RIGA - The number of schoolchildren and the number of schools in Latvia are changing at very different paces, Education and Science Minister Karlis Sadurskis (Unity) said at a meeting of the National Trilateral Cooperation Council today.
Over the past eight years, the number of high school students has decreased by about 24,000, and at the moment there are 34,700 high school students in Latvia. That means that the number of high school students has decreased approximately 40 percent.
On the other hand, the number of high schools has decreased from 350 high schools in the 2009/2010 school year to 311 last year - or by 11 percent.
"Obviously, the number of students has been decreasing much faster than the number of schools. I understand that local governments want to keep their schools, for various reasons, but I believe that schools must be neither the stimulus, nor a factor that hampers straightening out the school network. The school network has to correspond to the economic situation and further development trends," said Sadurskis.
Most high schools have 150 students or less, said Sadurskis, pointing out that this represented a serious problem regarding the quality of education in the future.
Furthermore, reorganization of schools during the past several years produced no devastating changes, the minister pointed out.
"We will be ready to talk to all municipalities in October, and I hope that talks with most municipalities will have concluded by March. We don't want the process to be explosive, the transition has to be gradual," said Sadurskis.
The Education and Science Ministry is currently working on solutions to assess schools' efficiency, based on results of exams for ninth- and twelfth-graders, and arrive at an optimum school network.