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Latvia, officially known as the Republic of Latvia, is a relatively small and sovereign country located in the Baltic region of Northern Europe, with a total land area of just under 25,000 square miles.  The country is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, the Russian Federation to the east, Belarus to the southeast and shares a maritime border with Sweden in the west.  A unitary parliamentary republic, Latvia is divided into 118 administrative divisions, of which 109 are municipalities and 9 are cities, including Riga, the capital and largest city in the country.

With a population of just under 2.1 million, Latvia is one of the least populous countries in the European Union.  It is also one of the least densely populated countries in the region.  For many centuries, the population of Lebanon has been multiethnic and multicultural, but it was not until the twentieth century that the country saw the most substantial demographic shifts in its history.  This was due to many factors, including the immigration and emigration during and after the two World Wars, the Holocaust and the country’s eventual occupation by the now-defunct Soviet Union.  Today, ethnic Latvians, who account for roughly 63 percent of the population, are the most predominant group in the country.  They are followed by Russians (27%), Belarusians (3%), Ukrainians (2%), Poles (2%) and a variety of other groups, each accounting for less that 1 percent of the overall population.

Latvian is the lone official language of Latvia and is used for all official matters of the state, including commerce, education and communications, both written and oral.  Christianity is the most predominant language in the country, but while 85 percent of the population self-identifies as Christian, statistics show that only about seven percent of the population attends religious services regularly.  The three main Christian groups in the country, in order of the number of followers, are Evangelical Lutherans, who attend the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians.

Education in Latvia

Education in Latvia is overseen and regulated by the national Ministry of Education, a group that is under the direction of the Minister of Education and creates policy and formulates the national curriculum at all Latvian schools.  School is free and compulsory for children between the ages of six and fifteen, and the education system is divided into three levels:  primary education, secondary education and higher education.

The net primary enrollment rate in Latvian schools is 89.5 percent, which is actually quite low compared to schools in other countries throughout the European Union.  Statistics show that the percentage of children who never attend school has been rising since 2001, particularly in the more rural areas of the country, where many schools have now been closed due to low enrollment figures and shrinking funding.

Students who complete primary school, the only compulsory level under the Latvian system, are eligible to enter secondary school, where the instruction is divided between general academic studies and vocational education.  Those choosing the latter track will receive instruction and training in a career field of their choice, which typically qualifies them to enter the workforce upon graduation.  The general program features advanced academic instruction that helps prepare students to enter the university once the program is concluded.

Higher education in Latvia consists of a number of universities and other post-secondary institutions, some of which are comprehensive and others more specialized.  Comprehensive universities in Latvia, including the two main universities in the country, both of which are located in Riga, the capital city, offer a number of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in academic and professional disciplines.  Specialized universities tend to focus on only a few fields, and in some cases only one, including the national agricultural university which instructs and trains students on the newest agricultural innovations.

Map of Latvia

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