RIGA - Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis, motivated by alarming trends in Latvia's education system, has placed a priority on improving the nation's secondary schools and universities.
The unemployment rate among people with university degrees has been growing in Latvia, the PM said. Seventy-six percent of the nation's unemployed are graduates of state-funded schools.
Kalvitis pointed out that only 16 percent of high-school graduates choose professions in demand. Thus, he said the education system should focus on a curriculum that will ensure students a place in the job market. He expressed satisfaction, however, that some changes have been made 's particularly in the sciences.
Education is vital for improving Latvia's competitive ability, said the premier, adding that "competitiveness is our key to the future."
Members of Parliament's social and labor affairs committee sharply criticized the quality of teaching in Latvia's schools at a meeting on Wednesday.
Inguna Ribena, a lawmaker from the ruling New Era party, pointed out that, judging from her own children's experience, the quality of teaching has significantly worsened in Latvia. As a result, she's put more effort herself into educating her children at home.
Ribena's fellow party member, Ausma Kantane, was even tougher in her criticism, alleging that schools were producing "defective and spiritually crippled" graduates. The MP described the present situation as miserable. The system neglects spiritual values and fails to instil necessary human qualities like self-control and sympathy, she said. As a result, graduates' only motivation is to earn by doing as little work as possible.
The New Era lawmaker blamed pedagogues for pupils' attitudes, saying that teacher are often indifferent toward their work and lack many essential qualities. "It is necessary to educate not only the mind, but also the heart," Kantane said.
Ilze Stobova, who represents a governmental task force solving labor-market forecast issues of and education policy, said the Regional Development and Municipal Affairs Ministry, together with the Education and Science Ministry, were working to improve pedagogues' teaching skills, especially in the fields of mathematics, physics, biology and chemistry.
Worsening test results show the need for implementing a new educational method with these subjects. Beginning in 2008, math and natural sciences will be mandatory subjects in all public schools. Therefore, teachers must begin preparing a curriculum as early as today.
Stobova added that engineering specialists were on increasingly high demand, but young people were denied jobs due to their poor knowledge of mathematics and natural sciences.