The Republic of Latvia is a small country located on the Baltic Sea, situated between Estonia and Lithuania. The Republic of Latvia was founded on November 18, 1918. It has been continuously recognized as a state by other countries since 1920 despite
occupations by the Soviet Union (1940-1941, 1945-1991) and Nazi Germany (1941-1945). On August 21, 1991, Latvia declared the restoration of its de facto independence. After decades of Communist rule, Latvia established a parliamentary democracy. This
country, while only slightly larger than West Virginia, has a strong economy and joined the European Union and NATO in spring 2004.
Latvia's education system is overseen by the Izglītības un zinātnes ministrija.
Primary and Secondary Education
Education begins at seven years of age in Latvia. Basic education lasts nine years, with upper secondary education lasting an additional three years. The number of pupils declines dramatically after basic education. Those who have not completed
their basic education by the age of 16 may either continue their studies until age 18, or choose a vocational track. Primary and secondary education in Latvia is free of charge and is financed by the municipal budget. At primary and secondary schools,
the state pays teachers' wages, while the local authority finances the maintenance of the school itself and covers other expenses connected with teaching. Upper secondary education is focused either on college preparation or on vocational secondary
education aimed at the labor market, and the number of students pursuing each has traditionally been split evenly. Higher education also provides a choice between academic Bachelor's and Master's degrees, and professional higher education.
Riga is the capital city and educational nucleus of Latvia. Most of the institutions of higher education are located in the capital city. As of 2004-2005, there were 34 accredited higher education institutions in Latvia, most of which belong to the
state, the rest having been founded by other legal entities or private individuals. Before successful accreditation by the state, diplomas are not recognized even though the institution may be licensed by the state. The number of registered students
is well over 110,000, most of whom (almost 90 thousand) attended public institutions. Approximately one-third of these students study at state expense, while the rest pay fees.
The state or local authorities run and finance vocational schools in Latvia. The Latvian state finances all the higher education institutions belonging to the state. The Higher Education Council allocates a certain number of state-financed study
places in each field of studies. Those students who pass their entrance examinations at state higher education institutions, but whose marks are not sufficiently high to grant them state-supported education, can take up studies as fee-paying students.
Similarly, fees are charged at all private higher education institutions. Many Latvians consider knowledge one of their most valuable natural resources, as is evidenced by the over 99 percent of the population that is able to read and write by age