Accession by Latvia the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has not added money in the country. At least now, the government has access to the best analytical minds of the world.
That’s what they promised anyway half a year back by the acceding and accepting parties when explained the necessity of integration of Latvia with OECD.
And now the wait is over. The Latvian government obtained a survey of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which is dedicated to the key skills of 9th form students in reading, Mathematics and other sciences in 72 countries of the world.
How are ours doing? Alas, skills of the Latvian school students in global terms look moderately. Unfortunately, no progress is seen even if compared to the preceding assessments of Latvia.
The academic performance of the Latvian school students in natural sciences is close to the average OECD level— 490 points and 31st place. Both in reading and in Mathematics the Latvian school students are weaker than an average OECD-student.
Although the results of the Latvian school students are better than in Lithuania and in Russia, the Estonian school students are a head higher – they are positioned among the world leaders (Singapore, Japan, China, Finland).
So, skills in reading, Mathematics and in natural sciences according to the OECD assessment are insufficient in each tenth 15- year old Latvian, but in Estonia in each twentieth. While skills of the highest level in all three spheres are possessed just by 8% of the Latvian school students, which is significantly lesser than in Estonia (20%) and than in OECD countries (15%) on average.
We have to admit that ‘unhurried’ Estonians have managed to reform much faster and successfully its education system by attracting and supporting motivating teachers, optimizing the network of schools, improving education programmes and methods.
Of course, it’s a shame that our close neighbours turned to be smarter in the sphere of education as well. On the other hand it may be considered that we are lucky in Latvia: we do not need to go for successful experience in far off lands to Singapore and Japan. The methodology of reforms is near here – couple of hundred kilometers northward from Riga.
However, to understand what to do it is not necessarily to go even on such short trip. Riga is aware of the recipes too. The society should be more demanding to the education system, in its turn, the politicians and government should start to work more actively on the improvement of quality of education. For instance, more active involvement of the private sector in education would improve the link of school material with real life.
A qualitative education system could be hardly imagined without a good motivated teacher. The profession of teaching needs to be made prestigious again.
We can’t say that nothing has been done in this direction. The reform of payment for work of teachers promoted by the LR Ministry of Education and Science, heading to growth of teachers’ income. But this is about a) mean temperature in the hospital — although smaller, but significant part of teachers loses in income. And b) the educational reform is accompanied by scandals and mutual accusations between the Ministry, schools and politicians from other parties. The lack of adequate communication between the reformers and the society is clear, which neutralizes the importance of changes in the educational sphere of Latvia.