National ECEC curriculum
Having an explicit curriculum matters at all stages of education including ECEC. A well-defined curriculum articulates purposes, goals, learning content and approaches to learning, and takes into account the needs of
Figure 2.3. Latvian network of public and private ECEC institutions (2013)
Network of municipal pre-school educational institutions
network of private pre-school educational institutions
note: Pre-school groups in other institutions are excluded. Special pre-school educational institutions are included.
Source: MoES (2014), Education Development Guidelines 2014-2020, Ministry of Education and Science, Riga, http://m.likumi.lv/doc.php?id=266406.
all relevant stakeholders. Critical learning areas for young children include literacy, numeracy, science, information and communications technology (iCT), art and music, and physical and health development (oECD, 2012). Curricula are influenced by many factors, including a society’s values, content standards, research findings, community expectations, culture and language.
Latvia has defined the Model Programme for Pre-school Education (2012) which sets out the education plan and curriculum guidelines. The document focuses on play-centred learning and competences and includes elements like the environment, social life, children’s native and state language and literature, and mathematics. The list of subjects also includes drawing, needlework, sports and music. Optional activities, such as foreign languages, are also possible depending on the institution, which makes the programme adaptable to local needs. Apart from learning activities, children also spend time outside taking walks and playing freely. Children in full-time ECEC are also provided with meals during the day and the chance to take a nap.
Research highlights the importance of play for children’s cognitive and social development (OECD, 2012). It is argued that children learn about the world and environment, develop imagination and creativity, and face a wide range of emotional experiences through play. Latvia pays special attention to play as a basic method of teaching in ECEC. Other methods used include practical elements, verbal methods, modelling and experimenting. Teachers are free to choose from any of these methods, but they are encouraged to use play as the main teaching method, given that various play activities ensure children’s physical, intellectual and emotional development (MoES, 2015). OECD countries with similar coherent play-based curricula include the Czech Republic, Finland, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden.
Latvia has no national assessments for monitoring children’s developmental outcomes during or at the end of ECEC to inform the government and others on the quality of ECEC throughout the country. Latvia’s ECEC curriculum and the Guidelines for Pre-school Education however provide descriptors of the knowledge, skills and attitudes that children are expected to have obtained at the end of ECEC. These are to inform teachers in their observations of children’s progress. The teacher is expected to tell children regularly about their achievements emphasising the positive aspects and encouraging the improvement of skills, and regularly consulting with parents on their children’s development. Since 2011, ECEC institutions should provide parents or guardians with written information on the achievements, i.e. the knowledge, skills and attitudes regarding the planned curriculum outcomes, of their children upon completion of ECEC (Eurypedia, 2015).