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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisation of the education system and of its structure


2.Organisation and governance

2.3Organisation of the education system and of its structure

Last update: 27 November 2023

Formal education includes pre-school, basic (integrated primary and lower secondary), upper-secondary and higher education levels. Completion of these programmes is confirmed by the state recognized document on education and professional qualification.

The types of education in Latvia are:

  • General education,
  • Vocational education,
  • Academic education.

The levels of education are:

  • Pre-school education,
  • Basic (integrated primary and lower secondary) education,
  • Upper-secondary education,
  • Higher education.

Pre-school education

Pre-school education in Latvia is a part of general education. It is optional for children aged 1 to 4 years and compulsory for 5 and 6 year olds. It is possible to prolong or to reduce the acquirement of the programme depending on the state of health and psychological readiness according to parents’ wish and family doctor’s conclusion.

In compliance to the law On Local Governments it is a duty of every local government to ensure a possibility to acquire the pre-school education for the children of the age of 1.5 residing in the territory of the municipality. The founders of pre-school education institutions are local governments for public pre-schools or physical or legal entities for private pre-schools. 

Children from age 1.5 to 7 can attend unitary settings (pirmsskolas izglītības iestādes).

In addition, subsidized home-based provision (bērnu uzraudzības pakalpojuma sniedzēji / aukles) is available since September 2013. It was introduced as ad-hoc support measure for families because of insufficient number of publicly-subsidised places in public kindergartens. The Ministry for Education and Science is responsible for the register of providers and methodological support (curriculum). The Ministry of Welfare supervises and controls providers’ compliance with the regulations. 

The legal background for pre-school institutions is the Education Law, the General Education Law, Regulation of the Cabinet of Ministers on Guidelines for Pre-school Education and Model Programme for Pre-school Education, other regulatory enactments regarding health and safety as well as the regulation of the institution approved by the founder.

Participation in early childhood education in Latvia and EU-level target

  2017 2018 2019 Target 2030
Pupils from age 3 to the starting age of compulsory education at primary level, % of the population of the corresponding age  94.5  94.1  94.1  96
Source: Eurostat

Basic education

Basic (integrated primary and lower secondary) education or pamatizglītība is compulsory and begins at the age of 7 and lasts 9 years. It consisting of 6 years of the first stage of pamatizglītība (sākumskola) (primary education) and 3 years of the second stage of pamatizglītība (lower secondary education).

According to the General Education Law children are obligated to start schooling in the calendar year when they attain 7 years of age. It is possible to start schooling a year earlier or later in line with the conclusion of the family doctor and if the parents wish so. In this situation health and psychological preparedness is taken into account.

Article 112 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia states that:

Everyone is entitled to education. The State shall ensure that anyone may acquire primary and secondary education without charge.

Every municipality is obligated to provide a possibility to acquire pamatizglītība (integrated primary and lower-secondary) education in the school closest to the dwelling-place for the children living in its administrative territory. Parents must enrol their children in the school of their choice. The founders of basic education institutions are local governments or the state for public schools or physical or legal entities for private schools.

Overall, according to the data of the Ministry of Education and Science, about 7% of general schools (at ISCED levels 1-3) are private (school year 2018/2019).

Upper-secondary education

Upper-secondary education is provided in general and vocational branches and on a full-time or part-time basis, or distance learning, so students may choose the most suitable institution for upper-secondary schooling.

Provision of upper-secondary education is regulated by the Education Law and the General Education Law. The Regulations Regarding the State General Secondary Education Standard and Model General Secondary Education Programmes (2019), subject programmes and the sample plan of timetable determine the curriculum. These documents determine general aims of schooling, aims of each subject together with the description of subject curriculum and time allocation. Specific regulations prescribe the order of state test and examination system at the end of upper-secondary schooling.

The Education Law regulates the status of vocational education profesionālā izglītība as well as determines rights and duties of the state, municipal governments, public organizations, professional corporations, private persons, educational institutions, parents and pupils. The Vocational Education Law determines:

  • principles of organization, provision and qualification awards of vocational education;
  • tasks, responsibilities of governmental institutions, education institutions, teachers and pupils;
  • ways and means of acquiring vocational education;
  • organization of the content of vocational education;
  • and principles of financing.

Early leavers from education and training in Latvia and EU-level target

  2018 2019 2020 Target 2030
% of the population aged 18-24 with at most lower secondary education and not in further education or training  8.3  8.7  7.2  9
Source: Eurostat

Higher education

Latvia’s higher education system has successfully embraced the three cycle system – Bachelor (undergraduate), Master (graduate) and Doctoral studies - in accordance with the Bologna process. However, in some study fields such as medicine, pharmacy, dentistry and veterinary medicine, long studies involving qualification or on-the-job training periods are still provided.

Higher education is provided as academic and professional programmes in two types of rather autonomous public and private higher education institutions: non-university (up to Masters's degree) and university (up to Doctoral degree) - augstskola. Most higher education institutions run both academic and professional programmes. Short-cycle professional higher education programmes are offered also by college - koledža. The qualification obtained after completing any of the long study programmes (e.g. medicine) is equated to Master's degree, according to Latvian legislation.

Latvia's tertiary education attainment and EU-level target

  2018 2019 2020 Target 2030
The share of 25-34 year-olds with tertiary educational attainment  41.6  43.8  44.2  45

Source: Eurostat

Latvia's diagram illustrating the current structure of education system and typical programme duration and age is available on the website of Quality Agency for Higher Education.

Home education

Home education is authorised in Latvia for pre-primary education level, primary education level (grades 1-6) or if a student have some health problems for a longer time. According to the regulation, pre-primary education and primary education (grades 1-6) can be provided at home (in family). At lower-secondary education level it can be provided at home only for health reasons.

The law currently requires families to partner with a school. Parents must agree about the frequency of monitoring and the regular tests recommended by the school. At the end of each school year such a pupil has to pass a test in order to transfer to the next grade.

Some additional information about home education in Latvia is available on the website of the Home School Legal Defense Association.