Upper secondary general and vocational education in Latvia

This chapter reviews Latvia’s upper secondary education system and also parts of its adult education system. Currently there is a stark divide between the general and vocational upper secondary education pathways and spending is low and responsibility for provision quite fragmented. Lifelong learning is underdeveloped in Latvia, with low participation and a lack of employer support for training.

In 2009 a comprehensive reform of vocational education was started aimed at raising its quality and relevance to the labour market, make it more attractive to students and enhance resource efficiency. The Latvian government should continue improving the relevance and quality of vocational education, strengthening the capacity of stakeholders to contribute to the process and closely monitoring its progress; narrow the divide between general and vocational tracks both through organisational changes and curriculum reform; and increase take up of lifelong learning.

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Upper secondary education is recognised as a major educational stage across oECD countries. Graduating from upper secondary education has become increasingly important globally, as the skills needed in the labour market become more knowledge-based and workers are progressively required to adapt to the uncertainties of a rapidly changing global economy (oECD, 2014a). Although it is not compulsory in Latvia, the vast majority continue to upper secondary education after completing basic education.

Latvia’s upper secondary system (Grades 10-12) is largely school-based and is characterised by a stark divide between general and vocational pathways. Latvia’s post-secondary non-tertiary education programmes are also considered to be part of the upper secondary level. In Latvia the term “vocational education” is generally used, rather than vocational education and training (VET), as most vocational education is implemented through school-based programmes that include periods of practical learning at school and in enterprises (MoES, 2015).

In 2009 Latvia embarked on a comprehensive reform to improve the attractiveness, quality and labour-market relevance of its vocational education with the involvement of social partners. It has set an ambitious target to equalise participation rates in upper secondary general and vocational education by 2020; that is a 50/50 split for all students finishing their basic education and entering Grade 10, compared with the 65/35 split in 2014/15. In recent years it has initiated reforms to optimise the vocational school network, modularise vocational programmes and establish professional standards, among other reforms. Although the reorganisation of the vocational school network is almost complete, further work is needed to improve the vocational curriculum.

Latvia’s divided upper secondary system has long hampered efforts to follow the international trend of greater integration of general and vocational education to better prepare students for both further education and/or working life. Meanwhile the subject-heavy, knowledge-based upper secondary curriculum and teaching practices have not kept pace with the changing times. Participation in lifelong learning is low while many of the working-age population are believed to lack the skills they need to be more productive (OeCd, 2015a).

This chapter starts with an overview of upper secondary education in Latvia. It continues with an in-depth discussion on a selection of key policy issues ahead and provides concrete policy recommendations for improvement for Latvia to consider.

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