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Context and main features

Governance and financing

In Latvia, ECEC is an autonomous function of local governments. The central government has at its disposal powerful steering mechanisms, such as legislation and discretionary funding, to motivate and enable local authorities to deliver agreed outcomes. The legal foundations for ECEC institutions, whether public or private, are laid down in the Education law, the General Education law, the law on local Governments and the regulations approved by the institution’s founder, as well as various other regulatory enactments regarding health and safety that are also used for external evaluation purposes (Eurypedia, 2015).

To ensure a certain length of participation in ECEC programmes, many countries provide legal entitlements to ensure access to affordable, high-quality ECEC. Since 2011, all children in Latvia have had a legal entitlement to ECEC from 1.5 years of age. Latvia thus belongs to a small group of EU countries in which children have a legal entitlement to ECEC from a very early age, although in countries like Denmark, Finland and Sweden, entitlement starts earlier: from their first year onwards. In addition, since 2002 the last two years of ECEC, i.e. for children aged 5 and 6, have been compulsory in Latvia.

In Latvia, ECEC is defined comprehensively, encompassing the cognitive, socio-emotional and health development of the child. The Education Law of Latvia, for example, states that ECEC, or “pre-school education” as it is often referred to in Latvia, is “an educational level in which multi-dimensional development of the child as an individual, in the strengthening of health and preparation for the acquisition of primary education takes place” (Eurypedia, 2015). The central government has defined the main objectives and tasks of ECEC in the State Pre-school Education Guidelines (Box 2.1).

Box 2.1. Objectives and primary tasks of ECEC (“pre-school education”) in Latvia

The State Pre-school Education Guidelines define the objective of ECEC as follows:

The objective of ECEC is the promotion of the comprehensive and harmonious development of a child, observing his or her development patterns and needs, knowledge, skills and attitudes required for an individual and social life, thereby purposefully ensuring the child has the chance to prepare for the acquisition of basic education.

The guidelines stipulate that the primary tasks of ECEC shall be:

  • • to promote the development of physical skills and movements of a child
  • • to promote the development of self-esteem, awareness of abilities and interests, development of feelings and will of a child
  • • to promote the development of cognition and curiosity of a child, ensuring the acquisition of knowledge and skills
  • • to promote the development of communication and co-operation skills of a child

Box 2.1. Objectives and primary tasks of ECEC (“pre-school education”) in Latvia (continued)

  • • to promote the forming of a child’s positive attitude towards himself or herself, other persons, the environment and the State of Latvia
  • • to promote the development of safe and healthy lifestyle skills of a child.

In addition the guidelines include a description of the pedagogical process, the content and learning outcomes, and how the evaluation process is organised.

Source: Cabinet of Ministers (2010), Regulations Regarding the Guidelines for the State Pre-school Education, Regulation No. 709, adopted 3 August 2010, Cabinet of Ministers, Republic of Latvia, Riga.

In Latvia, municipalities are obliged to ensure that children who have declared residence in the administrative territory of the municipality are able to access ECEC in the institution closest to their home. ECEC is largely the responsibility of municipalities.

The founders of public ECEC institutions are municipalities, while private institutions can be founded by people or legal entities such as foundations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Municipalities may establish an ECEC institution upon the request of parents of at least ten children living in their administrative territory. In case of children with special needs this number is eight. Children are enrolled when parents have submitted all necessary documents, and if there is a place available. Entrance tests are prohibited and parents and guardians are in principle free to choose among different types of ECEC institutions, i.e. those offering general programmes, programmes in minority languages (e.g. Russian or Polish), programmes for children with special education needs, and programmes for children with both special education needs and in minority languages.

In reality, however, the low population density in some parts of the country may limit choices, despite municipalities providing free bus transportation to children in remote areas. In the larger cities, shortage of places similarly limits parents’ and guardians’ choices.

Each municipality has a Board of Education to perform all education-related functions from ECEC to upper secondary education, including the founding and supervising of ECEC institutions. These municipal boards need to co-ordinate with the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) on any issues relating to the establishment, reorganisation and closure of these institutions, however. Each board can develop its own binding regulations, which in turn means that decision-making processes regarding ECEC can differ between municipalities.

As in many oECD countries, both parents and community members play an important role in the governance of ECEC institutions in Latvia, including through participating in school boards. For example, the school boards have a decision-making role in the rules governing the daily life in the ECEC institution, and have a consultative role on issues related to the choosing of educational content, methods and materials (MoES, 2015).

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