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Context and main features

Governance and financing

According to the General Education Law, everyone who has completed basic education has the right to enter upper secondary general and/or vocational education regardless of age. Although upper secondary education is not compulsory in Latvia, 89% of 25-64 year-olds had attained this level in 2013, compared with an oECD average of 75% (in 2012) and an European Union (EU) average of 72% (Eurostat, 2015b; oECD, 2014a).

The government and municipalities are responsible for maintaining schools in all areas of the country to ensure the accessibility of education. Although general upper secondary education is the responsibility of municipalities, the situation with vocational schools is quite different. in october 2014, 33 vocational schools were under direct control of the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) with a further 7 governed by municipalities and other 8 by private providers whose provision is mainly aimed at adults. Fourteen vocational schools were directly supervised by the Ministry of Culture and one by the Ministry of Welfare. in addition one college that implements secondary vocational education programmes was under the responsibility of the Ministry of the interior, one under the Ministry of Welfare and nine were under the responsibility of MoES (MoES, 2015).

MoES has overall responsibility for the legal framework, governance, funding and content of vocational education. Since 2000, it has worked in co-operation with the National Tripartite Sub-Council for Cooperation in Vocational Education and Employment, which has representatives from employer bodies and trade unions, and 12 Sectoral Expert Councils (SECs) established in 2011. it also works closely with the State Education development Agency (Seda) whose role is to administer Latvia’s EU structural funding.

As mentioned in Chapter 1, the National Centre for Education was established under MoES to evaluate educational content and student achievement, and organise the development and revision of the basic and upper secondary curricula. A key function of the centre is to develop, administer and grade centralised general and vocational education examinations.

As there is no regional tier of government, MoES and other ministries have to work directly with each municipality. As covered in Chapter 3, schools and their school leaders (who are selected by the municipality) have considerable autonomy, regardless of whether they are governed centrally or by municipality.

Municipalities are required to ensure every child can acquire a secondary education and has access to extra-curricular programmes. Children can attend school in a different municipality to the one where they live, in which case the “home” city or municipality contributes to the costs incurred by the school they attend.

Whilst the cities and municipalities are bound by a set of statutory duties with regard to education, they appear to differ considerably in the way they discharge them, and the impression is that they act in a largely autonomous way. Each municipality has an Education Specialist and a Board of Education, whose head is appointed in collaboration with MoES. The boards have a wide range of responsibilities in terms of providing support to schools, but their key function is to ensure that local educational policy is implemented and to administer the state grants to schools.

A requirement of the school accreditation process is that each school should have a “council of an education institution” comprising staff, parents, students and representatives from the local community, and a student council, although the level of involvement in decision making differs from school to school. There is no mandatory training for either board-level or council-level members.

As described in Chapter 3, the State Education Quality Service (SEQS) was founded in 2009 to, among other responsibilities, register and inspect educational institutions (public and private) and licence both general and vocational educational programmes through a uniform accreditation procedure of general educational and vocational educational institutions and programmes. it also acts as the National Reference Point for European Quality Assurance in Vocational Education and Training. The external evaluation of schools and their programmes normally takes place every six years, although some education programmes are accredited for a period of two years. The evaluation process involves internal evaluation, school visits by the committee of experts and submission of evaluation reports to the SEQS which publishes the experts’ reports on its website. Schools must publish their internal evaluation reports on their web pages.

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