Foreigners who are not citizens of the European Union, European Economic Area or the Swiss Confederation and who hold a valid residence permit in Latvia are entitled to receive state guaranteed free primary education and secondary education. However, the third country national has to pay for studies in higher education programmes according to the contract entered into with the respective educational institution.
The Latvian laws state that it is compulsory for the children who have reached the age of 5 to be prepared for acquisition of primary education (that is, they have to attend pre-school educational institutions), that they have to acquire primary education or continue acquisition of primary education until the age of 18.
The Latvian education system comprises pre-school education (kindergartens), primary education (grades 1-9), secondary education (grades 10-12) and higher education.
- +Languages and education
Education in state and municipal educational institutions is acquired in Latvian. Education may be acquired in another language at private educational institutions and at state and municipal educational institutions that provide minority education programmes.
Education programmes for minorities are available in 8 minority languages in Latvia: Russian, Polish, Jewish, Ukrainian, Estonian, Lithuanian, Roma and Belarusian. At the level of elementary schools or classes that provide the minority programme part of the classes are held in the minority language and part in Latvian. At the level of secondary schools 60% of classes are held in Latvian and 40% in the minority language.
Nevertheless, anyone who acquires primary education or secondary education in another language is also acquiring the official language at the same time and shall take the official language examination. If the official language knowledge examination is not passed, the diploma of primary education of secondary education cannot be obtained in Latvia.
Higher education in Latvia may be acquired in Latvian and in English at state higher education institutions and in Latvian, English and Russian in private higher education institutions.
The papers necessary to acquire an academic (Bachelor’s, Master’s) or scientific degree (PhD) in most cases have to be developed and defended in Latvian. Exceptions are related to the study programmes that are provided within the framework of European Union programmes and cooperation stipulated by international treaties.
Improvement of qualification and requalification is provided in the official language, where financed from the state or municipal budgets.
- +Preschool education
Preschool education is compulsory in Latvia. It is aimed at facilitation of the child’s general development and preparation of the child for the primary school. In Latvia, preschool education programmes are provided by kindergartens and schools. These educational institutions may be both municipal and private. For children with special requirements preschool education is provided at special preschool educational institutions.
The children in Latvia acquire compulsory preschool education at the ages 5 and 6, although one can start attending a kindergarten much earlier – at the age of 1.6 years.
Provision of municipal preschool educational institutions or kindergartens is the responsibility of the municipality in which you live. Education is free of charge in these educational institutions, but parents have to cover the catering costs (the catering fee is 1.3 – 2.1 EUR per day). In order to attend a kindergarten or another preschool educational institution you have to go to the preferred kindergarten or school and:
· submit a copy of the child’s birth certificate;
· submit a statement of the declared place of residence;
· present the parent’s passport.
A child may be also electronically enlisted in the queue free of charge in the portal E-Riga (in Latvian) where one can also follow how the queue advances. Sometimes a child is accepted at the municipal kindergarten two to three years after the application therefore it is advisable to enlist the child with a kindergarten immediately after the child’s birth.
Children may also acquire preschool education in private preschool educational institutions in Latvia. The queues for attendance of private preschool educational institutions are not long. The fee for attendance of a private preschool educational institution, however, is about 300 – 400 EUR per month, including catering. Information on private kindergartens in Riga is available here.
- +Primary education and secondary education
Primary education is compulsory in Latvia, therefore it is one of the requirements in the majority of job offers.
To register their child at a school parents have to submit an application and present the child’s birth certificate or a document that contains the child’s personal number and a document that certifies the parent’s personality (for a guardian – the decision that confirms the fact of establishing of the guardianship). The child must be registered at school at the age of 5.
Children in Latvia start mastering of the primary education programme at the ages of 6 or 7. Primary education is compulsory in Latvia and the duration thereof is 9 years.
There are two types of secondary education programmes in Latvia: general secondary and professional secondary education programmes. General secondary education programmes are academically oriented with their primary task being preparation for further studies at higher schools while professional secondary education programmes are more focussed on acquisition of a professional qualification.
General secondary education programmes are divided in:
· general education area (secondary school and gymnasium),
· secondary schools with a focus on humanities and social area, areas of mathematics, natural sciences and technologies.
Professional secondary education programmes (vocational schools and vocational secondary schools) provide a professional focus on, e.g. arts, music, business or medicine. Each secondary education curriculum contains 8 compulsory subjects and 3-6 optional subjects. The school may offer in-depth study of some optional subjects. Vocational schools do not provide complete secondary education, but they do offer acquisition of a particular profession.
