Country Report


1. Key Indicators

Figure 1: Key indicators overview
Latvia EU
2011 2021 2011 2021
EU-level-targets 2030 target
Participation in early childhood education (from age 3 to starting age of compulsory primary education) ≥ 96% 91.3%13 94.0%20 91.8%13 93.0%20
Low achieving eighth-graders in digital skills < 15% : : : :
Low achieving 15-year-olds in: Reading < 15% 17.6%09 22.4%18 19.7%09 22.5%18
Maths < 15% 22.6%09 17.3%18 22.7%09 22.9%18
Science < 15% 14.7%09 18.5%18 18.2%09 22.3%18
Early leavers from education and training (age 18-24) < 9% 11.6% 7.3%b 13.2% 9.7%b
Exposure of VET graduates to work-based learning ≥ 60% (2025) : :u : 60.7%
Tertiary educational attainment (age 25-34) ≥ 45% 35.1% 45.5%b 33.0% 41.2%
Participation of adults in learning (age 25-64) ≥ 47% (2025) : : : :
Other contextual indicators
Equity indicator (percentage points) : 11.318 : 19.3018
Early leavers from education and training (age 18-24) Native 11.8% 7.2%b 11.9% 8.5%b
EU-born : bu 25.3% 21.4%b
Non EU-born :u bu 31.4% 21.6%b
Upper secondary level attainment (age 20-24, ISCED 3-8) 80.6% 87.0%b 79.6% 84.6%b
Tertiary educational attainment (age 25-34) Native 35.0% 44.7%b 34.3% 42.1%b
EU-born :u :bu 28.8% 40.7%b
Non EU-born 35.6% 65.8%b 23.4% 34.7%b
Education investment Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP 6.0% 5.9%20 4.9% 5.0%20
Public expenditure on education as a share of the total general government expenditure 14.2% 13.8%20 10.0% 9.4%20

Sources: Eurostat (UOE, LFS, COFOG); OECD (PISA). Further information can be found in Annex I and at Monitor Toolbox. Notes: The 2018 EU average on PISA reading performance does not include ES; the indicator used (ECE) refers to early-childhood education and care programmes which are considered by the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) to be ‘educational’ and therefore constitute the first level of education in education and training systems – ISCED level 0; the equity indicator shows the gap in the share of underachievement in reading, mathematics and science (combined) among 15-year-olds between the lowest and highest quarters of socio-economic status; b = break in time series, u = low reliability, : = not available, 09 = 2009, 13 = 2013, 18 = 2018, 20 = 2020.

Figure 2: Position in relation to strongest and weakest performers

2. A focus on digital education and skills

The Latvian government is stepping up efforts to raise digital skills and increase digitalisation across society, including in education. The Latvian 2021-2027 Digital transformation guidelines adopted in July 2021 set out an overarching strategy for the country’s digital transformation. The guidelines cover internet access, ICT education and skills, modern and efficient public administration, and e-services and digital content for society. In the 2022 DESI index, Latvia ranks 18th for human capital among the 27 EU countries, up two positions compared to 2021. According to the index, 51% of the population aged 16 to 74 have at least basic digital skills and 24% have above-basic digital skills, as compared to EU averages of 54% and 26% respectively (European Commission, 2022). The figure is considerably higher for younger people: 81% of 16-19-year-olds have at least basic digital skills, well above the EU average of 69%1.

