New education minister promises to continue reforms

  • 2013-05-15
  • From wire reports

RIGA - The newly appointed Education and Science Minister Vjaceslavs Dombrovskis says that problems in the education sector are very difficult, but is urging teachers to “keep calm and cooperate” with his ministry, reports LETA.
On May 8 the Latvian Education and Science Workers’ Union met with Dombrovskis and other leading officials in education to discuss further cooperation in the direction of changes and raising salaries. Dombrovskis was understanding regarding the union’s patience running out, but urged it to remain calm and patient.

“I am on your side and ministry officials are also on your side. We are doing one job. All problems, of course, can be summed up in two words - insufficient funds,” said Dombrovskis. The situation is similar in several other sectors as well. Pensioners, doctors and police officers also lack funds and the respective ministries will do everything in their power to solve these problems. Limited fiscal space does not allow to fulfill all desires,” emphasized the minister.
He also called on the union to cooperate and seek common denominators, pointing out that, by working together and objectively looking at the sector’s challenges and problems, the sides will achieve success.

More pay for teachers
Teacher salaries will be raised gradually and in accordance with budget possibilities, said Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis on the LNT morning show ‘900 sekundes’ on May 8 as he was commenting on Education and Science Minister Vjaceslavs Dombrovskis’ resolve to raise teacher salaries to at least 500 lats (714 euros) per month before taxes.

The government began raising teacher salaries in September 2012 and the process will continue in accordance with budget possibilities. In June, the government will have to review all ministry requests for additional funds and try to fulfill them, if possible.

Though Education and Science Minister Dombrovskis is working on raising teacher salaries, he remains cautious regarding the chances of education receiving considerable additional funds in the nearest future.
The level of salaries per workload is not the only element of injustice towards teachers, he says. According to the principle “money follows the students,” a large share in the salary structure is determined by the number of students in a program. Rural schools, however, cannot attract more children. Dombrovskis believes that this system could be kept in large cities, and other solutions should be sought in rural areas.

Commenting on his further actions, Dombrovskis points out that the previously launched reforms, by Roberts Kilis, will be continued. The minister will also try to improve cooperation with the sector’s representatives and work to seek compromises.

Reforms must go on
During a news conference on May 2, the now-former Education and Science Minister Kilis said that Vjaceslavs Dombrovskis is the best person to continue with his ministry’s initiated reforms.
Describing the current situation, Kilis said that there are things that still have been done. “We have ploughed the field and sown the seeds, which are beginning to grow. Now, we need someone to look after the field, so that a wild boar does not trample it, and someone does not steal everything that is growing,” Kilis said.

He said that he has written several essays on higher education together with Dombrovskis, and believes that the new minister is competent. He expressed hope that during Dombrovskis’ term as minister, education quality, which is priority number one, will continue to receive much coverage by the Latvian media.
Meanwhile, the new minister said that he is honored to continue the revolution started by his predecessor. Dombrovskis confirmed that it will be a huge challenge, but that he is prepared to continue Kilis’ initiated reforms. “All of the reforms will be continued,” Dombrovskis said.

Saeima voted in Dombrovskis as education minister on May 2. Forty-six MPs voted for him from Unity, the Reform Party, All for Latvia!-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (VL-TB/LNNK) and the independent MPs group. Twenty-eight MPs from Harmony Center voted against Dombrovskis. Greens/Farmers and Imants Paradnieks (VL-TB/LNNK) abstained.
Dombrovskis has set five education and science priorities for 2013-2014, which match Kilis’ initiatives.
Kilis stepped down on April 30 due to health problems.