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Graduation and completion

As of 2012, Latvia’s upper secondary graduation rate of 90% is higher than many oECD countries (the oECD average is 84%). The average age of a first-time graduate from general programmes is similar to the oECD average at 19 years. Students in vocational programmes are on average 20 when they graduate, which is considerably lower than in many oECD countries where the average is 22 (oECD, 2014a).

The combined field of engineering, manufacturing and construction accounts for the highest enrolments in vocational upper secondary education (39.2%) (Figure 4.4). This is followed by services (25%) and social sciences, business and law (13.7%). The percentage of graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects from upper secondary vocational education was 38.9% in 2012, above the EU average of 29.2% (Cedefop, 2015). According to the latvian government, however, too few students continue their tertiary studies in STEM-related fields of study. It intends to raise the proportion of tertiary graduates in STEM fields from 19% in 2012 to 27% in 2020 (MoES, 2014).

Figure 4.4. Enrolment in vocational schools, by field of education (2013)

Source: 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.

Figure 4.5 shows that, like several other EU countries, Latvia has made good progress in reducing the percentage of early school leavers, i.e. the proportion of 18-24 year-olds who left school before completing upper secondary education and have not participated in further education or training.

Figure 4.5. Early leavers from education and training, 18-24 year-olds

Notes: Non-oECd countries are shown in blue.

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Countries are ranked in ascending order of the 2014 percentage of early leavers from education and training.

Source: Eurostat (2015d), “Early leavers from education and training by sex and labour status”, Eurostat database, Eurostat, (accessed 15 July 2015).

With 8.5% early school leavers in 2014 - down from 12.9% in 2010 - Latvia has already achieved the Europe 2020 strategy target of reducing the share to below 10% by 2020 (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2013). However this national average hides considerable differences within Latvia; early school-leaving rates are still about twice as high in rural areas as they are in urban areas and male students are considerably more likely to leave school early than female students.

There seems to be a conundrum here, however, for despite its high completion rates in upper secondary education, the Programme for international Student Assessment (PiSA) 2009 found only 25% of 15-year-old students in Latvia said they expected to complete a university degree (oECD, 2012a). Although this figure is some years old, it suggests that young people in Latvia may have lower educational aspirations than would be expected from their levels of educational attainment.

Gender segregation

A challenge for all vocational education systems is the mitigation of gender segregation. The situation in Latvia reflects the international tendency for male students to cluster in engineering and construction-related areas, whilst females are clustered in health care and personal services. in 2012, 67% of latvian male graduates from upper secondary vocational education were from engineering, manufacturing and construction programmes, compared with only 9% of female graduates (MoES, 2015).

By contrast, 34% of female graduates were from services programmes and 34% from social sciences, business and law, whereas the proportions of male graduates from these fields were small (12% and 6% respectively). On average across oECD countries, the gender balance was relatively more even, with 48% of male graduates from engineering, manufacturing and construction programmes and 24% of female graduates from social sciences, business and law programmes (oECD, 2014a).

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