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Articles > Country and people

Education in Latvia

Author: The Latvian Institute
24.01.2006
Visited 6005 times
A brief history of education

Latvia is not richly endowed with natural resources, so its future is dependent in very large measure on intellect, which may be regarded as the nation's greatest resource. Latvia's aim could be a society based on knowledge and intellect, preserving the country's historical traditions and rapidly assimilating innovations and intellectual breakthroughs in the world. An important element in the general level of knowledge in the country is the standard of education and science institutions. In this regard, Latvia has an established tradition, which has emerged in the course of the country's complicated history.

In the early 13th century, Christian missionaries of German background established the first teaching institutions in the territory of Latvia. In 1211, the Dome School was founded in Riga, regarded as the first school in the territory of Latvia and originally engaged in training the clergy. In the Middle Ages, as elsewhere in Europe, literate people belonged mainly to the clergy and the top aristocracy. From the 13th to the 16th century, German was almost exclusively the language of education in the territory of Latvia.

Schools providing Latvian-language education began to develop only in the wake of the Reformation, in the mid- to late 16th century. The task of these schools was to spread literacy among the Latvians, in order to promote knowledge of religious literature. The first textbooks in Latvian were ABC's, the oldest of which were compiled in the 17th century. Humanism developed rapidly in the 18th century, opening up greater opportunities for education in Latvian in all regions of the territory of Latvia. The main subjects were reading and writing. Basic knowledge was also provided in natural science and geography; arithmetic was also taught. Education saw rapid development in the 19th century and particularly in the years of the Latvian National Awakening in the second half of the century, when a stratum of Latvian intellectuals emerged and established itself.

From November 18, 1918, with the foundation of an independent Latvian state, the titular nation gained the guaranteed right to obtain all forms of education in Latvian. From the end of 1919 free and compulsory primary education was established by law for children aged 8 to 14, with pre-school education from age seven. In parallel, the state also promoted the establishment of schools for ethnic minorities, with teaching in the native language of the particular group. All types of schools were maintained by municipal or state authorities, and there were private teaching institutions as well. In 1919, the idea of founding a national university, formulated already in the late 19th century, became a reality. On September 28, 1919 the University of Latvia began teaching: the largest centre of higher education, science and culture in Latvia. Overall, in the inter-war period (1918

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