In 2019/2020, the implementation of the Regulations Regarding the State Guidelines for Pre-school Education and the Model Pre-school Education Programmes started. The Cabinet of Ministers approved the guidelines in November 2018 and this document is binding for all preschool programmes and preschool educational institutions, including home-based provision.
A template for the preschool curriculum to be drawn up by each preschool educational institution has been developed in accordance with the guidelines.
Areas of learning and development
The compulsory content of pre-school education, the expected outcomes of the end of pre-school education and the principles of content implementation are set out in the guidelines.
The guidelines state that the pedagogical process and the education of children to achieve the intended outcomes of compulsory content are as follows.
- Activities are planned for a period of at least 1month on a topic relevant to children, formulating a key message and choosing which skills to develop.
- Activities are organized throughout the day, without the need for specific, time-limited study areas.
- Children learn the Latvian language and engage in physical activity every day.
- Every day, part of the learning takes place outdoors.
- Teaching is planned by a preschool teacher with other professionals (music teachers, sports teacher, etc.) The plan is implemented by the preschool teacher, alone or with other professionals, following agreement on the tasks of each professional.
- Teaching includes events such as national holidays, seasonal customs and other traditions.
Preschool compulsory content is based on transversal skills. These include the child's activities, thinking, and emotional and social aspects. Transversal skills help the child to acquire knowledge, understanding and basic skills in a variety of contexts or fields of study:
- social and civic
- cultural awareness and artistic expression
- health and physical activity.
The course of learning the study content and the planned results to be achieved by the child in the template programme are indicated by the National Centre for Education for the three stages of pre-school education. In the curriculum, the approximate age of the child corresponds to each stage of pre-school education:
- stage I - 1.5-3 years (the planned result to be achieved is determined for a child aged 3 years);
- stage II - 3-5 years (the planned result to be achieved is determined for a child aged 4 years);
- stage III - 5-6 years (the planned result to be achieved is determined for a child aged 6 years) until the beginning of basic education.
The stages of preschool education are determined taking into account the child's developmental needs and the method of teaching in the preschool. Although each stage of preschool education is related to the child's approximate age, the teacher should take into account the individual developmental characteristics and needs of each child when planning the learning process. Therefore, for example, in a group in which most children learn at the level of stage II, some children will be able to learn at the level of stage I, but some of the children might be able to learn at the level of stage III.
Teachers are free to choose the teaching methodology best suited to their group's particular circumstances.
Teachers plan their teaching activities so that least 1month is spent on a specific topic, which may be related to the national calendar (special commemorative and festive dates), seasonal customs, and traditions related to events in the environment and the world, choosing the skills to be developed. Learning is planned in cooperation with other specialists of the preschool educational institution (e.g. music and sports teachers).
The teacher, in collaboration with colleagues, plans to implement the curriculum as an integrated learning process, choosing a topic that is relevant to the child's interests, social events or nature. To allow the child to delve deeply into the topic and to achieve the lanned outcomes, the topic should be planned for a period of at least 1month. When planning a lesson, the teacher formulates relevant, specific and child-friendly key messages and chooses complex outcomes for the child in all areas of learning.
There is a variety of educational tools for children to work with:
- teaching aids
- art supplies
- games and toys
- other learning materials.
The number of these educational materials available will depend on whether the children will use them individually, in pairs or in groups. The teacher keeps track of the use of the teaching aids and renews and replenishes them as needed. Mobility equipment, such as skis and scooters, is purchased by an educational institution with the premise that all children in the same group will have the opportunity to use the same type of mobility equipment.
At preschool, the child begins to learn how to use protective equipment for their safety; for example, when walking outside the school, the child wears a reflective vest. The aim is for the use of protective equipment in everyday situations to become the child's habit.
It is important for the teacher to have access to a computer during the day-to-day work, including the learning process. A projector is required so that the teacher can show visual aids to the children. In order for the child to work individually with visual aids, such as a series of individual images, the teacher prints them out.
