The education system develops along with developments in society and the economy. Increasing competition in the labour market which everyone feels only serves to increase the demands on the education system. In our workaday rush we rarely pause to reflect that it is precisely education which forms the foundation of economic development all over the world. Education, regardless of the process through which it is delivered, shapes us and shapes our country.
To my mind education is not only a huge responsibility and a question of self-discipline, but it also provides immeasurable opportunities throughout the lifespan. Thus elaboration of the education system, starting from courses lasting a few hours and ending with lengthy professional or academic studies must be well thought out, with respect for both individual preferences, interests and abilities and for the demands of the economy for specialists within a certain sector or level of qualification. Our task is to help identify take advantage of these opportunities.
For almost 15 years now we are working to promote the development of initial and further education in Latvia. Since the establishment of the Agency our fields of responsibility have been constantly growing and consolidating and our activities have become more diverse. As of July 2009 we have taken over the functions of the Education Innovation Fund (EIF), but as of 2010 – the functions of the Academic Programme Agency. Thereby our field of activity has significantly expanded, but it is precisely this diversity which helps to recognize and to comprehend the immense significance of the education system within socio-economic processes.
VIAA, by becoming a one-stop-agency for services in initial and further education and science delivers:
- Cooperation authority functions for administration of EU Structural Funds in the 2007-2013 planning period;
- Implementation of the EU Lifelong Learning Programme 2007-2013 in Latvia, including the sectoral programmes Comenius – for schools, Erasmus – higher education, Leonardo da Vinci – vocational training, Grundtvig – adult education; the programme also includes the Transversal programme for languages, information and communications technologies and education policy, as well as the Jean Monnet programme in support of European integration;
- Implementation of the Erasmus Mundus (2009-2013) programme for cooperation and mobility within higher education with the goal of improving the quality of higher education and promoting intercultural understanding through cooperation with third countries;
- Administration of the EEA Financial Mechanism and the Norway Financial Mechanism grant schemes „Academic Research Block Grant” and „Scholarship Block Grant”
- Implementation of the Swiss Contribution grant scheme „Scholarship Fund”;
- Implementation of the Nordic Council of Ministers education and research programme „Nordplus Framework Programme”;
- The Latvian contact point for the European Language Label project;
- Information and consultations on EU cooperative programmes with other countries (excluding the EEA and EFTA countries) in the field of education;
- Cooperation with foreign institutions and international organizations in the selection of candidates for scholarships offered by foreign and international organizations in the field of education and science;
- Latvian representation within the EU information and Guidance network Euroguidance;
In taking over the functions of the EIF, VIAA continues to ensure the administration of financial resources for the implementation of innovative education projects.
The National Database of Learning Opportunities NIID.LV administered by VIAA contains a wide array of information on education opportunities for young people and adults. Vocational upper-secondary education programmes, higher education programmes, as well as short courses and voucher training programmes offered by universities, colleges and adult education providers form just part of the information available within the database. All users can take advantage of career interest inventories and send in questions to the e-counsellor.
We gain particular satisfaction from recalling the results of the EU Structural Funds 2004-2006 planning period. Latvian education institutions implemented 100% of the European Social Fund (ESF) financial resources – 48.4 million lats, drawing from ESF and Latvian state budget funds. Over the entire planning period we contracted 665 projects within open calls for tender and 18 national programme projects. Accordingly we administered a total of 683 projects. This was a valuable opportunity and a challenge – to work with such a large number and great variety of project implementers – among them both national and local government and private education providers, higher, general and vocational education institutions, as well as non-governmental organisations, associations, and other organisations. Projects were carried out by both large universities and small country schools. Projects were also very thematically diverse, for the main part aimed at the modernisation of curriculum, learning materials and technical facilities, as well as quality enhancement of the education system.
A significant increase in the amount of EU Structural Fund resources and an even greater diversity of projects is a reality of the 2007-2013 planning period. Planning documentation for this period foresees investments of 880 million euro or 690 million lats in education and science, moreover in all sectors: general, vocational, higher, further education and various scientific fields. Right now all conditions are in place for us to take advantage of the opportunities provided by Latvia’s participation in the EU: Structural fund resources and the combined experience of the EU member states are available and education and science institutions have the need and the intention to develop. We have also accrued experience as an institution administering high volumes of financial resources through assessment, consultation, advice and monitoring. In the 2007-2013 planning period VIAA administers both the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund investments in education and science. It is a great joy that the projects for modernization of natural sciences classrooms and projects for computerizing schools have been successfully launched all over Latvia. Many school facilities will be adapted to accommodate students with special needs. In order to increase the number of persons employed in scientific research activities and involvement of young scientists in research as well as promote the return to Latvia of scientists working abroad, ESF funding amounting to 40 million lats has been granted to the projects developed by national scientific institutions.
We are pleased to find that the diverse opportunities provided by the EU Lifelong Learning Programme are increasing in popularity year by year and more and more people are thereby acquiring knowledge and experience in the European space. Exchanges, placements and study visits are only a few of the opportunities undertaken by education establishments, various organizations, institutions and enterprises.
In our work we try to follow the principles of an open organization and to provide the necessary information, consultations and support both to those who until now have very little experience with the opportunities offered by the EU Structural Funds, Lifelong Learning Programme and several other programmes, and to those who have successfully implemented various projects in education and science. Our team is motivated, has a highly developed sense of responsibility and professional knowledge not only in the field of education, but also in areas such as financial and project management, economics, politics, linguistics et al. This makes it possible to perform the tasks assigned to us efficiently and to support the education and science community in reaching its goals and ambitions.
I am convinced that in establishing a one-stop-shop for EU Structural Funds and other foreign and international financial schemes for education and science projects we will be able to accomplish one of the most important goals that we have set for ourselves in this new operational phase – to develop high quality cooperation and relationships with our main clients – the education and science community, as well as the state and local government institutions that implement and manage education processes in this country. At this moment we offer our clients almost the entire spectrum of foreign and national support mechanisms, providing the opportunity to meet many of their development and investment needs through one institution.
Our working motto is: Here is the reality of your ideas! May our support serve you in realizing your visions!
Activities of the Agency, including the development and maintenance of this home page are co-financed by the European Union.