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High levels of access and participation

Following a period of decline in the early 1990s, when a severe recession struck the country after gaining independence, participation in education started to recover in the mid-1990s. since then Latvia has seen a gradual expansion of participation in education, particularly at those levels where participation had been relatively low.

Participation in ECEC is high and starts early. Between 2000 and 2013, the net enrolment rate in ECEC for 3-6 year-olds increased from 55% to 91% (uNEsCo institute for statistics, 2015a). in particular, there was a remarkable increase in participation from 2002 when ECEC was made compulsory for 5- and 6-year-olds. in 2013 the average Latvian child entering primary education had enjoyed 3.7 years of ECEC, compared to an oECD average of 2.3 years. This shows that participation in ECEC is high and starts at an early age. Participation rates are above the oECD average for 3- and 4-year-olds. in 2012, 87% of 4-year-olds and 80% of 3-year-olds were enrolled in some form of ECEC, compared to oECD averages of 84% and 70% respectively (oECD, 2014b).

Enrolment in primary and lower secondary education is close to universal and has been for many years. in 2013, the total net enrolment rate was 99% for the primary level and 97% for the lower secondary level (UNEsCO institute for statistics, 2015b). in 2012, 90% of young people were expected to complete upper secondary education over their lifetime, compared to the OECD average of 84% (OECD, 2014b).

The proportion of 25-64 year-olds who had obtained a tertiary degree in 2013 (31%) was only slightly below the OECD average (32.6%). The proportion of 30-34 year-olds with a tertiary degree has increased steadily over the past decade and by 2013 had surpassed the 40% target set by the Latvian government for 2020 (MoEs, 2014). As in most OECD countries, students in tertiary education tend to favour academic tertiary programmes over professional ones. in 2012 84% of young adults were expected to enter an academic tertiary programme tertiary while just 25% of students were entering professional tertiary programmes. Latvia has a lower rate of entry into advanced tertiary education (2.1% in 2012) than the OECD average (2.6%) (OECD, 2014b).

Latvia’s school life expectancy from the primary through to tertiary education level increased from 14.2 years to 15.6 years between 2000 and 2013, which is similar to the increase across OECD countries during the same period (from 14.5 years to 16.1 years on average) (World Bank, 2015).

The school system is comprehensive up to the end of lower secondary, with few students repeating grades, high transition rates between lower and upper secondary, and low numbers leaving school early. in 2011/12 for example the share of primary and lower secondary students repeating a year had fallen to 1.7% from 2.5% the year before. In 2012, 95% of students who completed lower secondary education continued into upper secondary education (MoEs, 2015).

dropping out and early school leaving are more frequent in the vocational pathway, which has been suffering from a lack of attractiveness and quality (MoES, 2014). An analysis of MoES statistics reveals that the average annual non-completion rate of students in general upper secondary programmes was 1.8% in 2012/13. By contrast, average annual dropout rates across vocational education programmes have ranged from 13% to 16% over the last few years. At programme lengths of around three years, this implies that less than two-thirds of students who enrol in a vocational education programme finish the course (oECD, 2015c).

nonetheless the data also show Latvia has made good progress in reducing the numbers leaving school early. The proportion of early school leavers declined from 14.3% in 2009 to 8.5% in 2014 (Eurostat, 2015f). in addition Latvia has also embarked on a reform of vocational education to improve its attractiveness, quality and relevance. It is believed this reform will contribute to reducing early leaving among vocational education students.

Despite high participation in formal education, lifelong learning is not very well developed in Latvia. in 2013, 6.5% of Latvian adults aged 25 to 64 participated in formal and non-formal lifelong learning, well below the Eu average of 10.5% (Eurostat, 2015g). Latvia is expected to face shortages in the coming decades of workers with medium and higher level vocational education and among senior specialists in science and engineering, information and communications technology (iCT), agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. At the same time it will have an oversupply of specialists in human and social sciences. Policy makers are aware of this imbalance and as a response have set in motion a number of reforms (oECD, forthcoming). Promoting lifelong learning plays a key role in addressing the imbalance, but this is an area where much more work remains to be done (see Chapter 4).

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