Annual Report 2010
In 2010, President Zatlers devoted a lot of attention to the subject of education, emphasising the importance of general and professional secondary education in terms of its accessibility and quality, the challenges related to higher education, the quality of science, and international competition, as well as patriotic education and the importance of knowing about Latvia’s history. The President’s active and regular involvement of this has facilitated progress in several major areas.
The presidential lecture series
In 2009, when the University of Latvia was celebrating its 90th anniversary, President Zatlers originated a series of lectures called “Readings by World Leaders.” The aim of the lectures if to offer students, scholars, members of the intelligentsia and representatives of state and private institutions, as well as the media, to hear lectures from distinguished individuals from all over the world. The lectures offer a wide view of global issues of an economic, political and social nature.
In 2010, President Zatlers invited three distinguished individuals to deliver lectures – John Hope Bryant, who is a philanthropist, businessman and vice chairman of the US President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability; John Newbigin, who is a consultant, writer and creative businessman; and Nik Gowing, who is the leading news presenter for the BBC in Great Britain.
Mr Bryant’s lecture focused on changes in ideas and values, positive leadership, and understanding of how one can manage one’s finances, and the importance thereof during an economic recession.
Mr Newbigin’s lecture was called “Creative Economics and Creative Governance.” He spoke about the important idea that sustainable growth and welfare in the world will increasingly be dependent on creative economics which are based on the need for new skills and new types of entrepreneurship.
Mr Gowing, for his part, spoke about the way in which new technologies have allowed anyone to become an eyewitness to events, thus becoming a representative of the “new media” and creating new challenges for state and private sector institutions which are not always able to react to relevant events in a timely and effective way.
Innovations in education
On several occasions during the course of 2010, President Zatlers spoke to Latvia’s education ministers, Tatjana Koķe and Rolands Broks, about important aspects and priorities in general and professional education, as well as challenges related to the reform of higher education. The President also spoke to sectoral ministers and local government leaders about reforms of educational institutions and aspects of the relevant financial system.
Because the President declared these matters to be a priority, his Strategic Analysis Commission devoted a lot of attention in 2010 to issues related to education. The commission organised discussions about the matter and prepared several reports in which it analysed the existing situation and expressed active views about the most important challenges in the field of higher education. Work on higher education reforms is continuing in 2011, as well.
In line with the need for change, President Zatlers summoned educational experts to a roundtable discussion on April 7, 2010. The subject was innovations in schools, the possibility of individualising educational approaches on the basis of those innovations, ways of encouraging student interest in the content of education, and methods for making the everyday work of schoolteachers easier. Participants at the event reviewed a report which the Strategic Analysis Commission prepared on the subject. A second report from the commission was titled “Latvia’s Schools After 2009: Are Changes Only Now Beginning?”
On December 15, in turn, President Zatlers welcomed some 490 teachers and educational experts to a conference called “Competitive Education: Creativity, Activity and Participation.” In his opening address, the President said that the profession of schoolteachers, like many others, require lifelong learning, arguing that creativity is the key to this process.
The history of Latvia as an individual subject of study
Ever since 2008, President Zatlers has called for Latvian history to be taught as a separate subject so as to facilitate a positive attitude among students vis-a-vis our country’s past and its values. In 2009 and 2010, the President learned during regional visits to schools and in the context of the “Mission Possible” programme that knowledge about history among Latvia’s schoolchildren is quite poor, indeed.
For that reason, the President asked the Ministry of Education to organise discussions about the methodology for teaching Latvian history as a separate topic at schools. The normative base for this was improved in 2010, and beginning in the 2011/2012 school year, the subject will be taught separately.
Meetings with schoolchildren, students and educators
During regional visits, President Zatlers often meets with teachers, school principals and educational specialists from the relevant city or administrative district to talk about issues related to education. It also allows him to hear information about achievements and difficulties in this regard.
In 2010, the President visited 16 high schools, professional schools and institutions of higher learning, teaching 11 classes as part of this process. Most of those lessons were devoted to important aspects of Latvia’s history – the 20th anniversary of the restoration of the Republic of Latvia, as well as the original proclamation of the country’s history.
President Zatlers has also visited minority schools. He helped to unveil new facilities for the Jewish School, met with students at the Rīga Ukrainian High School during an official visit to Latvia by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, and visited the Salaspils No. 2 High School and the Rīga Rīnūži High School to talk about Latvia as our common home.
Also last year, the President visited the Bulduri Gardening School, the Priekuļi Agricultural Technical School, the University of Latvia, the Liepāja University, the National Defence Academy, and the Rīga Stradiņš University.
More than 50 schoolchildren visited the President’s office at the Rīga Castle in 2010. They had a chance to learn about his everyday work, attend various meetings, and express their views about the country and the quality and accessibility of education therein.
A special event in 2010 was the 60th anniversary of the Stradiņš University. The university was established on the basis of the former Latvian Institute of Medicine of which President Zatlers is a graduate. Indeed, he is the first Latvian president to have come from the school. During celebrations of the anniversary, President Zatlers received an honorary doctorate from the school.
Patronage of the “Mission Possible” project
For the past three years, President Zatlers has been patron of the “Mission Possible” project, taking active part in different events which focus on the value of education and the contribution of teachers in motivating and inspiring students and diversifying the public aspects of schools.
In 2010, as is the tradition, the President welcomed new participants in the “Mission Possible” programme to the Rīga Castle in advance of the new school year. He also attended the concluding event of the project in May. For the first time, teachers from all three years of the programme came together with their mentors and principals to talk about what motivates teachers, what young teachers gain from being involved in the programme, and whether and how the arrival of new teachers at different schools changed the environment of teachers and entire schools.
During the “Mission Possible” week in 2010, President Zatlers taught a class at the Rīga Residential High School of Music, telling students that there are no impossible missions, adding that everything depends on people and the goals that they set out for themselves so as to ensure an interesting, fulfilled and happy life.