The early childhood education and care (ECEC) system in Latvia is child oriented: the focus is on the child and their right to develop and learn. According to the Protection of the Rights of the Child Law:
A child has the right to such living conditions and benevolent social environment as will ensure his or her full physical and intellectual development. Every child shall receive adequate nourishment, clothing and accomodation. (..) The State shall ensure that all children have equal rights and opportunities to acquire education commensurate to their ability. Children have the right to free-of-charge pre-school preparation.
Since the adoption of the Education Law in 1999 preschool education has been a central component of ECEC in Latvia. According to the Education Law, preschool education is:
an educational level in which multi-dimensional development of the child as an individual, in the strengthening of health and preparation for the acquisition of primary education takes place.
Preschool education in Latvia is a part of general education. Since 2002, preschool education has been compulsory for 5 and 6-year-old children.
Types of institution
In Latvia, children are prepared for primary school in preschool educational institutions (pirmsskolas izglītības iestāde), such as kindergartens (bērnudārzs) and preschool educational groups in schools (pirmsskolas izglītības grupas pie skolām). In pre-primary education in Latvia there is one unitary International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) level 0 programme. Distinction between ISCED level 01 and ISCED level 02 programmes is conditional and used only for reporting to international statistical organisations. The founders of these institutions are responsible for theem; for the majority of institutions, the founder is the local government. The central government is responsible for the curriculum.
The majority of children attend preschool educational institutions (kindergartens) - almost 85% in 2018/2019. About 15% of children attend pre-school groups at primary schools, and a tiny proportion of children (0.5% in the school year 2018/2019) attend preschool groups established at interest-related educational institutions and youth centers, at vocationally-oriented educational institutions or at continuing vocational education and training institutions. (Source: general education statistics provided by the Ministry of Education and Science).
In compliance with the law On Local Governments it is a duty of every local government to ensure that children residing in the territory of the municipality have the opportunity to attend preschool education. The founders of preschool educational institutions are local governments (for public preschools) or physical or legal entities (for private preschools). The decisions on the foundation, reorganization and closing of the institution should be in coordination with the municipality’s board of education and the Ministry of Education and Science.