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Content and structure of education programmes

Latvia maintains a bilingual education model with instruction available in seven minority languages: Russian, Polish, Hebrew, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Estonian and Lithuanian. At least 60% of all subjects must be taught in Latvian at the upper secondary level, whether general or vocational, although every school can decide which subjects are taught in Latvian.

General upper secondary

The content of general upper secondary education is determined by MoES. Since Latvia gained independence in 1991, there has been a process of educational reform that has introduced subject standards to codify the secondary curriculum and specify subject aims, content and assessment.

In 2008, the National Standard of General Secondary Education and the Subject Standards of General Secondary Education were introduced. They stipulate the length of the school year (35 weeks in Grades 10 and 11 and 38 weeks in Grade 12), the number of lessons (not more than 36 per week) and the length of lessons (40-45 minutes).

They also instigated a major change by organising programmes of study into four fields (or “directions”):

  • • general education
  • • humanities and social sciences
  • • mathematics, natural sciences and technology
  • • programmes with a vocational/professional orientation (e.g. arts, music, commercial science, sports).

This reorganisation addressed concerns that students were given too much choice over the subjects they could study. Previously, only 5 subjects (out of 12) were mandatory, with students choosing a further 7 from a wide range of options. This was seen as problematic for two related reasons:

  • 1. too few students choosing to study sciences; and
  • 2. as a result, students were limited as to what they could go on to study at university (Kangro and James, 2008).

Nowadays, all students take eight mandatory subjects and each field of study requires between three and six additional mandatory subjects (Table 4.2). Schools can also offer further optional subjects, taking up 10-15% of the study time or offer additional in-depth programmes covering one of the mandatory subjects.

All students can also take two further optional subjects: basic computer programming (105 hours) and graphic art (70 hours). The total number of study hours is reduced for evening and extramural students. The curriculum places a strong emphasis on creating a Latvian identity whilst at the same time enabling students from different ethnic backgrounds to preserve their ethnic identities.

Several people that we interviewed - at various levels of the system - expressed their concern that the upper secondary curriculum and teaching methods have not kept pace with the changing times. Several noted that the curriculum had become too subject-heavy, even “saturated”. A reform of the upper secondary curriculum that is to promote a competency-based approach is scheduled for the period 2018-20.

Table 4.2. Curriculum subjects and number of hours for general upper secondary

education (full-time)

Education programmes

Subjects

General edu

Humanities and cation social sciences

Mathematics, natural sciences and technology

Vocational/ professional oriented programme

Compulsory subjects *

Latvian language

210

210

210

210

Minority language and literature

420

420

420

420

First foreign language

315

315

315

315

Second foreign language

315

315

315

315

Third foreign language

315

Mathematics

420

420

420

420

Informatics

105

105

105

105

Sport

315

315

315

315

Physics

315

315

Chemistry

210

210

Biology

210

210

Natural sciences

315

315

Latvian and world history

210

210

210

210

Literature

210

210

210

210

Music

70

70

70

70

Visual arts

70

70

70

70

Vocational subjects

280

Compulsory optional subjects *

Economics

105

105

105

105

Ethics

70

70

70

70

Philosophy

105

105

105

105

Geography

105

105

105

105

Cultural science

105

105

105

105

Household

70

70

70

70

Politics and judicial science

70

70

70

70

Psychology

70

70

70

70

Health studies

35

35

35

35

Optional subjects

Basic programming

105

105

105

105

Technical graphics

70

70

70

70

Total lesson load

3 360-3 780

Note: * Subject to state general secondary education standard set.

Source: Cabinet of Ministers (2013), Noteikumi par valsts visparejas videjas izglitibas standartu, macibu prieksmetu standartiem un izglitibas programmu paraugiem [Regulations Regarding the State General Secondary Education Standard, Subject Standards and Sample Education Programmes], Regulation No. 281, Cabinet of Ministers, Republic of latvia, Riga, http://likumi.lv/doc.php?id=257229.

 
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