The new competence-based curriculum and the experience acquired during the COVID-19 emergency are driving the digitalisation of education. The revised general education curriculum – Skola2030 – refers to digital literacy as a transversal skill to be integrated throughout the general education cycle, highlighting coding and algorithmic thinking skills. Throughout their education, students learn to use digital technologies in computing, design and technology, advanced coding, or specialised courses in digital design or robotics. According to the new curriculum, digital tools must be used in schools at all levels. Examples include: (i) the use of the Digital European Language Portfolio from grade 1 onwards to develop pupils’ self-directed learning skills; and (ii) using digital map services and online databases, creating visual models and doing field work (Latvian terrain surveys) to develop natural science skills. Under Skola2030, Latvia has, since September 2021, been implementing the integrated modular e-learning management system ‘’. The new system provides: (i) improved learning content; (ii) increased access to digital teaching aids and tools for schools; and (iii) improved data exchange and support for teachers for learning and teaching. Between 2020 and 2021, 2 040 teachers started a course to improve their digital skills; 1 921 of them have already completed it. In 2022, the government adopted legislation introducing and regulating remote learning as an integral part of formal education. The new law envisages the use of remote learning from the third grade onwards. It aims to provide learners with a differentiated, personalised and interdisciplinary learning and study process.

The Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) has signed a memorandum with public and private partners to boost digital infrastructure in schools. The ‘Powerful internet for every Latvian school’ project aims to provide both schools and pupils with ICT tools, including computers, modernised intranets and improved internet connections. Another initiative is the multi-stakeholder partnership agreement “A Computer for Every Child”, involving the government and ICT partners. The first public procurement, launched in August 2021, purchased up to 30 000 computers for basic school pupils. More than 100 schools have improved their internet connections with donated equipment. Partners include Riga Technical University, the Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments, Latvian State Radio and Television Centre and a number of prominent business companies. ‘Powerful internet for every Latvian school’ currently involves 563 out of 616 Latvian schools.

The introduction of specific digital technologies for learning runs parallel with pilot projects implemented by private sector companies, sometimes in cooperation with the government. The project with the widest reach so far is the START IT social education project, which teaches coding and programming skills to children and adults. According to START IT, around 24 000 pupils and teachers are using its online platform.

3. Early childhood education and care

Participation in early childhood education and care (ECEC) is almost universal for children aged between 3 years and the starting age of compulsory education. 94% of 3-6-year-olds were enrolled in ECE in 2020, slightly more than the EU average of 93%, though still below the EU-level target of 96% by 2030. Girls are slightly more likely to be enrolled in ECE than boys (94.6% vs 93.4%). The number of children in private establishments is growing – they were attended by 11.1% of children. Compared to the 2019/2020 school year, the number of preschool education establishments rose from 634 to 643, due to the opening of 9 new private establishments, the number of which increased from 138 to 147. Over a period of 10 years, the number of private preschool education establishments in Riga has tripled.

The share of children below 3 enrolled in formal childcare remains low. In 2020, 26.3% of children below 3 were enrolled in formal childcare, down from 28.3% in 2019.2 The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have been a factor in the drop in enrolments. The proportion of children below 3 enrolled in childcare has been increasing in recent years (it was 15% in 2009), but remains below both the EU average of 35.3% and the Barcelona target of 33%. Latvia’s Education Law stipulates that all children are legally entitled to a place in ECEC from the age of 18 months.

The switch to Latvian as the sole language of instruction from September 2023 could exacerbate teacher shortages. Amendments to the Education Law stipulate that from 1 September 2023, preschool education and grades 1, 4 and 7 of basic education should be carried out only in the official language3. According to government figures, the changes would apply to 17% of teachers and 24% of pupils in pre-primary and primary education (see also Section 4). At the beginning of the 2020/2021 school year, in 82.3% of the preschool education establishments, the language of instruction was Latvian, and in 16.9% Russian4.

4. School education

The proportion of early leavers from education and training (ELET) is well below the EU average, and shows a marked reduction in gender disparities. In 2021, the ELET rate in the 18-24 age group was 7.3%, below both the EU average of 9.7% and the EU-level target of 9% by 2030. Over the years, the male ELET rate has been falling steadily and at a much faster pace than the female rate, which has been fluctuating somewhat over the years (Figure. 3). This has resulted in a marked reduction in the gender gap, which is now below the EU average (3.3 pps as compared to the EU average of 3.5 pps)5. The ELET rate is considerably higher in rural areas (10.1% vs EU 10%) than in cities (6.1% vs EU 8.7%), reflecting geographical disparities in learning outcomes.

