School and Education in Latvia


The school system in Latvia goes back to the establishment of a judicial school in Riga 1211. In 1590, the first school was founded with Latvian as the language of instruction. With the Reformation, teaching was extended to the broader population stores, but it was only in Livland, during the Swedish era, that the foundation was laid for an actual primary school. In 1630, at Gustav II Adolf’s command, a school was established in Riga. Around 1800, 2/3 of the population is estimated to have been literate, and in 1817 a two-year compulsory school was established. As Russian became the dominant language of instruction in the 1880s, the general literacy deteriorated again, but illiteracy never reached the levels prevalent in the other parts of Russia.

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At independence after World War I, compulsory education between the ages of 6 and 16 was introduced. During the Soviet era, the educational system was characterized by the same conditions as in the rest of the Union, with a strong central control of syllabuses and textbooks. As in the other Soviet Union, there was also an investment in an elite, while education and teaching for children with special needs were often neglected. In post-Soviet Latvia, the first nine grades are compulsory, after which students can move on to vocational schools of 2–4 years or to theoretical colleges in 3 years. After independence, teaching was taught in both Latvian and Russian at all levels. The Latvian nationalization policy has since focused on strengthening the Latvian language at the expense of, above all, Russian. Since 2004, at least 60% of all teaching must be in Latvian, even in schools dominated by Russian-speaking students. The number of Russian-oriented schools has steadily declined during the 1990s. The language issue remains highly infected in Latvia, and has left its mark on the school political discourse. Some elementary education is also conducted in the other national minority languages Polish, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Belarusian, Estonian, Yiddish and Romani. A majority (66% in 2009) of those with a high school diploma go on to one of the country’s more than 20 colleges.

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During the 1990s, higher education, both organizationally and in terms of syllabuses and degrees, was reshaped, in accordance with Western European role models. In addition to the University of Latvia (founded in 1919), Riga has a technical university that dates back to the 1862 Polytechnic Institute, as well as several specialized colleges and academies. The latter include technical and artistic institutions, but also among other things. The Swedish School of Economics in Riga paid for it with Swedish funds. The Agricultural University was founded in 1939 and is located in Jelgava. Daugavpils and Liepāja have teacher colleges, the latter since 1993 with the status of educational university. New state colleges were established in the 1990s in Rēzekne and Ventspils, while the local authorities in Vidzeme established a university in Valmiera.