The principal of the school is obliged to accept a student who has studied abroad. However, the principal may request you to present a document that confirms the content of the studies acquired by your child and the evaluation of your child’s achievements. Where necessary, the school may examine the child’s knowledge in order to decide the year at which the child can be accepted. By an agreement with the child’s parents the school may specify additional activities to be taken to ensure successful continuation of the child’s education in Latvia, for example, individual tutorials or support for language learning.
If your child has special requirements he or she will have to visit the state medical pedagogical commission and attend, as advised by the commission, special educational institutions that are adjusted for students with movement, hearing, visual and language problems.
- +Higher education
Be accepted at higher education institutions and colleges in Latvia as full-time students. Unless any international agreements provide for another procedure, foreigners may be accepted at higher education institutions and colleges in Latvia if:
· the foreigner’s secondary education documents correspond to the Latvian standards;
· the foreigner’s knowledge corresponds to the enrolment rules of the respective higher education institution or college;
· the foreigner has sufficient mastery of the languages of studies.
In Latvia higher education may be acquired at both state and private higher education institutions. In order to enrol in a higher education institution one must have a certificate of general secondary education or a diploma of professional secondary education. If the secondary education certificate/diploma has been issued abroad, certain study programmes require that this document must be submitted for examination to the Academic Information Centre. It is possible that entrance examinations have to be taken in order to enrol in a higher education institution.
In Latvia higher education is available as an academic higher education programme or professional higher education programme:
· the aim of academic education is to ensure mastering of theoretical knowledge, research and practical skills in order to prepare for independent activity in the preferred area of science or a related practical activity area. After successful acquisition of the academic study programme either Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctoral degree is conferred upon the student;
· the aim of professional higher education is to ensure mastering of theoretical knowledge and practical work skills in order to prepare for independent activity in the preferred practical activity area, in the occupation compliant with the occupation standard. After successful acquisition of the professional higher education programme either Bachelor’s or Master’s degree and/or professional qualification is conferred upon the student.
Academic programmes are available only at higher education institutions and universities, while programmes of the first level of professional higher education are offered also by colleges.
Although a certain number of students may study free of charge at the state higher education institutions on the basis of the results of entrance examinations, the so-called state budget studies are not available for the citizens of third countries. All students have to pay for studies at private higher education institutions and each higher education institution determines the fee by individually.
Higher education study programmes in Latvia may be acquired in Latvian, English and Russian or in a combination of any of these languages. You can trace all higher education institutions of Latvia on the homepage of the Ministry of Education and Science.
- +Diploma Recognition and accreditation of higher education institutions
The diplomas received in Latvia are recognised by the state or by the higher education institution. Only state-recognised diplomas are internationally accepted, although for certain occupations a private employer may accept an employee with a diploma recognised by a higher education institution. A state-recognised diploma is reviewed almost everywhere abroad and a reasoned conclusion is provided regarding recognition and alignment of the diploma, while it is possible that a diploma that is not recognised by the state is not reviewed at all.
In order to acquire a state-recognised diploma both the higher education institution and its branch, and the study programme have to be accredited. You can find information on whether the programme that you have chosen is accredited and/or licensed at the Academic Information Centre.
A diploma recognised by the higher education institution is received when the higher education institution is accredited while the study programme is only licensed. Licensing is the first step on the way to accrediting and it is possible that the programme will be accredited during the course of your studies. The license is a permit granted by the state to accept and teach students, while accreditation is the state guarantee of the quality of studies entitling to issue state-recognised diplomas. If neither the higher education institution nor the study programme is accredited, the diploma is unlawful.
You can find information about academic recognition of foreign (including Latvian) education documents in other countries at the national diploma recognition information centre of the particular country ENIC/ NARIC. For a country without ENIC/NARIC information is traditionally available from the Ministry of Education of that country. Before you leave Latvia, please find out at the Foreign Affairs Department of your higher education institution whether it is necessary to certify validity of your diploma in Latvia in order for the diploma to be recognised in your country. Such certification may be obtained from the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Recognition of a professional qualification acquired in Latvia is also necessary if the particular profession is regulated in the accepting country (even if it is not regulated in Latvia). The list of regulated professions of the European Union and the relevant competent authorities is available at the Regulated Professions database of the European Commission.
- +Further education
Third country nationals who have officially registered as unemployed in Latvia are entitled to the requalification, language and other free of charge courses organised by the State Employment Agency.
You are entitled to receive support provided that you:
· have obtained the permanent residence permit in Latvia;
· are a spouse of a Latvian citizen or non-citizen and that you have a temporary residence permit for staying in Latvia;
· have obtained the residence permit of a long-term residentof the European Union or you are a spouse of such person;
· have obtained a temporary residence permit in relation to scientific activities in Latvia;
· are a holder of the Blue Card of the European Union (for high-skilled professionals).