British experience improves the quality of Latvian management

  • 2000-04-27
  • By Anna Pridanova
RIGA - While Latvian ministers keep silence and wait for the future of the Cabinet pending selection of a prime minister, Maris Vitols calls a press conference to introduce a ministry reorganization project and goes to the World Education Forum in Dakar.

The 29-year-old Minister of the Education and Science in April introduced journalists to a new model of ministry institutional structure. The structural changes will cause qualitative changes in the work of the ministry, claims his adviser, Gunda Ignatane.

EU PHARE specialists designed the restructuring after an audit of the ministry's work. After the Cabinet resigned, the minister is not entitled to make any strategic decisions, therefore the corroboration of the project depends on the next minister's decision.

Vitols promised that if he loses his post in the seating of the new government, he will convince the successor to approve the project and restructure the ministry, since there are essential flaws at the moment. He said that, "the work of the ministry has suffered much from the former management of the ministry."

The fundamental deficit is a lack of a strategic planning department, responsible for long term policy making and the financial strategies.

Ignatane said the changes to be introduced are essential, for they concern the post-graduate education of teachers and the information distribution strategy. To improve the second, the information center was created a week ago. According to the model, three new departments will be created to ease the burden of providing services from the strategic bodies. Two departments will be divided and two others restructured, adding new duties.

One of the new departments would be the European Integration and International Assistance Projects Coordination, one of the duties being adjustment of Latvian legislation to European.

The number of persons possibly losing their jobs will not be known until June and the assessment of personnel needs has been made.

The project promises to meet two ambitious objectives - to provide efficient education management and to advance the human resources in less than a year. To meet the second goal of the project, 125 officials out of 313 will be trained within the PHARE Professional Education 2000 program.

Dita Traidase, the director of the PHARE Vocational Education Development Program said that training will be implemented with the assistance of the technical consultancy company Birks & Sinclair & Associated, a firm which performed the audit of the ministry's work and contracted for 100,000 euro to train the officials. The local contributors are Business Consulting Group, getting half as much, as one of the services will provide the individual consultations.

Livija Marcinkevica, the head of the Riga Teachers' Labor Union said "it is very welcome that the ministry is going to avoid the doubling of duties." The union participated in the debates on the project in the context of discussion of the general education system reform. Marcinkevica said the union has not yet received a copy of the project, that she says to be only the matter of time, and therefore can not give any elaborate comments on the issue.

The head of the Latvian Labor Union of Education Workers, Astrida Harbacevica, said "the ministry should consult labor unions, NGOs and other institutions connected in their work with the ministry. We could advise something useful, since we contact and coordinate all the time."

She also said that the ministry does not work at development of long-term strategies.

"From the earlier experience it seems to me that the ministry does not work with future prospects," said Harbacevica. "They lack continuity in their work. The previous is usually denied, but nothing new is created."