1. Key indicators
Figure 1 – Key indicators overview
|Education and training 2020 benchmarks|
|Early leavers from education and training (age 18-24)||14.3%||8.7%||14.0%||10.2%|
|Tertiary educational attainment (age 30-34)||30.5%||45.7%||31.1%||40.3%|
|Early childhood education
(from age 4 to starting age of compulsory primary education)
|Proportion of 15 year-olds underachieving in:||Reading||17.6%||22.4%18||19.3%||22.5%18|
|Employment rate of recent graduates by educational attainment (age 20-34 having left education 1-3 years before reference year)||ISCED 3-8 (total)||69.7%||84.1%||78.0%||80.9%|
|Adult participation in learning (age 25-64)||ISCED 0-8 (total)||5.6%||7.4%||7.9%||10.8%b|
|Learning mobility||Degree mobile graduates (ISCED 5-8)||:||8.1%18||:||4.3%18|
|Credit mobile graduates (ISCED 5-8)||:||5.2%18||:||9.1%18|
|Other contextual indicators|
|Education investment||Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP||6.7%||5.8% 18||5.1%||4.6%18|
|Expenditure on public and private institutions per student in € PPS||ISCED 1-2||€5 36612||€4 46717||€6 072d, 12||€6 240d, 16|
|ISCED 3-4||€5 68412||€5 39417||:12||€7 757d, 16|
|ISCED 5-8||€8 072d, 12||€5 78617||€9 679d, 12||€9 977d, 16|
|Early leavers from education and training (age 18-24)||Native-born||14.3%||8.8%||12.6%||8.9%|
|Foreign-born||: u||: u||29.3%||22.2%|
|Tertiary educational attainment (age 30-34)||Native-born||30.9%||45.5%||32.0%||41.3%|
|Employment rate of recent graduates by educational attainment (age 20-34 having left education 1-3 years before reference year)||ISCED 3-4||57.7%||70.4%||72.2%||75.9%|
Sources: Eurostat; OECD (PISA); Learning mobility figures are calculated by DG EAC, based on UOE 2018 data. Further information can be found in Annex I and in Volume 1 (ec.europa.eu/education/monitor). Notes: The 2018 EU average on PISA reading performance does not include ES; b= break in time series; d = definition differs, u= low reliability, := not available, 12= 2012, 16 = 2016, 17 = 2017, 18=2018.
Figure 2 - Position in relation to strongest and weakest performers
Source: DG EAC, based on data from Eurostat (LFS 2019, UOE 2018) and OECD (PISA 2018).
- Latvia is strongly committed to promoting digital education.
- Reforms at all levels of education should bring improvements in quality and efficiency.
- Tertiary educational attainment is high and offers a significant employability advantage.
- Latvian schools and pupils were able to adapt quickly and effectively to the COVID-19-enforced switch to distance learning.
3. A focus on digital education
Digital education and skills are a key element of Latvia’s overall education policy. The Education Development Guidelines for 2014-2020 support the development of digital skills1 in schools and promote the use of digital learning tools and innovative digital learning content at both primary and secondary level. The indicated deadline for implementing these Guidelines is the second half of 2020, but no official evaluation is available so far2. The new competence-based curriculum identifies digital skills as one of six transversal competences to be taught at all school levels. For years 1-3 the new curriculum envisages the teaching of computer science in an integrated way and sets out a recommended number of hours, while in years 4-9 it is taught as an optional separate subject. The use of PCs starts in first grade. A pilot project teaching computer science (datorika) in primary schools was launched in 2015, and while it is not a requirement, many schools provide it as a core subject.
At 48.3%, the proportion of teachers who report frequently or always letting students use ICT for projects or classwork has grown by 8 pps since 2013 and is slightly above the EU-22 average of 46.9%. However, comparison with neighbouring countries’ experience suggests that Latvian teachers do not use the full spectrum of opportunities offered by digital technologies. The share of teachers who have received training in the use of online collaborative tools was just above 42% in 2015 (compared to 60% in Estonia)3. Teaching materials in Latvia are less interactive and more in line with a frontal teaching approach. A comprehensive vision of how to help teachers work in a digitalised learning environment needs to be developed in order to avoid a fragmented approach which might not promote pupil development but may contribute to attention deficit (Daniela, Rubene and Goba 2018).