Figure 3: Early leavers from education and training by sex, 2012-2021 (%)

Latvia’s education system is broadly equitable, but with wide disparities between urban and rural areas. Some features of the education system favour equity, such as the comparatively longer duration of compulsory education6, delayed tracking7, and the low share of pupils repeating a year. At 9.2%, the proportion of underachievers (in all three tested subjects combined) is lower than the EU average (13%). Socio-economic status exerts a comparatively limited influence on educational performance: 15.2% of students from a low socio-economic background are underachievers, as opposed to 23.5% in the EU as a whole. The gap between underperforming students from a low socio-economic background and those from a high socio-economic background is also smaller than the EU average (11.3 pps vs 19.3 pps). As regards basic skills, 15-year-olds’ performance in the 2018 OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in reading, mathematics and science was broadly stable compared with 2015 and continues to outperform the EU average. However, Latvia shows a wide gender gap in reading, where 29.4% of boys are low achievers, compared with 15.7% of girls (OECD, 2019).

Regional inequalities in terms of access to quality education and a fragmented education system remain the main challenges in Latvia’s education sector. Since the school network is still to big for Latvia’s small population of school-age children, many schools struggle to hire teachers as they cannot offer competitive salaries based on a full-time workload. Learning outcomes in schools in small towns and in rural areas are on average lower than in the capital Riga.

Renewing an increasingly ageing teaching workforce is proving difficult. Latvia’s teachers are among the oldest in the EU. In 2020, over half (52.5%) of all schoolteachers were 50 or older, and only 21.4% were under 40, as compared to EU averages of 39.2% and 29.5% respectively. The first interactive online map of teacher vacancies8 in the country was launched in order to publicise available teaching posts more widely (previously it was only possible to see available vacancies by municipality).The switch to Latvian as the sole language of instruction should be completed by 1 September 2025. Effective supporting measures will be key to its smooth implementation, particularly for those teacher who are not yet fully proficient in Latvian. The government is planning to provide teachers with language training courses, as well as support for working in a linguistically heterogeneous environment. The government will also participate participating in the costs of extracurricular education programmes for minority language and cultural history.

The government continues its efforts to consolidate the school network. To encourage municipalities to cooperate, the government approved a new financing principle for schools (based on the number of students per municipality, and no longer on the number of students in each given school), combined with new minimum quality criteria for schools to continue to receive state funding. The quality criteria include school accreditation (quality assurance) results and each school’s centralised testing results, calculated as an index based on the number of students in each age group in the municipality. This is expected to encourage municipalities, as founders of educational institutions, to optimise the school network and to improve teacher/student ratios. The model makes it possible to increase the remuneration of municipal teachers by increasing the salary rate, and to ensure a full workload for teachers, who are otherwise often induced to combine teaching hours in several schools to achieve a viable salary. This could help raise the attractiveness of the teaching profession, thus aiding the renewal of the teaching workforce.

Latvia’s schools welcomed many Ukrainian displaced children and teachers following Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. By the end of the 2021/2022 school year, Latvian schools had accommodated more than 4 000 Ukrainian children, over half of them in the capital Riga9. Ukrainian teachers with appropriate qualifications were invited to apply for positions to teach Ukrainian students. Subsequently, they were also deployed as teachers of foreign languages in Latvian general education institutions. Latvia’s National Education Centre has set up a database of Ukrainian teachers in Latvia.

The war is taking a toll on students’ emotional well-being. Schools find themselves needing to address rising levels of anxiety among their students, many of them already struggling with the consequences of two years of social isolation due to COVID-19. Teachers are carrying out explanatory work and providing psychological support to students. To address the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine in teaching, the MoES organised five 60-minute online lectures with researchers for students in years 9-12. An increase in bullying, is exacerbating an already difficult situation10. The MoES is exploring and trying new approaches to reducing bullying in cooperation with schools, families and other stakeholders11.

