The ombudsman has performed inspections in the case regarding scholarships in vocational education institutions. Inspections helped uncover that scholarships are uneven. In addition, scholarships depend on the ministry responsible for the education institution, not the student’s academic success and involvement in social activities, as reported by the Ombudsman’s Office representative Madlena Vahere.
She notes that during inspections the ombudsman asked Education and Education Ministry and Culture Ministry to provide additional information about the reasons why maximum scholarship sizes are so different.
Ministries explained that the inequality is associated with the different funding ministries receive for scholarships.
«Analysing the situation, we can draw parallels with George Orwell’s Animal Farm, specifically the part about the equal and the more equal when put in the same situation… Two youngsters, one of whom studies at a vocational education institution governed by Culture Ministry and the other – in an education institution governed by the Education Ministry, are paid drastically different maximum scholarship amounts even if they have equal grades. Scholarship amounts in education institutions under Culture Ministry can be up to three times smaller than scholarships in education institutions under Education Ministry. For example, J.Rozentals Arts School’s scholarship amount is EUR 10-50 a month, whereas scholarship at Riga Art and Media School can reach EUR 10-150 a month,» comments ombudsman Juris Jansons.
Jansons believes education institutions that realize vocation education programmes should provide youngsters with a maximum national scholarship amount if graduates of those education institutions are provided with secondary and vocational education.
According to Jansons, the main objective of the scholarship is to motivating, supporting and encouraging youngsters to study better. «One other factor is worth keeping in mind – education is one of the main cornerstones for sustainable development and is one of the priorities of the National Development Plan,» Jansons said.
The ombudsman asks Culture Ministry to find an opportunity to secure increased scholarships for its education institutions. Jansons welcomes the ministry’s initiative to add the plan to raise scholarship amounts to the priority plan of 2018 and future years. ‘This will help raise equality in scholarship accessibility to all residents studying at a vocational education institution.’
Education and Science Ministry is asked to provide proposals to improve Cabinet of Ministers requirements for scholarships by April 2017 and establish a single approach for the calculation of higher scholarships in vocational education institutions.