The share of digitally supportive schools4 is significantly above the EU average, but a lack of adequate technology hinders many schools’ capacity. While internet access is less of an issue in Latvian schools (8.7% of school leaders report insufficient internet access; EU-22 23.8%), a significant proportion of school leaders (41%) reports a shortage of or inadequate digital technology in their schools (EU-22 27%)5. This may explain why the share of pupils who use a PC at school on a weekly basis in Latvia is relatively low (40%; EU average 52% in lower secondary), while the share of students who use their own smartphones is significantly higher, particularly among upper secondary students (80% v 53%) (European Commission 2019). Students’ confidence in their digital competence is broadly in line with the EU average.
Latvian teachers feel generally more confident in their ability to use ICT than their EU peers. In 2018, 48% of lower secondary teachers felt well or very well prepared to use ICT for teaching, compared to 37.5% in the EU-22. ICT training is a strong component of both initial education and in-service training: 79.3% of recently qualified teachers6 received ICT training as part of their formal teacher training, (EU average 52.9%). This variation may reflect the increased emphasis on digital education of recent years and the demographic profile of Latvian teachers7. A wide range of digital education-related courses is offered by continuing professional development (CPD) institutes and training agencies, and over two-thirds of Latvian teachers received ICT training as part of their CPD in 2018, the highest proportion in the EU8. However, 22.6% of teachers report a strong need for further ICT training, significantly more than the EU-22 average of 16.1% (OECD, TALIS 2018).
The switch to distance learning caused by the COVID-19 emergency was comparatively smooth and effective, but efforts are needed to ensure equal access for all students. When on-site lessons were suspended at the end of March 2020, 93% of families and education establishments were technically ready to pursue online education: only 3% of students had no electronic device9. The government allocated EUR 200 000 to remedy the situation, while mobile operators supplied students with 5 000 tablets with internet access. According to a survey by the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES), a majority of teachers feel that they managed well (71%) or very well (15%) in providing distance learning. More than half of parents felt confident that learning objectives would be met. Students’ feelings about online classes were mostly positive (49%) or neutral (40%) (Edurio, MoES 2020).
4. Investing in education and training
Latvia invests comparatively heavily in education. Government expenditure on education grew by 5.3% in real terms in 2018, and remains well above the EU average both as a share of GDP (5.8% v 4.6%) and as a proportion of total government expenditure (15.1% v 9.9%). The largest share of the education budget goes to primary and pre-primary education (40.3% v EU 34.1%) while investment in secondary and tertiary education is well below the EU average (24% and 13.1% v 37.8% and 16.4%, respectively). Expenditure per student expressed in purchasing power standards is comparatively high relative to the country’s GDP per capita but remains below the EU average at all levels of education, reflecting teachers’ low salaries.
Maintenance of a large and inefficient school network weighs heavily on resource allocation. In 2018, a comparatively high share of Latvia’s education budget was spent on intermediate consumption (20%) and on gross capital formation (15%), well above the EU averages of 13% and 7%, while compensation of employees only accounted for 58% of education expenditure, compared to 65% in the EU (Fig. 3).
Government efforts to reduce the number of schools and increase class sizes continue. The Education Law was amended in 2019, enabling the government to set minimum requirements for school and class sizes, and negotiations with municipalities on the reorganisation of the school network are ongoing. Action in this area could help to improve learning outcomes and narrow educational gaps between urban and rural areas by providing competitive remuneration for teachers and quality education for every child, as evidence shows that larger schools and better remunerated teachers achieve better results (Krasnopjorovs, 2019, OECD 2019). The administrative and territorial reform10 currently underway could have a positive impact on streamlining the school network.
Figure 3 - General government expenditure in education by category, 2018
Source: Eurostat, COFOG: [gov_10a_exp].
5. Modernising early childhood and school education
Participation in early childhood education (ECE) is almost universal for 4-6 year-olds, but enrolment of younger children is lower. 97.4% of 5-6 year-olds were enrolled in ECE in 2018, slightly more than the EU average of 96.4%. The figure drops to 27.4% for children below the age of 3 (EU average 34.7%), even though Latvia guarantees a free place in ECE from the age of 18 months to every child whose parents so wish11.
The early school leaving rate is well below the EU average but rises significantly outside cities. In 2019, the percentage of early leavers from education and training (ESL) in the 18-24 age group was 8.7%, a slight increase (0.4 pp) over 2018, but still well below the EU average of 10.2%. ESL is considerably higher in rural areas (11%) and outside bigger cities (13%), echoing geographical disparities in learning outcomes. The ESL rate decreased for boys (10.5%, down from 11.4% in 2018) but increased for girls (6.8% v 5%) leading to a significant reduction in the gender gap.
