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The ECEC workforce

In 2013, there were 9 703 ECEC teachers - often referred to as “pedagogues” in Latvia - working in ECEC institutions in Latvia (Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia, 2015). These included some 1 700 specialist staff: educational methodologists (deputy principals), music teachers, sports teachers, speech therapists, special education teachers, educational psychologists and other educators (MoES, 2015). Almost all ECEC teachers were female (99.5% in 2012), and 14% were less than 30 years old in 2012, while 27% were aged 50 or older (Eurostat, 2014a).

More than 90% of ECEC teachers were working on a full-time basis in 2012, meaning 36 teaching and contact hours per week (Eurostat, 2015a). Administrative data show that the vast majority of compulsory ECEC teachers (for ages 5 and 6) worked in only one institution in 2014 (91%) (oECD, 2014b).

In 2013, the annual average actual gross salary of Latvia’s ECEC teachers was EUR 6 697, which is among the lowest across EU-28 countries and considerably lower than the average salaries of their peers at primary and secondary levels (EACEA/Eurydice, 2014). In Latvia, the central government sets teachers’ minimum statutory salaries, while municipalities and private providers may offer higher salaries. The minimum statutory salary for a full-time ECEC teacher was set at EUR 4 610 in 2014, rising to a maximum of EUR 4 781, indicating a relatively flat salary scale.

The ratio of students to teaching staff is an important indicator of the resources devoted to ECEC. In 2012 the average student-teacher ratio for ECEC programmes for 3-6 year-olds in Latvia was 11 which is low compared to the OECD average ratio of 14 (OECD, 2014a). Many OECD countries have set standards for class sizes and/or student-staff ratios in order to guarantee the health and safety of children, an effective and equitable learning environment, and adequate working conditions for ECEC staff. In Latvia, it is up to institutions and municipalities to decide on such standards, as central regulations were abolished in 2009 in order to reduce bureaucratic obstacles.

Like many OECD countries Latvia has recognised the importance of having ECEC staff with a high level of formal education. There are many ways of becoming an ECEC teacher in Latvia. To qualify, teachers should obtain a first-level professional tertiary qualification by completing a 3- or 4-year professional study programme (4.5 years if part-time). Those already qualified to teach a different level of education can complete a

2-year full-time study programme (2.5 years if part-time) or a master’s level study programme. In addition, those who already work as teachers in other levels can obtain an ECEC teacher qualification by completing at least 72 hours of in-service training. in 2012/13, 1 740 teachers and 164 leaders and methodologists (deputy principals) completed such pre-school teachers’ professional competence development courses (from the “B programme”, described in Chapter 3). In 2013, nine out of ten ECEC teachers (90.1%) had obtained the required professional qualification (MoES, 2015).

To help prepare teachers for the profession, initial teacher education programmes include a six-week internship or professional practice in an ECEC institution. Beginner teachers are also supposed to be provided with mentoring support in their first year of working but there is little information at the national level as to whether they actually receive such support.

Government regulations state that a teacher is expected to participate in a professional development programme of at least 36 hours every 3 years. This is shorter than some OECD countries with similar statutory requirements. For example, in Estonia ECEC teachers must take 160 hours of professional development every 5 years. In Finland and Scotland (the United Kingdom) teachers are required to participate in 30 and 35 hours of professional development respectively every year (OECD, 2014a).

In 2013 there were 591 heads managing ECEC institutions in Latvia. To become the head of an ECEC institution, candidates must provide evidence of at least 3 years of professional experience in ECEC and 2 years of administrative experience. There is no additional requirement for training before or after appointment as a head. These requirements are similar to many EU countries where the requirements include 2 to 5 years of professional experience and no compulsory training. In Latvia, heads are in principle not involved in pedagogical activities, which is the case in only a few other EU countries including the Flemish Community of Belgium, Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania and Scotland (European Commission/EACEA/ Eurydice/Eurostat, 2014).

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