5. Vocational education and training and adult learning

The government is reforming the vocational education and training (VET) system to make it more flexible and fit for labour market needs. The reform aims to improve VET’s attractiveness and flexibility by reorganising it in centres of excellence in the categories of technical schools, art competence centres, professional schools, and professional lifelong learning centres. It also increases flexibility in obtaining qualifications by accumulating, transferring and recognising partial qualifications, including by introducing micro-credentials. In 2022, Latvia started to implement VET graduate tracking, a long-standing challenge for VET policy planning. The national statistics bureau is preparing the first tracking for graduates of 2019. Other improvements underway include developing qualifications in line with the European Qualifications Framework, and continuing the VET curriculum reform, with the introduction of green and digital skills modules in VET school curricula.

These changes are expected to increase VET student numbers, currently still below the EU average. In 2020, 39.3% of secondary students were enrolled in VET schools, below the EU average of 48.7%. However, employment rates of recent VET graduates are catching up with those of general education graduates. In 2021, employment of recent VET graduates was 73.5%, compared to the significantly lower 56.9% of graduates from general education. The long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic remain to be seen as VET schools were severely impacted by lockdowns and remote learning, resulting in less time for practical experiences in work-based learning, and higher drop-out rates.

Latvia is reforming its adult learning system, but progress is slow. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recovery, adult learning activities have been mainly delivered by the Public Employment Service (PES). The PES continued to expand its online and distance learning opportunities for unemployed people and people at risk of unemployment. The Future Skills initiative was piloted in September 2021, and offers international (massive open online courses, Coursera) and national online trainings in cooperation with the private sector and higher education institutions. It has been recognised as a successful initiative and has been extended into 2022. However, reaching the low skilled and other disadvantaged groups remains a challenge in Latvia, which became more evident during the pandemic. For example, participants in the Future Skills initiative have mostly medium and high education backgrounds (54%). The education guidelines for 2021-2027 aim to increase participation in adult learning (in the last 4 weeks) to 8% by 2024 and to 12% by 2027. Other objectives include: (i) improving links between higher and professional education; (ii) introducing skills funds and individual learning accounts; and (iii) strengthening work-based learning, and the recognition of qualifications and skills. The Latvian national 2030 target is the same as the EU target: 60% of adults participating in learning every year.

Box 1: Improving access to career support for learners in general and vocational education institutions

The aim of this European Social Fund project is to improve career guidance and support for students in general and vocational education institutions, and to make VET education more attractive. Project activities include: (i) developing and publishing a set of informative and methodological guidelines for implementing career support in general and vocational education institutions; (ii) training for teachers involved in implementing specific support – career consultants and career support specialists in matters of implementation of career support measures, (iii) organising national professional skills competitions – SkillsLatvia, EuroSkills and WorldSkills – for students of vocational education institutions, including organising professional skills demonstration events to increase the attractiveness of vocational education; and (iv) providing career support measures – career information, career education and career consultation activities – to students. So far, 430 institutions have received European Social Fund support for career education and career development.

Budget: EUR 23 618 650.92


6. Higher education

The proportion of young adults with a tertiary educational qualification is high and growing. In 2021, 45.5% of Latvian 25-34-year-olds had a tertiary educational qualification, well above the EU average of 41.2% and up from 44.2% in 2020. This means that Latvia has reached the EU-level target of 45% by 2030.

The gender gap has shrunk somewhat compared to 2020 but remains significant. While over half of Latvian women (55.4% in 2021 vs 55.3% in 2020) have a tertiary degree, a little more than a third of men do (36.2% in 2021 vs 33.8% in 2020). At 19.2 pps (21.5 pps in 2020), the gender gap in tertiary educational attainment is one of the widest in the EU, and almost twice the EU average of 11.1 pps (10.8 pps 2020).