Latvia performs comparatively well in terms of basic skills proficiency, but the extent of bullying is a cause for concern. In 2018, 15 year-olds’ performance as measured by PISA was broadly stable in science but worsened in reading compared to 2015, though still better than the level in 2000, while performance in maths improved (OECD PISA, 2019). The proportion of low achievers in all three domains is lower than the EU average (9.2% v 12.6%). On a less positive note, at 35.5% the proportion of students who reported being bullied at least a few times a month is the highest in the EU, and has grown by almost 5 pps since PISA 201512 . More than one in ten (11%) of 15-year-olds said they were frequently bullied, 10% that they were regularly threatened by other students and 12% said they were physically assaulted ‘at least a few times each month’. Boys tend to be bullied more than girls, as do low-performing and disadvantaged students.
Figure 4 - Proportion of students reporting that they have faced bullying at least a few times in a month, 2018
Source: OECD (2019), PISA 2018.
The education system is broadly equitable, but unequal opportunities in access to quality education persist. According to PISA 2018, students’ socioeconomic background exerts a comparatively limited influence on learning performance. The difference in PISA reading performance between the most advantaged and the most disadvantaged students was 65 score points, significantly lower than the EU average of 97. Girls outperformed boys in reading (by 33 score points) and to a lesser extent in science (8 points), but were outperformed by boys in maths (7 points), in line with the EU average. PISA confirms that access to quality education remains dependent on place of residence: larger urban schools continued to perform much better than smaller rural ones, with a difference of 52 score points in reading, equivalent to over a year of schooling.
The new competence-based curriculum for general education is being phased in. The new curriculum will be implemented in grades 1, 4, 7 and 10 from September 2020. For grades 1-7 (basic school), the curriculum covers the following subjects: languages (English, German and French), social and civic studies, understanding of culture and art of self-expression, science, maths, technologies, health and sport. In upper secondary education (grades 10-12) the curriculum reduces the number of subjects and allows students to dedicate 30% of school time to specialised in-depth learning of selected subjects. Implementation of the new curriculum started at pre-school level in 2019/2020 and should be completed in the upper grades in 2022/2023. In order to support teachers in its implementation, a free self-study e-course has been made available to all teachers with European Social Fund (ESF) support13. In addition, the National Education Centre (VISC) launched a campaign to inform parents about the most significant changes at all school levels and of what is expected of them in terms of parental support and cooperation with the school.
Teacher shortages are a focus of attention for school principals and some municipalities. Several school principals have devised temporary solutions to fill vacancies: persuading retired teachers to work, asking teachers specialising in different subjects to cover vacancies on top of their normal subjects, and providing subjects in blocks (e.g. no maths in September, but intensive maths every day in November). Municipalities are also trying to address teacher shortages, for instance by offering bonuses for teachers who agree to relocate from other regions, or providing municipal apartments at a discount price. The government has also taken steps to address the issue. Measures discussed include the development of a fast-track teacher training programme (prioritising science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)) for university graduates; a tool for more accurate identification of teacher vacancies; the possibility to validate prior experience in education as a pathway into teaching; and modules for teachers to learn how to teach other subjects. A new teacher training programme, ‘Teaching force’, aims to attract professionals from other fields (see Box 1). While these measures may attract new teachers, long-term success will depend on the system’s capacity to retain teachers by increasing the attractiveness of the profession.
Box 1: `Teaching force´: fast-tracking professionals into teaching
The MoES has launched ‘Teaching force’ (Mācītspēks), a project designed to attract professionals from various fields and train them as teachers, with support from the ESF. The project is jointly implemented by the University of Latvia (Riga), the University of Liepaja and the University of Daugavpils, ensuring a wide territorial coverage. The project envisages the entry of 100 new, specially trained teachers into schools every year for at least 3 years, starting in 2020. Apart from the three universities, the MoES has also partnered with the Foundation ‘Mission Possible’. The course involves 4 days of teaching and 1 day of studying a week. Students will be entitled to a monthly grant of EUR 200 during the period of study and to a salary supplement of EUR 120 during their first year of work after graduation. A publicity campaign was developed to promote the programme in spring 2020.
‘Teaching force’ is based on the second level higher professional education programme for acquiring teacher qualifications. This is one of the study programmes of the new teacher education system in the ESF project ‘Innovative, research-based study programmes of the University of Latvia in the field of education – Education, pedagogy and sports’ (No. 18.104.22.168/18/I/004).
Selection of participants takes place in three rounds: in round 1, candidates are invited to describe their motivation, analyse their previous achievements, realise what they want to achieve in the programme, and where and with whom they would prefer to work. In round 2, they are invited to lead a 7-minute session for other candidates, work with them to solve a school-related problem situation, and solve a problem situation in pairs. The candidates need to prepare their sessions at home and, among other things, show their ability to work in teams. During round 3, in the face-to-face conversation with the evaluators, candidates have the opportunity to discuss their reasons for participating in the programme and talk thoroughly through any questions from previous rounds.
