School teachers in Latvia are trained at tertiary level. There are two groups of programmes providing teacher training, academic and professional; thus initial teacher training is provided in the following programmes:
- second level professional higher education study programmes (integrated bachelor programme),
- academic study programmes in pedagogy followed by professional higher education study programme,
- first level professional higher education study programmes (short-cycle higher education study programmes for ECEC teachers mostly).
All teachers to be qualified to work in a school must undergo study programmes leading not only to higher pedagogical education but also to a teacher qualification in the respective level of education. Besides, most programmes prepare teachers of certain subjects. Thus, completion of a certain kind of programme entitles to teach the respective subject at the respective level of education. There are exemptions – early childhood teachers and primary school teachers (classes 1-4) receive a teacher qualification in the respective level of education, and are entitled to teach most of subjects ie. are generalists.
Institutions, level and models of training
School teachers in Latvia are trained at tertiary level in accordance with the consecutive or the concurrent model. There are two groups of programmes – academic programmes and professional programmes.
Academic higher education is divided into two stages. Bachelor degree is awarded after the first stage, Master degree – after the second stage. Bachelor degree programmes in Latvia last 3 or 4 years. Master degree programmes usually last 2 years, and the Master degree gives access to doctoral studies.
Professional higher education in Latvia is organised in two levels – first and second. Teacher training is mostly provided by the so-called second-level higher professional education programmes, but there are also some first-level programmes providing only a professional qualification and giving no access to Master studies.
The group of professional programmes at higher education institutions includes:
- 1-2 year programmes after Bachelor studies leading to higher professional pedagogical education (consecutive model);
- professional study programmes with integrated Bachelor study programmes of 4 or 5 years duration (concurrent model).
The Regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers Regulations regarding the education and professional qualifications required for teachers and the procedure for the improvement of teachers' professional competence (2018)/ Noteikumi par pedagogiem nepieciešamo izglītību un profesionālo kvalifikāciju un pedagogu profesionālās kompetences pilnveides kārtību prescribe that a person is entitled to work as a teacher after completing a 2-3 year short-cycle programme or 4-5 year Bachelor study programme and acquiring teacher qualification.
Bachelor study programmes open the possibility to enter a Master programme.
All these programmes coexist, though the concurrent model is followed most frequently.
In Latvia, practical placements at school are a compulsory part of initial training of the teachers. This part corresponds to 39 credit points out of 240 (in accordance with the ECTS). However, the existing practice of placements period cannot be regarded as final "on the job" qualifying phase. In Latvia, a student acquires teacher qualification and is entitled to work as a teacher instantly after the completion of initial training programme, and there is no other transition period required in order to become fully qualified for teaching profession.
General admission to higher education applies also for entering teacher training programmes.
Although the main access requirement is holding a general upper-secondary education certificate (with marks in subjects relevant to the programme), the training institution, depending on the course or area of specialization, establishes methods of selection and has the right to state additional admission requirements. Recently, practical selection procedures to state-financed study places are based on the results of centralized examinations passed at the end of secondary education, but may also include competitive entrance examinations and (or) a ranking according to the marks in secondary education certificate. The latter can be accompanied by an interview. There are no requirements relating to the place of residence or age.
Thus, access to initial teacher training in the case of concurrent model does not differ from access to other university level courses or areas of specialization.
In the case of consecutive model the admission procedure for teacher training programmes for the holders of Bachelor degree usually includes discussion of an essay written by the applicant on the topic of his/ her further studies and/or an interview. No previous work experience is required.
A person that aims to acquire another teacher qualification and has previously already acquired qualification (1,5 - 2 year programme) can start to study at a second level professional higher education programme. In this case, the number of credit points of pedagogical practical work can be diminished or the previous time spent for professional improvement can be acknowledged as well.
Curriculum, level of specialization and learning outcomes
The general structure of pedagogical education consists of four parts:
- Pedagogy and psychology,
- Content of specific subject/s to be taught in school and methodology of teaching,
- Pedagogical practice and development of the qualification thesis,
- General education courses like languages, ICT, arts, physical education.
There is no standard curriculum requirement to the content of pedagogical sciences, therefore what prospective teachers learn in various training institutions may vary.
Seen as a whole, pedagogical part of teacher training consists of two components, theoretical and practical. The theoretical component consists of several disciplines to complete obtaining a certain number of credits.