Tertiary graduates tend to cluster in cities, to a larger-than-average extent. In 2021, 56.5% of city dwellers had a tertiary educational qualification, while only 29.7% of the rural population did. This is a common phenomenon reflecting economic and employment dynamics across the EU. However, it appears to be more marked in Latvia, with a gap of 26.8 pps as compared to an EU average of 21.8 pps. The tertiary educational attainment rate is also higher among the foreign-born population, at 63.5% against 44.7% for Latvian-born people. This is in marked contrast to the rest of the EU, where the opposite tends to be the case12.

The employment rate of recent (1-3 years) tertiary graduates13 grew by almost 5 pps in 2021 to 90% and remains higher than the EU average of 84.9%, albeit still 6.6 pps below the levels seen before the COVID-19 pandemic. By contrast, the employment rates of upper secondary graduates14, both general and vocational, are lower than the EU average (56.9% and 73.5% respectively, compared to the EU average of 61.9% and 76.4%), pointing to a significant employment advantage for tertiary graduates.

The share of STEM graduates remains comparatively low. In 2020, 19.3% of all graduates had a STEM qualification, slightly fewer than in 2015 (20.5%) and well below the EU average of 24.9% (Figure 4). At 6%, the share was particularly low for women (compared to an EU average of just over 8%). On a positive note, though the share of ICT graduates appears to be stagnating, Latvia still fares better than the EU average, with 4.6% against 3.9%. Its share of female ICT specialists stands at 23%, against 19% at EU level. In 2019, women represented 23% of new entrants to engineering, manufacturing and construction programmes and 20% in ICT programmes in Latvia. In contrast, they represented 90% of new entrants to the field of education, a sector traditionally dominated by women (OECD, 2021). The government has been promoting STEM subjects by gradually increasing the proportion of publicly financed study places in STEM fields and reducing it in social sciences, to steer demand towards study fields linked to high added-value economic sectors.

Figure 4: Tertiary attainment rate (25-34) by sex, 2021
Box 2: The STEAM Lyceum

As part of the government drive to raise interest in scientific disciplines among secondary school students, Latvia has launched the STEAM Lyceum, a virtual class that aims to help upper secondary school students improve their knowledge of math, chemistry and physics, and to promote interest in these subjects. Latvia’s National Centre for Education (VISC) is in charge of implementing the project, in cooperation with Riga Technical University (RTU) and the University of Latvia (LU). The VISC will carry out needs mapping and content coordination, the RTU will be involved in content and methodology planning for secondary school courses in physics, mathematics and chemistry, and the LU will be involved in developing methodological tools in physics for teachers and in directing strategic partnerships with industries. The STEAM Lyceum will be a structured knowledge site, developed in synergy with Skola2030 and other projects and initiatives. The project aims to improve the quality of chemistry and mathematics teaching in Latvian secondary schools to raise the numbers of STEM graduates. It will also provide retraining opportunities for professionals who want to update their knowledge to the latest technological innovations. The project was initiated by LMT (a telecom operator), the Employers' Confederation of Latvia and the RTU to address Latvia’s skills shortages in STEM areas.

The government is taking steps to make higher education more accessible by increasing student support. Extra funding of EUR 2.5 million will enable a 40% increase in student grants, from the current EUR 99 per month to EUR 140 per month. In addition, in autumn 2021 the government set up a new fund for students from large families. Eligible students, from both state and private HEIs, receive a grant of EUR 160 per month. An additional EUR 3.6 million has been allocated for this purpose in the 2022 budget.

The higher education reform is progressing according to plan, but it is too early to assess its effects. New amendments to the Law on higher education institutions reduce the administrative burden and specify the rules for higher education institutions. To improve data-based decision-making in the field of higher education, the amendments specify the information on higher education institutions’ activities that must be submitted to the MoES. This should make it possible to better assess: (i) their compliance with the type of higher education institution; and (ii) fulfilment of tasks assigned to state higher education institutions. It should also make it possible to collect the information needed for education quality monitoring and financial planning. The new governance model for higher education institutions introduced in 2021, which includes setting up managing boards, is being implemented with support from EU structural funds. In addition, the Recovery and Resilience Facility will be used to develop higher education institutions’ research capacity and to consolidate the higher education sector.