6. Modernising vocational education and training
The employment outcomes of recent VET graduates in Latvia are rather poor, particularly when compared to the employment situation of young adults in general. In 2019, the employment premium of recent graduates from VET, compared to the average employment rate of young adults, was negative and one of the worst in the EU (recent VET graduates had a 15.5 pps lower employment than all young adults, a situation worse only in EL)14. On average in the EU, the employment premium of recent VET graduates is positive, i.e. they have an employment rate 1.7 pps higher than young adults in general15. The number of students enrolled in VET declined between 2013 and 2016 but has now stabilised, and marginally increased in 2018 close to 23 70016. 38.8% of learners were enrolled in upper secondary VET out of total learners in upper secondary education (EU 48.4%).
Amendments to the VET law have been under public consultation since January 2020. They introduce partial awards (as opposed to full qualifications only) and flexible pathways for acquiring qualifications through lifelong learning (Cedefop ReferNet, 2020). VET schools are being equipped with modern technologies. Since the merging of smaller schools into bigger VET centres in the past decade, their modernisation has been a priority. The current strategy for upgrading school equipment is focused on 17 ‘priority education programme groups’ and covers high-speed internet and software for training. Digital literacy courses are offered to VET teachers though the 2016-2022 national ESF project17 (Daija et al, 2019).
The covid-19 pandemic had an impact on VET in Latvia18. VET exams were held in two parts: the theoretical part will be taken remotely and the practical part will be on-site in small groups, following strict health restrictions. VET institutions can reduce the length of internships after assessing the situation and the specifics of the study programme. In vocational secondary and 3-year programmes, internships can be reduced by 320 hours maximum, in vocational basic education programmes – by 240 hours maximum.
7. Modernising higher education
The share of young adults with tertiary education is high and growing, but the gender gap in tertiary attainment remains significant. 45.7% of Latvian 30-34 year-olds had a tertiary qualification in 2019, up from 42.7% in 2018 and well above the EU average of 40.3%. The increase was more marked for men (from 30.6% to 35%) than for women (from 55.2% to 57%). The gender gap is thus lower than in 2018, but remains twice the EU average (22 pps v 10.5 pps). STEM graduates were 20% of all graduates in 2018, well below the EU average of 25.4%. The proportion of graduates in natural sciences, mathematics and statistics was the lowest in the EU (2.7% v 6.4%).
Latvian graduates have the highest employment rate in the EU, pointing to significant returns to higher education. The employment rate of recent tertiary graduates in the 20-34 age group reached 96.6% 2019 (up from 91.3% in 2018) and is significantly higher than the EU average of 85%. This is in stark contrast to the employment rate of VET graduates (ISCED 3-4), at 65.6% one of the lowest in the EU.
Latvia’s graduate tracking system is in its early stages of implementation. The register of students and graduates was launched in 2017 and gathers individual data about graduates’ employment status, field of work and salary; education institution, study programme and degree related information; and demographic characteristics. The register will eventually form the basis for higher education graduate outcome and study quality monitoring. It will also inform the general public and potential students, and provide objective information to policymakers and experts for analysis of employment and career development over time.
A reform of the governance of higher education institutions is under way and could increase their strategic capacity and academic competitiveness. The MoES has submitted to parliament proposals to increase the international competitiveness of the HE sector19. The proposals will be incorporated into laws in the course of 2020 and implemented gradually, first in universities (2020–2022) and then in colleges (2022–2023). The reform is expected to deliver systemic results by 2025-2027, which, in turn, will allow a new HE development plan to be prepared from 2028 onwards. The areas targeted by the reform are:
- Governance: separation of academic and strategic decision-making by introducing executive boards tasked with ensuring strategic management while guaranteeing the autonomy, openness and transparency of HEIs.
- Funding: state funding will be allocated according to performance outcomes, priorities set by the state and the goals of the individual HEI. The boards will be responsible for allocating co-financing for project funding obtained from external sources. This will incentivise HEI management to attract external funding more effectively, diversifying funding sources and ensuring strategic long-term development regardless of annual fluctuations in the state budget.
- Human resources: a unified career model for academic teaching and research staff is to be developed, aiming to increase the competitiveness of higher education and science and ensure the development of new talents.
Box 2: Developing effective governance at Riga Technical University (RTU) with ESF support
The goal of the project is to improve the quality of content of study programmes. The project also aims to ensure effective governance processes and to promote management’s skills and competences also through digital education. This includes:
- Creating audiovisual teaching tools in a virtual learning environment. Several bachelor study courses will be digitised. Part-time and further education students spend most of their time studying outside the university, and digitising these courses can significantly improve the learning process.
