The Education Law, the General Education Lawand the Vocational Education Law stipulate that general and vocational education schools and the respective education programmes have to be accredited. Accreditation procedure is determined by the Regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers. The external evaluation is carried out by expert teams, apporved by the Ministry of Education and Science. Organisation and management of accreditations and certification of school heads is the responsibility of the State Service of Education Quality. Accreditation of educational institutions and programmes and certification of school heads are carried out together.
In order to guarantee a mutual accordance of the state education standards and the quality of education a unitary system of state examinations was established. State examinations are organized by the National Centre for Education.
Approaches and methods for quality assurance
A system of self-evaluation has been developed largely on the basis of the School Evaluation and Development Planning Handbook which encouraged schools to involve into this process. Today, internal evaluation is closely linked with external evaluation and serves as its basis, as well as the school operation self – evaluation and external evaluation is carried out under the same criteria.
The external evaluation is carried out by expert teams, affirmed by the Ministry of Education and Science. Expert team consists of a team leader and 4 experts who have completed further education programme for experts in the following areas: principles of external evaluation, work organisation, evaluation criteria, evaluation levels, its descriptions and application in evaluation, evaluation methods, process of external evaluation, and development of report. Usually, experts are chosen from school administrators and lecturors of higher education institutions.
The process of expert work could be divided in three parts: verification of school documentation; participating in lessons to observe teaching and learning process and questioning of pupils, teachers and parents, as well as interviews with the founder of school, school board, parents and teachers.
During external evaluation seven fields of school work are evaluated: the curriculum, teaching and learning, pupil achievement, support for pupils, school environment, school resources, work organisation, management and quality assurance.
The regulations cover the list of 22 criteria to be used by the expert team when evaluating operation of an educational institution: accordance with legislation, teaching quality, learning quality, career guidance provisions, premises and equipment, staff qualification, institutional self-evaluation, development plan etc.
At the end, the expert team prepares evaluation report and recommends to accredit the institution/programme or certify the school head or to refuse the accreditation/certification. This recommendation has an advisory character. It is submitted to the Commission of Accreditation of General Education and Certification of School Heads (henceforth – the Commission) which accepts the recommendation by majority of votes.
The official decision on accreditation/certification or its refusal is made by the Ministry of Education and Science on the basis of recommendation of the Commission. Institutions and programmes are accredited for 6 years. The regulation describes evaluation procedure of school heads’ professional activity. Evaluation will be organised every six years together with regular accreditation of institution. However, founder of school (usually municipality) will be required to evaluate school head at least once in two years..
Before certification, school head shall complete either a further education programme "Management of General Education Institution" or an accredited study programme covering the following themes: objectives of education system, legislation, management of educational process, education quality, institutional development assessment, communication psychology, staff management, employment relationships, documentation, and labour protection and safety of pupils.
If the Ministry of Education and Science decides to refuse accreditation of a programme or institution, it may:
- suggest to nullify the licence allowing to implement the respective programme;
- propose to the founder to reorganize or to close the educational institution;
- suggest to the founder to give a notice to the school head.
Schools are also externally evaluated by other inspections in areas like health protection, fire prevention etc.
The accreditation and certification results are summarized in a commission report. It portrays the information about the results of school documentation verification, participating in lessons, questioning and interviews with pupils, parents and teachers, as well as the submitted content of self – evaluation. The report of expert commission indicates the schools achievements or strong sides that reflects the positive course of school operation and adds recommendations for further operation.
The information obtained by evaluation of school operation quality gives the possibility to:
- evaluate the efficiency of school operation in general;
- evaluate the quality of education process in general and in different subjects separately;
- to establish the strong points of school operation (also lacks, imperfections, as well as to clarify the their reasons);
- give certain useful recommendations for plans of school development and operation improvement.
The school operation quality evaluation results can be summarized, accumulated and popularize the good practice in school operation. In September 2008, the State Agency for Quality Evaluation in General Education (since 2009, State Service of Education Quality) began to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the school quality evaluation end report. Its aim is to gain information about the accredited educational institution accomplishments in improving the education quality, as well as to gather information about the problems that influence the school operation quality and that are possible to solve at state and local level.
The centrally set and centrally marked 9th and 12th grade examination results are analysed and their results published so they can be used to evaluate education system by comparing student achievements and assessing the education standard.
In order to guarantee a mutual accordance of standards and the quality of education a unitary system of state examinations was established. State examinations are organized by the National Centre for Education. Besides, the achievements in the 3rd and 6th grades are diagnosed and tested in the state language, the study language and Mathematics.
A unitary state test system in general education is one of the components of education quality evaluation mechanism providing:
- a unitary system for preparing and evaluation of tests and results,
- a system for processing state-determined tests in different education stages,
- unity of testing process in every school of Latvia, unity of test correction.
Both basic and applied education research is essential for the evaluation of education quality. The role of forecast and comparative research (international comparative research included) in education research is increasing, together with a more efficient application of results in the process of developing policies in the field of education. It gives an opportunity to research coherence between studies at schools and objectives of standards in all levels of education as well as between education and state economy. The research also reflects the impact of curriculum and educational methods on the level of pupil achievements. Researches are carried out by universities and research institutions or project groups established for that purpose, also including those established by non-governmental organizations.
The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) implements the largest programmes of comparative international large scale assessments of students' achievements. Since 1992 Latvia has joined the following projects of IEA: Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS). Latvia participates also in large scale assessment programme OECD PISA and teachers'and teaching and learning environment survey OECD TALIS.
In 2016 the Ministry of Education and Science has started the ESF project ‘Participation in International Education Surveys’ (Dalība starptautiskos izglītības pētījumos) with the objective to use internationally comparable data for comprehesive national education quality monitoring system.