Admission requirements and choice of ECEC setting
There are unitary settings of preschool education in Latvia, where children are admitted according to their age group, starting from 18 months of age.
Children are enrolled in the preschool institution after parents submit all necessary documents. Parents or guardians of children have the right to choose the preschool educational institution where the child will receive education. Preschool educational institutions are prohibited from using entrance tests. However, it is desirable to have basic skills related to behaviour, hygiene and autonomy, although the lack of these skills is not a reason for rejection.
All 5- and 6-year-olds are admitted to compulsory preschool educational programmes on the application of parents.
Group size and child-staff ratios
Regulations do not determine the number of children in a preschool educational institution group (except for special preschool institutions and special preschool educational groups). When admitting children, the institution must comply with hygiene requirements. In addition, the founder of the institution (public or private) is responsible for high-quality implementation of the preschool educational programme.
Hygiene requirements for preschool educational institutions are specified in the Cabinet Regulation Hygiene Requirements for the Providers of Child Supervision Service and Educational Institutions Implementing a Pre-School Education Programme. The regulation determines the minimum size of premises per child. Each child under 3 years of age needs 2.5 square meters of group space and 1.8 square meters of sleeping space, whereas each child over 3 years of age needs 3.0 square meters of group space and, 2.0 square meters of sleeping space.
If the dormitory is combined with a group room, the space per child is the total size of the room minus the space per bed. For mixed-age groups of children, the area is determined according to the oldest group of children. The above mentioned cabinet regulation also contains other hygiene requirements that must be observed by the founders of preschool educational institutions when determining the number of children to be admitted in groups.
Regulations on Regulations Regarding the State Guidelines for Pre-school Education and the Model Pre-school Education Programmes stipulate that the founder (public or private) of the preschool institution provides the necessary number of teachers and teacher support staff required for the implementation of the educational programme. Staffing should correspond to the working hours and number of groups of the educational institution, in accordance with the cabinet Regulations Regarding Remuneration of Teachers.
The number of teaching assistants is decided by the head of the educational institution in cooperation with the founder of the educational institution.
This means that the founder and the head of a preschool, taking into account the available budget, must ensure that the preschool educational programme is implemented under the guidance of teachers. It is important that, when organizing work in a preschool educational institution, the interests and needs of children are ensured; therefore, the number of teachers and assistants must be sufficient.
Most often, the preschool educational programme is implemented for up to 12 hours a day. One teacher and two assistants work with a group of children at the same time.
A first level higher professional education qualification (short-cycle higher education or International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) level 5) is the minimum qualification requirement to be a preschool teacher. Upper secondary education certificate (ISCED level 3) is a usual qualification requirement for a preschool teacher’s assistant.
Annual, weekly and daily organisation
The organization of year, week and day largely depends on the founder of a preschool institution. However, Regulations Regarding the State Guidelines for Pre-school Education and the Model Pre-school Education Programmes provide common recommendations on the organization of the educational activities of a preschool institution.
In preschool, the learning process takes place through integrated play-based lessons throughout the day, and it includes purposefully organized and indirectly managed play activities, and free play. Activities and learning take place every day, both indoors and outdoors.
Usually, preschool institutions operate all year, with a break during the summer lasting 1 month (July or August). Whether or not the institution is open during the summer depends on the founder of the pre-school institution. However, the option to attend the preschool institution during the summer break should be provided at the request of parents.
Preschools that provide full-day childcare are usually open daily from 7.00 (or 7.30 am) to 18.00 (or 18.30), except Saturdays and Sundays. In some preschool institutions there are one or more 24-hour groups; therefore it is possible for children to stay in preschool institutions overnight.