A new model of academic careers is being developed with support from the World Bank. One of the key principles of the new model is that academic teaching positions are linked to research requirements (previously Latvia has had two parallel career systems for academic teaching and research). The legal basis for the new model should be completed by the end of 2022.

7. References

Annex I: Key indicators sources

Indicator Source
Participation in early childhood education Eurostat (UOE), , educ_uoe_enra21
Low achieving eighth-graders in digital skills IEA, ICILS
Low achieving 15-year-olds in reading, maths and science OECD (PISA)
Early leavers from education and training Main data: Eurostat (LFS), edat_lfse_14 Data by country of birth: Eurostat (LFS), edat_lfse_02
Exposure of VET graduates to work based learning Eurostat (LFS), edat_lfs_9919
Tertiary educational attainment Main data: Eurostat (LFS), edat_lfse_03 Data by country of birth: Eurostat (LFS), edat_lfse_9912
Participation of adults in learning Data for this EU-level target is not available. Data collection starts in 2022. Source: EU LFS.
Equity indicator European Commission (Joint Research Centre) calculations based on OECD’s PISA 2018 data
Upper secondary level attainment Eurostat (LFS), edat_lfse_03
Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP Eurostat (COFOG), gov_10a_exp
Public expenditure on education as a share of the total general government expenditure Eurostat (COFOG), gov_10a_exp

Annex II: Structure of the education system

Structure of the education system Structure of the education system
Source: European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2022. The Structure of the European Education Systems 2022/2023: Schematic Diagrams. Eurydice Facts and Figures. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Please email any comments or questions to:


  • 1. Eurostat, ISOC_SK_DSKL_I21.
  • 2. Source: Eurostat - EU-SILC survey . Online data code : [ilc_caindformal]
  • 3. The switch should be completed for all grades by 1 September 2025.
  • 4. Source: Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.
  • 5. In 2021, the ELET rate was 8.9% for males and 5.6% for females. In 2015, the figures were 13.4% and 6.2% respectively.
  • 6. Education is compulsory in Latvia from age 5 to 16, including preschool education, which is compulsory for 5-6-year-olds.
  • 7. Tracking (i.e. sorting students into different educational pathways) begins at age 16.
  • 8. Esi skolotājs, vakances (Be a teacher, vacancies)
  • 9. By the end of May 2022, 4 190 Ukrainian displaced children were enrolled in Latvian schools. Out of this total, 2 861 attended general education (grades 1-9), 1 354 of whom were enrolled in minority school programmes, 1 501 in Latvian language programmes and 6 in a 'different category' school. The remaining 1 329 Ukrainian children were enrolled in pre-primary education: 395 in minority programmes, 929 in Latvian programmes, and 5 in other categories. Most Ukrainian children of both pre-primary and general education age (2 065) are learning in Riga (source: MoES).
  • 10. In 2018, the proportion of Latvian 15-year-olds who reported being bullied at least a few times a month was the highest in the EU at 35.5% (OECD PISA).
  • 11. E.g. MoES (2021) Aizvadīta diskusija ‘Etniskais mobings skolās – īstermiņa un ilgtermiņa risinājumi’ (Round table discussion ‘Ethnic mobbing in schools - short-term and long-term solutions’
  • 12. The EU average tertiary educational attainment rate is 36.2% for foreign-born people and 40.7% for native-born people.
  • 13. ISCED levels 5-8.
  • 14. ISCED levels 3-4.

Publication details

  • Catalogue numberNC-AN-22-008-EN-Q
  • ISBN978-92-76-55901-6
  • ISSN2466-9997
  • DOI10.2766/946590