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Recommendations

The following policy recommendations can help the Latvian government meet the challenges presented above and advance its policy agenda for ensuring equal access to a quality early childhood education and care for all of Latvia’s youngest children.

Recommendation 1: Continue expanding ECEC services, in particular in rural areas and for the youngest children

During the last two decades Latvia has made good progress in expanding access to ECEC. A range of policy measures by the central government and municipalities have helped ensure that the vast majority of Latvian children from the age of three onwards nowadays participate in ECEC, with participation rates surpassing those of many OECD countries.

Good progress has also been made in recent years to resolve the waiting lists in Riga and some other larger cities and expand access to ECEC services. These efforts by the central government and municipalities should be continued and particular attention should be paid to expanding access to ECEC services for children aged three and younger. Latvia should carefully monitor the impact of these efforts and ensure services are of quality; and take action where found needed.

In addition, Latvia should consider shifting its policy attention to children living in rural areas. Though Latvia does not intend to lower the age of compulsory ECEC to 4 years in the near future, it should consider this an option for the longer term. The government has indicated it will encourage the participation in ECEC among 4-year-olds, but should not limit efforts to this age group. In particular, efforts to enhance participation should focus on those young children - and their parents - living in rural areas of the country. Outreach programmes informed by those of Norway or Latvia’s own “Change Opportunities for Schools” project could be considered for this.

Furthermore, Latvia should investigate the make up of the relatively large group of 7-year-olds still in ECEC, and the reasons for their delayed entry into primary school. Informed policy actions should follow this investigation.

With a longer-term perspective in mind, Latvia should carefully monitor whether current and future needs for ECEC services are being met. In a context of rapidly changing demographics this should not be considered a one-time exercise but instead should be regularly repeated and fed into an ongoing national dialogue on the future size and quality of the country’s ECEC services.

 
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