New career development model for teachers

Latvia has begun implementing a system of qualification ranking for teachers, which seeks to foster career development, as well as to bring teachers’ remuneration in line with their level of qualification. The assessment of the teachers’ professional career model, in which 1,408 teachers from 192 schools in Latvia took part, was completed in March 2008. Participation in the new professional evaluation system will be voluntary.

Strict requirements for teaching qualifications

Latvia values teaching qualifications very highly and upholds strict requirements. Since 2004, an amendment to Latvia’s Education Law stipulates that all teachers, including preschool instructors, must have third-level qualifications (LV0409102F). Nonetheless, this requirement challenged the country’s capacities in teaching personnel, as many qualified teachers no longer worked in education due to the restructuring and low wages of the 1990s. As a result, a transition period was introduced which allowed students approaching the end of their third-level studies to work in schools.

Shortage of education workers

The 2007–2008 school year revealed once again a shortage of fully qualified teachers in schools and kindergartens in particular. The Ministry of Education and Science (Latvijas Republikas Izglītības un zinātnes ministrija) plans to resolve qualification and wage issues in the sector by creating a career ladder for teachers. Latvian teachers would qualify to work at five levels: as junior teacher, teacher, senior teacher, regional expert and national expert – with wages set accordingly. The consultations with trade unions continue in this regard.

New career development model for teachers

The testing of a new career development model for teachers ended in April 2008. A total of 1,408 teachers from 192 schools throughout Latvia participated in the trials, which were organised by the State General Education Quality Evaluation Agency (Vispārējās izglītības kvalitātes novērtēšanas valsts aģentūra, VIKNVA).

According to VIKNVA’s Director, Evija Papule, the career development model for teachers is a system for evaluating teacher quality, taking account of rank, evaluation criteria, the evaluation procedure and the teacher’s professional experience.

Teacher participation in the new professional evaluation system will be voluntary, but will grant them one of the five aforementioned qualification levels. For the time being, the number of qualified teachers and their level will not impact on a school’s ranking in the accreditation process – that is, the assessment of a school’s quality. However, the allocated level will define the teacher’s progress up the career ladder and may affect remuneration.

The Ministry of Education and Science proposed a basic wage complemented by qualification bonuses, whereby 70% of the basic wage would be fixed and 30% adjustable depending on qualification level. A qualification level is granted for a period ranging from two to six years. Teachers who have not completed a qualification evaluation will be eligible to receive the basic wage and a bonus for length of service without being involved in the qualification system.

Teachers can choose the level they wish to apply for, although young teachers need three to five years of experience in a school before applying for the fourth or fifth level. It is not mandatory for a teacher to pass through all of the levels starting from the lowest; on the contrary, it is possible to apply for a qualification suitability evaluation starting from the highest rank.

Views of social partners

The new system is supported by the Minister of Education and Science, Baiba Rivza, who highlighted the need to set up a strict qualification assessment system and to adjust teachers’ work remuneration to their qualification.

Employers have not expressed their views in relation to the new system. However, teachers voiced their concern that those who lack adequate education, but have demonstrated good teaching results, risk low salaries under the scheme.

The Education and Science Workers’ Trade Union (Latvijas Izglītības un zinātnes darbinieku arodbiedrība, LIZDA) has focused on the general wage increases of education workers – more specifically, the implementation of the wage increase scheme that was agreed between the government and trade union in 2004, along with the definition of normal working time for teachers’ work. Less attention is paid to particular issues, regardless of the fact that the new system will lead to sharp wage differences between teachers.

Commentary

The introduction of a teacher qualification ranking system and the proposal of a career development model represent another attempt to improve the quality of Latvia’s education system, as well as teachers’ remuneration . In addition, the Ministry of Education and Science is seeking to move away from the contractual system based on weekly working hours, which currently stand at 21 hours a week, and hourly pay rates, to introduce a standard working week of 40 hours and a basic pay system in the sector.

Raita Karnite, Institute of Economics, Latvian Academy of Sciences

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