- Proposing digital solutions. The aim is to reflect on the level of digitalisation of RTU and to show how it is changing. Students, faculty members and staff will calculate their digital footprint with an ad hoc calculator. Development of an e-solution for academic integrity in cooperation with Rīga Stradiņš University and the University of Latvia and other higher education institutions. Actions include the development of e-learning materials and tools for interdisciplinary collaboration on academic integrity for staff and students, and a set of tools for interdisciplinary collaboration on academic integrity.
The total financing of the project is EUR 3 289 200 of which EUR 2 795 820 from the ESF, and EUR 493 380 from the state budget.
Duration of the project: 01/11/2018 – 31/10/2022.
8. Promoting adult learning
Latvia is working to improve adult participation in learning, which remains significantly below the EU average. In 201920 the adult participation rate in education and training was 7.4%, compared to 10.8% in the EU. Between 2016 and 2019, Latvia made continuous progress in addressing identified challenges. A better and more effective coordination mechanism as well as a more targeted approach tailored to the needs of employers and learners were developed by adult learning policies in 2017-2018. However, current policies failed to meet the educational needs of many vulnerable adults (Maslo, I. 2017). Thus, the challenge remains to deliver high-quality adult learning to all, especially vulnerable adults. Further efforts are needed to incentivize employers and individuals to invest in adult learning, while funding could be allocated more equitably across regions.
There are a number of digital education opportunities for adults, formal and non-formal (e.g. job-related). Since 2014, the development of digital skills in formal and non-formal learning at all education levels was included in the Education Development Guidelines for 2014-202021. According to the State Education Information System in 2019/2020, 2.13% of students took the opportunity to gain a formal primary or secondary general education through distance learning22. Adults can also receive a vocational basic education with pedagogical correction in several education institutions, including in the technological field.
Cedefop ReferNet (2020), Latvia: 2020 update of VET policy developments in the deliverables agreed in the 2015 Riga conclusions. Unpublished
Daija, Z.; Kinta, G.; Labunskis, E. (2019). Vocational education and training for the future of work: Latvia. Cedefop ReferNet thematic perspectives http://libserver.cedefop.europa.eu/vetelib/2018/adapting_VET_digitalisation_future_work_Latvia_Cedefop_ReferNet.pdf
Daniela, L., Rubene, Z. and Goba L. (2018). Datu apkopojums un ārvalstu un Latvijas pieredzes analīze par digitālo mācību līdzekļu pieejamību un izmantošanu vispārējās izglītības mācību satura nodrošīnāšānai. Ministry of Education and Science.
Edurio, Ministry of Education and Science of Latvia (2020), Managing a school system through shutdown: lessons for school leaders. Results of a system-wide study of remote learning in Latvia. https://issuu.com/eduriocom/docs/report_shutdown_lessons?fr=sZWI4ODEzMTEwOTc
European Commission (2019), 2nd Survey of Schools: ICT in education, Latvia Country Report. https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/2nd-survey-schools-ict-education
Krasnopjorovs, O. (2019). Why is education performance so different across Latvian schools? Economics of Transition and Institutional Change, Vol. 17, Issue 4. https://doi.org/10.1111/ecot.12227
Maslo, Irina (2017). Independent national experts network in adult learning/skills. Country report for Latvia, European Commission. https://ec.europa.eu/social/BlobServlet?docId=21245&langId=en
OECD (2019), PISA 2018 Results (Volume I): What Students Know and Can Do, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/5f07c754-en
OECD (2019), PISA 2018 Results (Volume III): What School Life Means for Students’ Life, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/19963777
Annex I: Key indicators sources
|Indicator||Eurostat online data code|
|Early leavers from education and training||edat_lfse_14 + edat_lfse_02|
|Tertiary educational attainment||edat_lfse_03 + edat_lfs_9912|
|Early childhood education||educ_uoe_enra10|
|Underachievement in reading, maths and science||OECD (PISA)|
|Employment rate of recent graduates||edat_lfse_24|
|Adult participation in learning||trng_lfse_03|
|Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP||gov_10a_exp|
|Expenditure on public and private institutions per student||educ_uoe_fini04|
- Degree-mobile graduates
- Credit-mobile graduates
|DG EAC computation based on Eurostat / UIS / OECD data|
Annex II: Structure of the education system
Source: European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2020. The Structure of the European Education Systems 2019/2020: Schematic Diagrams. Eurydice Facts and Figures. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.
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