Teaching in Latvia – Compared to the UK

educationEducation, Education, Education – Part 3

Before I start, I think it only fair to point out that these are my first impressions. I have only had 4 months teaching experience in the Latvian education system so I have much more to learn.

The most striking difference for a UK teacher in Latvia is the use of student performance data. In the UK the whole system is data driven. For a teacher it seems to pervade every waking moment of your teaching life; have I analysed my exam data?, have I analysed my school reporting data?, who is meeting target?, who is not meeting target?, why are students not meeting target grades? and on and on it goes. Latvia appears very different. I am not aware of any target grades. I am not even sure if the government does any baseline testing. This lack of target grades certainly reduces one of the main contributors to teacher stress.

The second major difference is the reporting to parents of student attainment. Unlike the UK where reports contain an array of comments and grades for all types of student achievement or non-achievement for all subjects , reporting in Latvia is much more simple. No hours and hours of checking reports for spelling mistakes or grade anomalies. Reports to parents contain an attainment grade for each subject. The grade is calculated by averaging the grades awarded over the semester. One grade for each subject. All work that is marked only receives a grade. No written formative assessment is required. Formative assessment appears to be verbal.

Finally the other major difference appears to be the difference in emphasis between recording what is going to be taught against recording what has been taught. Whereas in the UK hundreds of hours are spent preparing and documenting schemes of work, long term plans, medium term plans and lesson plans, that does not appear to be the case here. The main emphasis appears to be recording what has been taught. This is all recorded on the E-Klase system which all schools use and just needs to be a simple description the like of which a teacher in the UK would record in their planner. I cannot speak for all schools or event all subjects in my school, but I follow the chapters in a textbook for my scheme of work.

So there you have it, the 3 major differences. Which produces the best outcomes for students bis debatable. One final difference; basic teacher salary in Latvia approx. 700 euro/month, in UK approx £2000/month. Still wouldn’t swap my life though.


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5 Responses to Teaching in Latvia – Compared to the UK

  1. Calabi says:

    Great insight!
    Would you agree that the education system in Latvia is less demanding from students and teachers alike?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting question!!! I would certainly say students in Vidusskola are under far more pressure than equivalent students in the UK. Equivalent students in the UK will spend about 12 – 15 hours per week in the classroom studying 3 subjects. Some students might study 4 and spend 16 – 20 hours per week in the classroom. Latvian students study 15-16 subjects, so they spend much more time time in the classroom. Some students make a choice of which subjects they will study hard for and which won’t. It is the only way they survive. It is amazing how they find time to pursue other sporting and cultural activities outside of school, but many do. I think Latvia should be proud of their Vidusskola students that they achieve so much whilst all the cards are stacked against them.

      Again students in Klases 7, 8 and 9 probably have a similar work load to similar students in the UK, although they study more subjects; 15-16 subjects appear the norm in Latvia whilst 10-11 is the norm in the UK. I think students in the UK probably get more homework at this stage, but I’m not convinced that is a good thing anyway.

      Regarding teachers. Hmmmm. Tricky question. I think the answer is that teaching in Latvia is less stressful than the UK. That is not to say there is no teacher stress because there is. However the stress that teachers in the UK have to tolerate is unacceptably high. Five years ago the average number of years a teacher would remain in the profession was just less than ten years. The prediction was that this would reduce even further. UK teacher retention is a major problem.

      So all things considered the Latvian education system is probably more demanding on students but slightly less demanding on teachers.


      • random latvian says:

        As someone who went through it (and at a state gymnasium, which have high standards), I’d say, it’s by no means fun but high school was for me actually less terrible than middle school as at least there was far less bullying and less subjects I outright hated (other than the generally inappreciable Latvian literature and a particular teacher who had it in for me), because I was in a specialized program that prioritised certain subjects over others (their selection and availability depends on the school, in capital there are even artisan specializations). That having been said, I still remember going to school before most teachers and pupils would arrive (super special extra specialization on top of the usual stuff) and going home after most had already left. And then collapsing in my bed sometimes with my boots still on and thinking I have 3 not-fun sort-of or fully rated assignments for the next day (if anyone wonders, I was generally not doing my homework until I was in university, because their contribution on rating is low and often you blow that by not having maybe one or two done on-time, which often meant come October who cares).


  2. Pingback: Interesantie raksti #9 |

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