It is important for the health of the pre-school child to spend as much time outdoors as possible in the open air, even if the weather requires specific clothing (e.g. a raincoat, waterproof gloves and boots or overalls that can get dirty and wet). Therefore, there is a need for drying cabinets where the child's clothes can be dried.
The emphasis of assessment is on improving learning. In order for the children to improve their performance according to the planned outputs and assessment criteria, they need effective feedback on their performance. Evaluation is an integral part of learning, allowing both the teacher and the child to plan for improvements in the learning process.
Diagnostic, formative and summative assessment are all used during pre-primary education.
- The purpose of the diagnostic evaluation is to specify the result to be achieved for the child/children. It helps to plan the learning process. Diagnostic assessment is implemented by starting new studies (school year, subject, skill) and assessing children's knowledge, understanding, skills, etc. to compare them with the intended outcome and to plan how to guide the child's (or group of children's) learning according to their needs.
- The purpose of formative assessment is to assess how the learning process is progressing. It is implemented to understand how the child is moving towards the intended outcome, so that the teacher can adapt the learning process to the needs of the child or group of children. It is important to (a) provide concrete and positive feedback in preschool, which encourages further learning, (b) involve the child in the evaluation, evaluating one's own work and achievements, thus evaluating growth and taking responsibility for learning, and (c) involve children in evaluating the performance of other children.
- Summative assessment is carried out at the end of the study (e.g. at the end of the study topic period). It provides an opportunity to summarize the growth and results achieved in the study process.
At the end of pre-primary education, the teacher assesses the child's performance on the basis of the following achievement scale.
- Has begun to learn. The child has begun to master the results to be achieved but needs support and regular assistance from the teacher to complete the assignments.
- Continues to learn. The child has partially achieved the intended results but cannot use the knowledge/skills independently, and sometimes needs support materials or encouragement from the teacher.
- Mastered. The child has fully achieved the intended results and is consistent, and is able to use the knowledge/skills independently in known and unfamiliar situations.
- In-depth learning. The child has fully achieved the intended results and is consistently able to use the knowledge/skills independently in a variety of situations and justify the choice of strategies used.
It is also advisable to consider the educational levels of the children in the daily learning process. At the end of pre-primary education, the teacher provides a written description of the child's performance to the child's parents. If the child does not master the basics of a particular area, the teacher will recommend what needs to be done to help the child improve their performance.
A template for the preschool curriculum which includes recommendations on assessment and evaluation has been developed in accordance with the Cabinet of Ministers' Regulations Regarding the State Guidelines for Pre-school Education and the Model Pre-school Education Programmes. This template guides teachers and provides practical support to teachers, methodologists (those responsible for deciding the methods used in educational institutions), school heads and deputy school heads in their daily work.
Transition to primary school
The compulsory part of preschool education in Latvia – for 5- and 6-year-old children – is intended to prepare children to learn at school. Under the new curriculum and educational approach (which started in 2019/2020), the issues of socio-emotional readiness for school are given greater attention. Skola2030 – the developer of the new curriculum – offers teachers and parents methodological support materials about preparedness of preschool children for school.
Primary schools often cooperate with parents and preschool institutions to facilitate the transition. Some schools organise ‘open door’ days for preschool children and their parents. Some municipalities establish preschool groups (usually for 5- and 6-yer-olds) in schools so that children attend the preschool educational programme at school premises (a good-practice example is from the city of Valmiera).
The transition to primary school is closely related to frequent debates about changing the age children start primary education – from 7 years of age to 6 years of age. Starting grade 1 of primary school in pre-primary education settings at the age of 6 years was proposed as a transition measure from pre-primary education to primary school education. In 2018 (and earlier in 2016), the Ministry of Education and Science prepared a reform of the starting age of primary education, which was supported by the government, but the change was not approved by the parliament.