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Compulsory education and
general secondary education

School year and workload, 
Basic education,
General secondary education
Scheme of education system in Latvia

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Compulsory education and general secondary education

The total duration of general school education in Latvia is 12 years. It consists of 9-years of basic and 3 years of upper general secondary education (see scheme).

School year and students’ workload. The regular school year (excluding examination periods at grades nine and twelve, 2 and 3 weeks respectively) lasts 35 weeks, from the beginning of September through to the end of May. The total number of 40-minute lessons per week is 20 at grade one, 28 at grade five, 34 at grade nine and 36 at grade twelve.

Nine-year basic education

(pamatizglītība) is compulsory. It begins at seven years of age and consists of 4 years of primary education (sākumskola) and 5 years of lower secondary school (pamatskola). Graduates receive a nine-year basic school certificate (atestāts par pamatizglītību).

Latvian language, Mathematics, Music, Visual arts and Physical education are taught throughout the 9 years. Handicraft and Basics of Natural sciences are taught at grades 1-4. At grade 3 English language studies begin and a second foreign language joins at grade 6. As regards the block of subjects “Myself and Society”, History and Home economics begin at grade 5, one-year courses are taught in Health science at grade 5, Ethics at grade 7, Introduction to economics at grade and Civics at grade 9.

As to natural sciences, Biology and Geography begin at grade 6, but Physics and Chemistry – at grade 8.

Those who for some reason have not completed their basic education at the estimated age of 16 years should, according to the Law, continue their studies towards completing basic education programme until the age of 18 is reached. They can also opt for basic vocational education programmes (see diagram of education system), which allow them to achieve a Level I vocational qualification and to complete their basic education programme.

After completion of the compulsory 9-year schooling in the year 2000, 63,1% of students entered general secondary education programmes, 34.8% - vocational secondary education programmes and 2.1% did not continue their education.

General secondary education (see scheme)

General secondary education(vispārējā vidējā izglītība) attracts 55% of nine-year basic school graduates. Starting with those students, who enter grade 10 in the academic year 1999/2000, schools offer 4 types of programmes at upper secondary school level. These four programmes are: a “general” programme with no emphasis on any particular subject group, and programmes with emphasis on natural sciences, humanities, or vocationally oriented subjects. Seven subjects are compulsory in all of the programmes: Latvian language and literature, Mathematics, History, one foreign language, Physical education, Applied Informatics, and Basics of business. In addition, each of the programmes includes group of compulsory subjects specific to the programme. Finally, about 25% of the total study workload are left for a free choice of the students. Two different curriculum levels - basic (pamatkurss) and advanced (profilkurss) - are offered in each subject and at least one subject has to be taken at advanced level. The programme system will replace the previous system, where studies included at least twelve subjects, of which five were compulsory and seven were elective. These students, who are at grades 11 and 12 in September 1999, will still follow the previous system.

To be awarded a certificate of general secondary education (atestāts par vispārējo vidējo izglītību) one has to complete the courses prescribed by the chosen programme, and to pass five final examinations, including two examinations in compulsory subjects (Latvian language and literature and another examination which is set nationally each year) and three examinations to be chosen by the student. One of these five examinations must be chosen at the advanced level of the respective subject. Knowledge of the seven non-examination subjects is assessed at the end of 12th grade prior to the session of final examinations. Since recent years, centralised uniform State examinations are being introduced in order to ensure a uniform assessment throughout the country.

These holders of general secondary education certificates, whose marks in at least twelve subjects are not lower than 4, have access to higher education.

After completion of general secondary education in the year 2000, 63.7% of graduates entered higher education studies, 12% of graduates continued their education in vocational postsecondary programmes and 24% did not continue their education.

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