Types of institutions
Vocational education programmes (arodizglītība) (ISCED-P 353) are provided by arodskola and lead to a certificate of vocational education (atestāts par arodizglītību) and professional qualification at European Qualifications Framework level 4 (such as cook). These programmes do not give a right to enter higher (tertiary) education. For admission to higher education a one-year intermediate general secondary education ‘bridge programme’ must be followed.
Vocational secondary education programmes (ISCED-P 354) are provided by profesionālā vidusskola and tehnikums, and lead to both a diploma of vocational secondary education (diploms par profesionālo vidējo izglītību) and professional qualification at EQF level 4 (such as car mechanic). Vocational secondary education students must also take State exams in the following general subjects: Latvian, mathematics, foreign language and one subject selected by the student. This provides students with a certificate of general secondary education (vispārējās vidējās izglītības sertifikāts) and the right to enter higher education.
Institutions that provide vocational secondary education programmes and additionally act as regional methodological and further education centres and carry out validation of professional competences acquired outside formal education can obtain a title of ‘vocational education competence centre’ according to criteria established by the Cabinet of Ministers. Institutions with more than 500 students in regional centres (more than 800 in Riga) recently were gradually transformed into competence centres.
Here is a short video on vocational education and training in Latvia, by European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop).
(Information source: Vocational Education and Training in Latvia, Cedefop)
According to the Education Law, municipalities are responsible to:
ensure transport for learners to commute to the educational institution and back to their place of residence if it is not possible to use public transport. (Section 17.14)
In December 2008 the government decided to introduce changes in vocational education system and to close several education programmes. The grounds for such decision is the fact that these education programmes prepare specialists who are not demanded at labour market.
In December 2009, the Guidelines for the Optimisation of the Network of Vocational Education Institutions 2010 - 2015 were adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers that foresee further development of vocational education. As part of the optimisation of the network of vocational education institutions launched in 2011, 23 professional competence centres have already been established. Structural reforms are expected to continue by merging several secondary music and art schools by 2020 and establishing some more centres of competence. As a result of modernization of vocational education and training proportion of upper-secondary students in general education and VET should reach 50/50 in 2020. It was 60/40 in 2017 respectively.
Admission requirements and choice of school
Everyone who has completed integrated primary and lower-secondary education (pamatizglītība) has the right to enter general or vocational upper-secondary education without age limit. Graduates of vocational education are free to apply for vocational secondary education programme. A certificate of basic education apliecība par vispārējo pamatizglītību and an achievement sheet is necessary for admission in vocational upper-secondary educational institution. In the latter pupil may be enrolled also if he/she has completed vocational basic education profesionālā pamatizglītība or vocational education programme arodizglītība.
Students are free to apply for admission to the preferred school. Each school (with the consent of the founder) is allowed to define its own admission criteria. This applies also to the institutions providing upper-secondary vocational and post-secondary vocational programmes.
Usually enrolment at a vocational education institution is carried out through competition, based on the subject assessment in previous education documents. However, several groups of pupils are enrolled out of competition, such as children with special needs, orphans and children without parents support.
Age levels and grouping of students
Vocational upper-secondary education programmes profesionālās vidējās izglītības programmas last three to four years; if one studies after acquirement of vocational education arodizglītība, vocational secondary education may be completed in one or two years. The age range is from 16 up to 20.
There are no class groupings like in general upper-secondary schools. Pupils are divided in the 1st year, 2nd year etc. students like in higher educational institutions. The founder (Ministry of Education and Science or municipality), in co-ordination with the Cooperation Council of Professional Education, sets the minimal number of students per group in order to start implementation of education programmes financed by state and municipalities. Usually there are 25 students per group.
Organisation of the school year
In vocational upper-secondary education, the regular school year lasts 40 weeks. It is longer than in general upper-secondary education because of the field practice, and may differ depending on the particular vocational education programme. Therefore, also the length of summer holidays is shorter for students of vocational education.
Organisation of the school day and week
The school week in vocational upper-secondary schools lasts 5 days. The school day may contain a maximum of 8 lessons. The duration of lessons is either 40 or 45 minutes, it is upon the decision of the school head.
In vocational upper-secondary schools, total number of lessons per week is 36 (for students under the age of 18) and 40 hours (starting from age of 18). The minimum study load in vocational upper-secondary programmes is 5760 lessons (for programmes which are started after the completion of basic education) or 3120 lessons (for post-secondary non-tertiary programmes which are started after the completion of upper-secondary education).