RE in Latvia

Overview of Riga.

Religious Education in Latvia


State of arts and future perspectives of RE in Latvia

Latvia is a multi-cultural and multi-religious country. The current situation can best be described by the paradigm of pluralization that describes religious plurality and individualization tendencies much better than secularization. It is possible to give evidence regarding the rise of individualism and the decline of organized religiosity in Latvia. Young people are expected to build their own meaning in a global, religious marketplace. This freedom to make one’s own choices is complicated and requires responsibility and sustained critical thinking. 

The principle of freedom of religion is defined in the Law on Religious Organizations in 1995. According in Latvian legislation, RE is an optional and non-confessional subject. In 2012/2013 Christian Education was attended by 9687 (5,8%) out of 167 380 students in the country on the same level. It was by 1,8% more than in 1998. In 2012/2013 Christian Confessional Education in Grades 1-9 was attended by 363 students or 0,2% of all students and Christian Education and Ethics was attended by 92 students or 0,05% of all students in the country.[1]

Currently Latvia is undergoing a transition to a new competence-based curriculum in Latvia. The big ideas approach has been developed, discussed and applied in during the last few decades around the world. In Latvia, a competence-based approach mostly relates to the understanding of a deeper learning and comprehension. The new curriculum is supposed to be centered around Big ideas. Big ideas are supposed to be framed around richer and more generative teaching ideas that are more pedagogically powerful than simply teaching separate topic. The functions of this new content is to focus around big ideas by “1) providing a deeper purpose for activities, 2) by creating real-world links for students and 3) by helping teachers to target barriers to learning based upon research evidence.”[2]

Firstly, the  reform experts  have evaluated and critically reflected on previous educational reforms and by gaining valuable feedback from schools.  The results gained in the international study projects, like OECD and from the central examination results were carefully examined. Afterwards, the team of experts was formed with the purpose to develop National Curriculum according to competence-based approach that focuses on deep understanding. The New National Curriculum and teaching materials were piloted in 100 schools and public debates were organized to get feedback.  

The curricular changes in Latvia took place in the following stages:

  • The beginning of March 2017:  Developing and improving the NC (content), implementing of new content in 100 schools around the country, designing teaching and learning materials for children with mental development disorders; 
  • April 2017: developing integrated content for subjects and promoting acquisition of foreign languages; 
  • June 2017:  developing assessment tools; 
  • August 2017: training teachers for a successful implementation of a new National Curriculum (NC), with new website available in support of teaching with  new learning materials; 
  • September 2017: public debates about new NC, by designing new teaching and learning materials; 
  • February 2018: the end of public debates;
  • November 2018:  approval of NC by the Cabinet of Ministers; 
  • Spring 2019:  development of NC and planning teaching and learning process in secondary schools.

The experience gained in the project entitled School2030 is very significant. Due to implementation of large-scale, often incomprehensible activities and tasks, the experts have developed a theoretical framework for the integration of religion into content of education. Currently experts continue working on developing teaching materials and providing mentorship for teachers by designing new teacher training programs. Unfortunately, the religious component has become even more hidden than before. The agreements reached within the project have lost ground as a result of pressure from both conservative atheists and conservative Christians. Only after intensive questioning and interviews with stakeholders both for the further development of content and for teacher training, the expert Laima Geikina had received an invitation from the Skola2030 project to conduct a workshop about implementation of State standard for the teachers.

The new competency-based approach focuses on teaching such values as responsibility, diligence, courage, honesty, wisdom, kindness, compassion, modesty, self-control, solidarity, justice, tolerance as an integrated approach in all subject areas. On the secondary level, religious issues are integrated in Societal Sciences, mainly in the history of religions subject. Within this subject area, the students can choose to study religious issues deeply as a part of their project or a scientific work. Teachers are expected to integrate all twelve values in all subject areas. The legislation on values education acknowledges diversity but does not provide guidance about how to teach diversity.

Latvia is a multicultural and multi-religious country and children need to be aware of the diversity of worldviews around them. One of the biggest challenges is how to integrate religious issues as cross-curricular issues in the social sciences and other subject areas by developing religious literacy. Religious issue a cross-curricular must serve as a viable perspective to respond to the diverse spiritual, religious, and non-religious needs of the contemporary learner by addressing pluralism. Each school needs to be open to diversity of religions by providing opportunities for experiences of interreligious dialogue at the classroom level. Currently, there is an option to continue the old model of RE in the 1st – 3rd grade, in addition including religion in the secondary school as a cross-cutting theme in the curriculum that mostly relates to cultural heritage and diversity competence.


[1] Geikina, L. (2013) Mācīties būt…un mācīties dzīvot kopā. Reliģiskā izglītība valsts skolās Latvijā un Eiropā. (Learning to be…learning to live together. Religious Education at public schools in Latvia and Europe). Riga: Drukatava, 263.
[2] Mitchell, I., Keast, S., Pannizon, D. & Mitchell, J. Using “big ideas” to enhance teaching and student learning. In Journal Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice. Volume 23 (5). Routledge, Taylor&Francis Group, 2017, 597. DOI: 10.1080/13540602.2016.1218328