The education system comprises:
- pre-school education (ISCED level 0);
- integrated primary and lower secondary education (ISCED levels 1 and 2) (hereafter, basic education);
- upper secondary education (ISCED levels 3 and 4) (hereafter, secondary education);
- higher (tertiary) education (ISCED levels 5, 6, 7 and 8).
Pre-school education for five to six year-old children is compulsory.
Basic education is mainly general, it is compulsory, and lasts for nine years. Vocational education is mainly offered for learners with mental disabilities or without completed basic education.
Secondary education can be acquired through general or vocational programmes. It is non-compulsory. General programmes last for three years and vocational programmes for four years (after completed basic education).
Higher (tertiary) education includes both academic and professional study programmes.
The Vocational Education Law (
) provides legal regulations and defines three VET levels:
- basic vocational education;
- secondary vocational education;
- professional higher education.
Vocational education programmes are mainly school-based, with practical learning periods at schools or enterprises. Since 2015, vocational education can also take the form of an apprenticeship type scheme (nationally called ‘work-based learning’) with flexible curricula implementation taking place alternately at school and enterprise. To acquire a professional qualification (at EQF levels 2 to 4), learners have to undergo qualification practice and take a State qualification exam at the end of the programme.
Basic vocational education
Basic vocational education programmes leading to EQF level 2 (ISCED 254)
These programmes last from one to three years and are part of formal education. The main target groups are learners with intellectual disability and early leavers from compulsory basic education. They lead to a certificate of basic vocational education with a professional qualification at EQF level 2 (such as cook’s assistant, carpenter's assistant).
Vocational education at secondary level
There are four types of secondary vocational education programme.
1) Vocational education programmes (arodizglītība) leading to EQF level 3 (ISCED 353).
These programmes last for three years. They are part of formal education, and they target young people who are at least 15 and have completed basic education. They include general subjects, but not sufficiently to allow access to higher education. To access higher education programmes, students must attend a one-year bridging course.
2) Secondary vocational education programmes leading to EQF level 4 (ISCED 354).
These programmes last for four years. They are part of formal education, and they target young people with completed basic education. They include general subjects; at the end of programme students take four State centralised exams in general subjects. After completion of the programme, learners can enter the labour market or higher education.
3) One-year vocational education programmes leading to EQF level 3 (ISCED 351 or 453)
These programmes last for one year. They are part of formal education, and they target young people who are at least 17 and have completed general basic education. They do not include general subjects. After completion of the programme, learners can enter the labour market.
4) One and a half to three-year vocational secondary education programmes leading to EQF level 4 (ISCED 453)
These programmes last for one and a half to three years. They are part of formal education, and they target young people with secondary education. They do not include general subjects. After completion of the programme, learners can enter the labour market.
Professional higher education
Higher education programmes can be academic (lead to a degree) and professional (lead to a degree and/or professional qualification).
Adult learning programmes
There are two types of adult learning programme:
1) Continuing vocational education
These programmes enable adults with previous education/work experience to acquire a professional qualification (
) in 480 to 1280 hours. Continuing vocational education and initial vocational education have the same legal and governance framework. Similar to initial vocational education, students of continuing vocational education take a final qualification exam in accordance with procedures approved by the government ( ).
2) Professional development programmes
These programmes (of at least 160 hours) enable people to master systematised professional knowledge and skills corresponding to labour market requirements. They do not have age, previous education, or professional qualification requirements. They do not lead to a formal qualification, but to a certificate of professional development education (profesionālās pilnveides izglītības apliecība) ( ).
Other forms of learning
Work-related knowledge, skills and competences can also be acquired through non-formal learning (short courses), or craftsmanship (apprenticeship programmes).