RIGA - With local elections nearing in Latvia, debates on education reforms are dominated by intense emotions, Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis (Greens/Farmers) said after his weekly meeting with President Raimonds Vejonis today.
As long as there is still the possibility to reach an agreement with local authorities about funding for quality education there is no reason to think that the central government should step in and take over the financing of secondary education, the prime minister said. In his view, a deal with the local authorities is definitely possible.
“I hope very much for discussions with local authorities. I believe that they are interested in improving the quality of education, so I would not write off the possibility of local authorities finding financing solutions to ensure the quality of education,” Kucinskis said.
Commenting on a recent study on the optimal model for the development of Latvia’s school network, President Vejonis said that the study corroborated the earlier findings provided by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The OECD concluded that the quality of education in Latvia’s rural areas and cities could be very different.
The quality difference between schools in Riga’s neighborhoods and schools in the city center are comparable to the quality differences between schools in rural areas and cities, because differences can exist even within the territory of one municipality, the president said.
“In my view, the reform is necessary, but the criteria by which the schools are assessed must be clear,” President Vejonis said, stressing the necessity to ensure high-quality education to all students regardless of where they live and how well off they are.
Latvian Education and Science Minister Karlis Sadurskis (Unity) said at the presentation of the first interim report about the development of the optimal school network for Latvia that currently there was a number of schools which should not be allowed to exist in modern society because of poor education quality.
He also said that optimization of the school network was not about closing schools but about changing the level of education they provided, transforming high schools into elementary schools and elementary schools into pre-schools.
Kucinskis said in an interview with the 900 Seconds program of LNT commercial TV channel this morning that as local governments cannot cope with the financing of secondary education and ensuring of education quality, this function may be taken over by the central government in the future.