In Latvia, the access to higher education is granted by two qualifications: Certificate of general secondary education and Diploma of vocational secondary education. Most common ways to acquire them are through general or vocational secondary education.
General secondary education
Atestāts par vidējo izglītību (Certificate of secondary education) was awarded to those who completed general secondary education programmes from 1992 to 1999. After 2000, Atestāts par vispārējo vidējo izglītību (Certificate of general secondary education) is issued instead.
General secondary education programmes lasts three years (grades 10 – 12).
In order to obtain Certificate of general secondary education, learners must complete courses in all subjects and State examinations (the number of examinations can differ by year). The centralized secondary school leaving – higher education admission examinations are organized since 2004. The students receive certificates issued by Valsts izglītības satura centrs on completion of these exams. The number of certificate is also mentioned in Atestāts par vispārējo vidējo izglītību.
Vocational secondary education
In 1990s there was Vocational secondary education programme which awarded Diploms T (Diploma T). Persons who have graduated from Vocational secondary education institutions were awarded a qualification in accordance with the acquired specialty and were issued a diploma of a certain sample. The duration of teaching/learning in regular-level institutions for basic school graduates (years of schooling) is usually four years and five years. Diploms T (Diploma T) gives access to higher education.
In addition, Diploms AVS (Diploma AVS) was issued to vocational education (arodizglītība) learners, certifying professional qualifications obtained and vocational secondary or professional higher education. Diploms AVS (Diploma AVS) also grants access to higher education if there is an indication in the diploma that learner has gained full secondary education.
Since 1999 Diploms par profesionālo vidējo izglītību (Diploma of vocational secondary education) is issued for completing vocational secondary education.
Vocational secondary education programmes last four years and include both general and vocational subjects.
In order to obtain Diploma of vocational secondary education, learners must complete courses in all subjects and pass at least four State examinations in:
- Latvian, foreign language, mathematics and
- Latvian and world history, chemistry, biology or physics (elective).
In addition, learners need to pass a final professional qualification examination and qualification practice.
Note: Due to COVID-19 pandemic, in school years 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 fourth (elective) State examination for general and vocational secondary education learners is not mandatory.
Other ways to access higher education
In addition to general and vocational secondary education, there are other programmes which grant access to higher education, but the qualifications awarded will be the same as one of two mentioned above.
Learners who were awarded with Atestāts par arodizglītību (Certificate of vocational education) (which is a three year long vocational programme after basic education which does not give access to higher education) can complete one year long bridging programme which grants access to higher education. Atestāts par vispārējo vidējo izglītību (Certificate of general secondary education) is awarded after completion of the programme.