Curriculum, subjects, number of hours
A programme of basic education reflects its aims and tasks, the content of education according to the Regulations Regarding the State Basic Education Standard and Model Basic Education Programmes. The currently operational curriculum was approved in 2018 and is in force since September 2020.
The curriculum (phasing in from the school year 2020/21 with grades 1, 4 and 7 and expected to be implemented fully by the school year 2022/23), distributes total number of lessons for each subject area over three periods of three years. It will allow the school to plan flexibly the study content and organise the learning process according to the results to be achieved, the needs of the students and the possibilities of the school. This does not lead to an increase in the total number of instruction days or hours in the school year, but it gives more flexibility to schools how to organise teaching and learning.
The compulsory curriculum in the basic education standard is structured in seven fields of study with the following subjects:
- language (Latvian, foreign languages, minority mother tongue);
- social and civic (social sciences, social sciences and history, history of Latvia and the world);
- cultural understanding and self-expression in art (visual arts, music, literature, theater);
- natural sciences (natural sciences, physics, chemistry, biology, geography);
- mathematics (mathematics);
- technology (engineering, design and technology, computers);
- health and physical activity (sports and health).
Some new subjects are being introduced, such as "drama", "engineering", and "design and technology". In accordance with modern requirements, computer learning is intensified (already from the first grade) but taught as integrated subject in grades 1-3 (learning objectives are defined in the curriculum). Drama/theater is taught in grades 1-3 as an integrated subject. Second foreign language now starts from grade 4 (previously, grade 6).
The standard school week lasts 5 days at primary, lower and upper secondary level. According to the General Education Law, the lesson load per week in one education programme may not exceed:
- 22 lessons in grade 1;
- 23 lessons in grade 2;
- 24 lessons in grade 3;
- 26 lessons in grade 4;
- 28 lessons in grade 5;
- 30 lessons in grade 6;
- 32 lessons in grade 7; and
- 34 lessons in grades 8 and 9.
There is an additional lesson for all grades every week called class hour (klases stunda) or upbringing, organised by the class teacher.
Schools have flexibility to adjust the regulated instruction time of some compulsory subjects: a school may reduce or increase the number of lessons in a compulsory subject according to the priorities defined in the school’s development plan by not exceeding 10% of the total number of lessons within three years in the subject in which the number of lessons is changed, except for State Gymnasiums which according to the priorities defined in the school’s development plan may reduce or increase the number of lessons in the subject in grades 7-9 by not exceeding 25% of the total number of lessons within three years in the subject in which the number of lessons is changed.
For ethnic minority education programmes school shall determine the subjects which are to be acquired in the Latvian language in the amount of not less than 80% of the total load of lessons in a school year, including foreign languages, and the subjects which are to be acquired in the minority language and bilingually. Moreover, schools with provision of ethnic minority education programme have flexibility to offer some additional subjects of their choice, and this additional instruction time is compulsory to all students in the grade in their schools (e.g., History of Poland).
In addition to the total load of learning lessons, the following activities have to be included:
- Class upbringing lesson – at least one period for each class every week - for discussing various themes like value education, communication culture, patriotism and civil participation, traffic safety, handling extreme situations, healthy lifestyle, development of personality, leadership, critical thinking, creative thinking, financial literacy, entrepreneurship skills, career guidance;
- Optional lessons for groups of pupils on a voluntary basis (and according to parents’ application). Optional lessons may include singing in chorus, dance, brass bands, theatre classes, creative design, foreign language lessons etc. It is not mandatory to attend optional lessons;
- Lessons for individual work with pupils who need additional support or with talented pupils;
- Prolonged-day groups.
Latvia has a long and successful tradition of extracurricular education (also called interest-related/hobby education) – around 70% of all pupils attain extracurricular activities (offered by schools and interest-related education institutions).
Teaching methods and materials
The aim of the improved curriculum is to make learning relevant, to prevent content fragmentation, duplication and informative clutter, to ensure the continuity of learning content, to promote the understanding of interconnections and the ability to apply knowledge.Emphasis in the learning approach:
- transition from the student's passive learning and memorization of factual material as an end in itself to an active cognitive process under the guidance of a teacher, self-expression and creativity;
- linking the knowledge and skills to be acquired with real life;
- an interdisciplinary approach that avoids content fragmentation and promotes teacher collaboration in the organization of the learning process;
- the student is provided with the opportunity to learn in depth, understand the connections and develop the ability to transfer knowledge to new, unknown situations.
The learning content is designed with a focus on what is important for the student to learn. Therefore, it is organized according to the so-called big ideas defined in each field of study, or the main insights that the student needs to gain an understanding of. From them, the results to be achieved by students or the basic requirements to be learned, formulated in the standard, are derived. From these achievable results, in turn, the achievable results in the subject programs and the content of the lesson are derived - so that in each lesson a certain part of the achievable result is mastered in relation to the planned one.
The results to be achieved by a student, formulated in the standard of basic education, are complex, they are determined not in each subject, but in the whole field of study. In each field of study, a clear, measurable outcome is formulated - a competence consisting of knowledge, understanding and key competences in the field, as well as cross-cutting skills, attitudes and habits based on values. The result of a student's learning is competence.
Every lesson will have:
- clear goals or the result to be achieved are formulated;
- selected meaningful tasks and support materials;
- developmental feedback is provided and thinking about one's own learning process is encouraged;
- developing values, attitudes, general (cross-cutting) skills and abilities that will help the student to use what he / she has learned in life in the future, keeping in mind the change of knowledge;
- implemented social and emotional dimension;
- used formative assessment or assessment to improve performance in the learning process
Examples of teaching aids are created in each subject and in each theme within School 2030 initiative and in cooperation with partners. They are freely available in the digital repository. Anyone can use and reproduce them as needed or create their own. However, as before, schools can use previously published and purchased teaching aids and books, purposefully selecting the most appropriate tasks and texts according to the results to be achieved.
Samples of subject curricula, teaching aids for students, methodological materials, samples of peer lessons are also available in the digital repository of teaching resources.