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Latvia:Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education

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Types of Institutions

Vocational education can be obtained in various types of vocational education institutions. The names of institutions depend on the level of education and the type and characteristics of the programmes offered:

  • profesionālā vidusskola or amatniecības vidusskola - vocational upper-secondary school; completion entitles to continue studies in a higher education institution.

Geographical Accessibility

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. From 59 vocational education institutions under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and Science 31 are retained, including 11 competence centers, but 18 schools are brought under the supervision of municipalities where they would be merged with general education or interest related education institutions.

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. As regards vocational education, it is open to everybody without previous education requirements, however not before the year in which one reaches the age of 15.

Pupils 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 classes 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 programmes which are started after the completion of upper-secondary education).