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Organisation and size of the upper secondary school network

Education is held in high regard in Latvia with 94% of 15-19 year-olds entering the upper secondary phase in 2012, compared to the oECD average of 83% (oECD, 2014a). The level of upper secondary attainment is among the highest across oECD and partner countries and, as Figure 4.2 shows, upper secondary attainment rates are high for both younger and older generations in Latvia.

in terms of the organisation of upper secondary education, Latvia has largely followed the segregated or “divided” model found in many European countries like Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands with separate institutions for general and vocational pathways (Sahlberg, 2007).

General upper secondary education

General upper secondary education lasts three years (Grades 10-12) and takes place in secondary schools (vidusskola), gymnasia (gimnazija) and evening schools (vakarskola). Secondary schools usually also provide lower secondary education programmes, i.e. the last grades of basic education (Grades 7 to 9), or the whole general education programme (Grades 1 to 12). This is partly driven by the small and decreasing student population, but it is believed such schools have a positive impact on children’s aspirations and may facilitate the transition from one level to the next. Four secondary schools provide distance learning for students in remote areas and also for adults and new immigrants to the country.

In 2013/14 enrolments at general upper secondary level stood at 38 632 (Table 4.1), of which 28% were 20-29 year-olds and 4% 30-39 year-olds attending evening schools. The data show a slightly higher percentage of female students (53%) which is in line with the OECD pattern of higher levels of female participation in upper secondary education. The total includes some students who had completed vocational training (Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia, 2015).

Figure 4.2. Percentage of younger and older upper secondary-educated

adults (2012)

25-34 and 55-64 year-olds, and percentage-point difference between these two groups

Countries are ranked in ascending order of the percentage-point difference between the 25-34 and 55-64 year-old population with upper secondary education.

Source: oECD (2014a), Education at a Glance 2014: OECD Indicators, oECD Publishing, Paris, http://

As a result of Latvia’s demographic decline and the resulting government policy to consolidate the network of schools discussed in Chapter 3, the number of upper secondary general schools has been reduced from 378 in 2005/06 to 358 in 2013/14. This reduction in schools is less than might have been expected considering the decline in student numbers of almost 30% over the same period. The number of evening schools has reduced from 34 to 25 during the same period, with enrolments falling by almost 23% for Grades 10-12.

Table 4.1. Number of schools and students in upper secondary general and vocational education (2013/14)

Number of schools






General upper secondary education (full-time schools)


4 609

30 375

13 830

16 545

General upper secondary education (evening schools)



9 608

4 926

4 682

Vocational upper secondary education


4 061[1] [2]

26 464

15 901

10 563

Note: Students in special schools are not included.

* This number includes those teachers working also at the basic vocational education level.

Sources: Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia (2015a), Statistical Yearbook of Latvia 2014, Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia, Riga, gadagramata_2014_statistical_yearbook_of_latvia_14_00_lv_en_0.pdf; Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia (2015b), “iZG08. General full-time schools (at the beginning of the school year)”, Statistics

Database, Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia,

ikgad__izgl/IZ0080.px/?rxid=a79839fe-11ba-4ecd-8cc3-4035692c5fc8 (accessed 1 August 2015);

Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia (2015c), “iZG13. Enrolment in general evening schools by grades (at the beginning of the school year)”, Statistics Database, Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia, http://

4035692c5fc8 (accessed 1 August 2015).

can enrol in such programmes (ISCED-P 254) regardless of their previous education. They lead to a certificate of vocational basic education that allows progression to secondary level education and professional qualification at European Qualifications Framework (EQF) level 2 (such as cook’s assistant).

Early leavers without basic skills are offered special vocational programmes (profesionala izglitibas programma ar pedagogisko korekciju) for better integration into the education process. These programmes are mainly designed for students with intellectual impairment and dropouts from basic general education (MoES, 2015; Cedefop, 2015).

At the upper secondary vocational level (known as “vocational secondary education” in the Vocational Education Law) there are three types of programmes:

  • • Two- to three-year programmes leading to a certificate of vocational education and a professional qualification (EQF level 3) in a named occupation, but not granting access to tertiary education.
  • • Four-year programmes leading to a diploma of vocational education which grants access to tertiary education and a professional qualification (EQF level 4) in a named occupation.
  • • Post-secondary education programmes (which, despite their name, belong to the upper secondary level) primarily for 17-29 year-olds with or without a completed secondary education to help them acquire vocational skills. These programmes (generally 1-2 years) are mainly focused on the acquisition of professional skills. In 2014/15, 1-1.5 year vocational education programmes have been offered to 15-29 year-old students with basic or secondary education in the “Youth Guarantee initiative” using ESF support (MoES, 2015; Cedefop, 2015, see below).

Figure 4.3 shows that the vast majority of vocational education is provided at the upper secondary level (85%). It also shows that very few general education programmes are provided in vocational schools, evidence of the strict divide between general upper secondary and vocational education in Latvia.

Vocational students made up 39% of all upper secondary students in 2012/13 (see Table 4.1). This is lower than the oECD and EU average shares of 44% and 50% respectively (OECD, 2014a). Out of the 26 464 students in upper secondary vocational programmes in 2013/14, 60% were male but the gender balance is reversed for post-secondary non-tertiary provision. There are 6 colleges providing such programmes, with 3 945 students, 61% female (Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia, 2015a).

Figure 4.3. Distribution of vocational education students, by type of programme (2013/14)

Source: Cedefop (2015), Vocational Education and Training in Latvia, Publications office of the European Union, Luxembourg,

  • [1] Vocational education Latvia’s system of vocational education is predominantly school basedand state controlled. Vocational education is organised in three levels: • vocational basic education (lower secondary) • vocational secondary education (upper secondary)
  • [2] professional tertiary education, which can be divided into first-levelprofessional tertiary (college) education and second-level professionaltertiary (university) education (see Chapter 5). Vocational education at lower secondary level, i.e. “vocational basiceducation”, is implemented via vocational basic education programmes.Programmes are mostly provided by basic vocational education schools(profesionala pamatskolavidusskola). Young people of at least 15 years old
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