Nowadays subjects to be studied have become more variegated. Courses orienting the students towards ties between education and philosophy both in synchronic and diachronic aspect have been introduced. The following subjects have been introduced in the recent years: Philosophy of Upbringing; Introduction to Philosophy of Education; Philosophical, Psychological and Legal Aspects of Education; Environment etc.
The content of courses on the history of pedagogy has become broader and more detailed. Among the new courses there are branches of pedagogical practice in the world, historical comparative analysis of the concept of pedagogy, etc.
Several courses of alternative pedagogy have been included in the subjects taught: the pedagogical system of M. Montessori, Waldorf schools, the pedagogical system of C. Freinet, etc.
Broadening and differentiating of the syllabus of general pedagogy course embrace comparative pedagogy, pedagogical communication, mutual influence, family, pre-school, primary school, and ecology and health education.
Pedagogical study programmes are closely related to the actual pedagogical process. Courses like applied pedagogy, educational technologies, didactics of individual subjects have been introduced. More attention is being paid to the perfection of pedagogical skills.
Contact classes may take 50% of the mentioned curriculum, while the rest is to be devoted to independent studies as required by course syllabi. At least 30% of study courses should be implemented practically.
Specialization of subject teachers includes:
- courses on the standards of subjects to be taught: 150 credits,
- professional study courses: 50 credits.
Computer science is mandatory for all students. Areas of management/administration, aspects of behaviour management/school discipline, integration of pupils with special needs, work with multicultural groups of pupils are offered in compulsory courses or core curriculum options of initial teacher training. For example, in various higher education institutions it is possible to acquire the qualification of a special education teacher. In that case, in addition to higher professional education and teacher qualification of an education level, pedagogues obtain also the qualification in a specific special education area. All pedagogy students have to acquire knowledge in psychology, special pedagogy and medicine in order to integrate children with special needs into mainstream schools.
Pre-school, integrated primary and lower-secondary education and upper-secondary education teachers are trained alike, except that they study courses depend on definite education guidelines for a definite level of education.
Teachers trained to work at a certain level of education are not qualified to teach in other educational levels with an exception of specialist teachers of art subjects (music, painting etc), sports subjects, foreign languages and Latvian language and literature, who are entitled to teach the respective subject at all levels of education.
According to the Law on Institutions of Higher Education (1995) and to the principle of autonomy of higher education institutions, a HEI has the right to form the academic staff of the institution.
The staff of initial teacher training institution (institution of higher education) consists of:
- Professors, associate professors – they are specialists who are internationally recognised in their field and who conduct scientific research and ensure high quality studies in teacher training. A person who has a doctoral degree and has not less than three years of work experience in the position of associate professor or professor may be elected to the position of professor.
- Docents, senior research scientists - a person who has a doctoral degree may be elected to the position of docent.
- Lecturers, research scientists - a person who has a doctoral degree or master’s degree may be elected to the position of lecturer.
- Assistants - a person who has a doctoral degree or master’s degree may be elected to the position of assistant.
Taking into account the necessity for prospective teachers to acquire practical skills and knowledge the law permits that the teacher educator of professional (vocational) programmes can hold the position of docent, lecturer and assistant in profile subjects if he or she has a sufficient length of practical service appropriate to the subject but has no scientific degree.
Institution of higher education may also to hire a visiting professor, a visiting docent or a visiting lecturer for a time period of up to two years. The foreign teaching staff invited by an institution of higher education has to pay taxes in Latvia, has to be released from fees for visas, as well as has to receive a permit to live and work in Latvia for the time period prescribed in the contract of employment.
Responsibility of a rector of higher education institution includes promotion of development of the staff of the institution.
The Cabinet of Ministers also determines some procedures for academic staff qualifications, namely, teacher trainers (and higher education teaching staff in general) have to acquire professional development programmes on:
- innovation in higher education system,
- higher education didactics, or
- education management.
Acquisition of the above mentioned programmes has to take 160 academic hours (including at least 60 contact hours) till the end of election period to the academic position.
Qualifications, evaluation and certificates
General student evaluation and certification apply also for studying teacher training programmes.
After completing a definite qualification programme a teacher qualification in a certain subject(s) at the respective level of education is acquired.
The qualification of special education teacher or the qualification of teacher speech therapist is acquired at a separate programme. This qualification allows to work at all education levels.
Alternative training pathways
Apart from concurrent and consecutive models for initial teacher training, the necessary teacher training may be provided through professional further education, that includes both second level professional study programmes, both the teacher in-service training programmes (72 hours). This option is possible if a person already has a teacher qualification and wishes to work in another education level or to teach another subject.