training of managers is also related to the Staff development programme of ETF activities. The participants of this programme have become acquainted with various VET systems in different EU member countries such as the Netherlands, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

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