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Organisation of ECEC services and learning

In Latvia integrated ECEC settings (pirmsskolas izglitibas iestades) are available to children from the age of 1.5 to 7 (Figure 2.2), with no breaks or transfers between ECEC institutions until the start of primary school. All institutions and programmes fall under the responsibility of MoES. Such an integrated approach is rather uncommon among EU and OECD countries, and is mainly found in the Scandinavian countries (European Commission/ EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat, 2014).

There is some distinction between ECEC for very young children (1 to 4 years) and those about to enter primary education. As mentioned, from the age of 5 ECEC is compulsory and children have to follow a specific programme (pirmsskolas izglitibas vadlmijas) that is in accordance with the Guidelines for Pre-school Education (Cabinet of Ministers, 2012). The guidelines offer examples of programmes but teachers also have the right to develop their own programmes as long as they are in accordance with the guidelines (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat, 2014;

MoES, 2015). It is also possible for children to receive their compulsory ECEC outside the integrated setting, for example in a primary school or other type of education centre (skolas un citas izglitibas iestades). other service providers include day nurseries, playgroups, day care centres and institutions of interest-related education that provide activities for children under primary school age.

Figure 2.2. Overview of ECEC in Latvia

Source: Adapted from European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat (2015), Early Childhood Education and Care Systems in Europe: National Information Sheets 2014/15, Eurydice Facts and Figures, Publications office of the European union, Luxembourg, http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/education/ eurydice/documents/thematic_reports/191EN.pdf.

ECEC programmes either follow the school model, grouping children together by age, or the family model, grouping children of different ages. It is also possible to group children according to the language of instruction which can be Latvian or a minority language, depending on the demands made by parents. While most minority languages such as Polish play only a minor role in ECEC provision, a considerable share of children are taught in Russian: close to 22 000 children, about 23%, were enrolled in Russian language ECEC institutions in 2013 (Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia, 2015). From the age of five, however, the Latvian language is a compulsory subject for all children in ECEC.

It is also possible for families to provide ECEC at home.1 For this, parents may receive pedagogical and methodological support at consultative ECEC centres. Municipalities are obliged to provide such support but not all are able to due to budgetary constraints, particularly the smaller ones. They therefore sometimes commission these services from institutions or individual specialists (MoES, 2015). Whether parents’ demands for such support are fully met is not known.

Usually, ECEC institutions operate all year round with a break during the summer holidays of one to two months (usually in July and August). in principle, children should also be able to attend ECEC during the summer break on parental request. However, whether or not an institution is open during the summer depends on the provider of the institution.

ECEC outside school hours is not usually a policy priority in oECD countries and this also applies to latvia. latvia has a number of ECEC institutions that offer all-day childcare usually from 7.00 or 7.30 a.m. until 6.00 or 6.30 p.m., except on Saturdays and Sundays. More than 9 out of 10 children attend ECEC for more than 30 hours per week (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat, 2014). Some ECEC institutions (65 in 2013) even have one or more 24-hour groups where it is possible for children to stay overnight. However, only a very small minority of children (about 2%) make use of these services (MoES, 2015).

 
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