Domestic report: Latvia

September 2017

The history of Waldorf movement in the Republic of Latvia dates back to the early 1990ies when soon after the fall of the Iron curtain new ideas and impulses in the field of education started to spring with the help of various individual and also organized efforts from Western Europe.

Of all the initiatives only two appeared to be viable and still exist as schools – Riga Waldorf school and Adazi Free Waldorf school, both were established in 1993. Besides schools there are 7 early childhood institutions.

Riga Waldorf school is an elementary school fully funded by the state, with 363 pupils.

Adazi Free Waldorf school is a private school with 365 pupils funded by parents. It has both elementary and upper classes. The school gets co-funding from the state which covers only the salaries of the teachers.

The current status of the schools represents also the educational policy of Latvia in general: there are only two legal solutions for a school to exist – state or private. All the schools are permitted to operate if they follow the general curriculum of the state, which at the same time is quite broadly defined, making it possible for Waldorf curriculum to be blended in and performed with no major losses. General requirement is also for the teachers to have the university diploma in pedagogy. The schools also have to carry out all the state examinations.

The Latvian Association for Waldorf education was established in 1994. Since then it has focused on one major task – teacher training. Although the lack of local resources has been a never ending obstacle to establish permanent training institution for teachers, there is active educational center supported by the Association which provides different courses and seminars for already working Waldorf teachers as well as those who are only starting to have interest in the idea. The main partner and supporter in these efforts until recent times has been IAO (Internationale Assoziation für Waldorfpädagogik in Mittel- und Osteuropa).

The Association itself is being financed by membership fees of 20 EUR for a person/teacher and 1 EUR for a pupil annually, which all together makes a budget that covers only basic administrative expenses. All the active members work on a voluntary basis.

During the last two decades of the Waldorf movement in Latvia the general relationships with the public opinion and state has been very constructive and positive in all ways. There are few teachers from both schools that have acquired recognition and also are involved in making of general educational policy of the state. Both schools are very popular place for teachers from other state schools to visit and search for inspiration.

The main current and future challenges for the Association has to do with global shifts in various aspects of life. Due to the economical situation the profession of a teacher has a very low esteem in Latvian society, thus very few young people chose to study pedagogy, even less Waldorf pedagogy. The time has come for a generation change, but there is a lack of human recourses. At the same time parents are looking for a new educational options and both of the Waldorf schools have increasing demand, which can’t be satisfied due to the lack of teachers as well as space. However it must be added that there are cases when former Waldorf students have returned to schools as teachers.

The popularity of the schools have also highlighted the problem of identity, as more and more parents send their children to Waldorf school without paying attention to the philosophy behind it.

One of the latest issues that has to be addressed is the question about the use of the Waldorf name. Until recently there has not been any problems with it, due to the fact, that most of the people involved with Waldorf education were connected with the Association in one way or another, but now when the information has no borders, it might be the case that more and more initiatives start and the question of quality may rise. The Association has been researching the possibility to include the profession of a Waldorf teacher in the state’s official list of professions which would then provide some legal ground for quality control.

Source: ECSWE

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