RIGA - The Coalition Council, by request from All for Latvia!-TB/LNNK, has postponed forwarding to the Cabinet the controversial new requirements for accreditation for schools of higher learning, reports LETA. Education Minister Roberts Kilis, who was present at the council’s meeting on Sept. 17, had a negative reaction to this development, though, saying that “debate is artificially being continued on issues where major progress has been made.” Kilis feels the postponement happened because “very serious interests are involved.”
The Reform Party said that “reforms in the education sector - specific, carefully drafted, outlined to the community and discussed with partners - are once again being delayed for political reasons.”
Fighting entrenched interests
All ruling coalition parties and independent MPs have confirmed that the higher education system in Latvia needs to be reformed, and that the reforms will be highly complicated, Welfare Minister Ilze Vinkele (Unity) told reporters after the ruling coalition council’s meeting on Sept. 10.
During the meeting, support was expressed for an evaluation of the number of universities and colleges in Latvia as well as a new procedure for accreditation of study programs, said Vinkele.
Kilis is currently facing an “extremely complicated task,” because the education sector is quite influential and has powerful lobbyists, noted Vinkele. Extensive debate is necessary in order to convince the sector that reforms are needed.
Whereas Kilis said that there had been seven meetings called to harmonize opinions. “We may just as well hold an eighth, ninth, tenth and umpteenth meeting, but it is clear that a moment will come when decisions will have to be taken,” said the minister.
The key question at the moment: can there be an independent assessment of the education sector, that will be independent from the education sector itself, said Kilis. All other questions are of a technical nature.
Unity’s board said that successful implementation of reforms was only possible if the intended reforms were supported by cooperation partners. The board also believes that the planned reforms must be explained to the people.
The Latvian Rectors’ Council on Sept. 7 issued a statement of “no confidence” in Kilis, blaming the minister for being unprofessional and chaotic. “In almost a year since Kilis took office, no proposals regarding Kilis’ reforms for the higher education system have been made. Instead, the minister continues to make controversial statements to the media, which make the future of the education sector all the more uncertain,” the council said in an open letter to Kilis and Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (Unity).
The Latvian Students’ Association Council has decided to establish a task force that will formulate a number of questions for Kilis to answer, and give him two weeks to respond.