„Istorija“. Mokslo darbai. 93 tomas
Daugavpils University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of History,
Latvia gained independence on 18 November 1918. In 1919 the Law of Education Institutions was adopted. In the effort to overcome the consequences of World War I following these two events, a variety of actions were taken to renew the operation of elementary and secondary schools (it is discussed in the author’s research paper Training of Elementary School Teachers in Latvia (1918–1940) [12, 68]) as well as to restore the number of teachers. Despite an optional six-year elementary school being the core of the system of education, such schools were still highly considered by the government in the time of change, as stated in the Law of Education. This type of schools existed before the war [11, 58], but many of them had to be restored and many had to be established. These processes started taking place in 1919. Two types of secondary schools were created – substantial specialised schools and gymnasiums. In specialised schools, more attention was paid to the subjects of natural sciences. In gymnasiums, priority was given to humanity subjects. Importantly, both terms, “secondary school” and “gymnasium”, appeared in official documentation. For example, the Programme of 1928 mentions secondary schools or gymnasiums with a four-year programme. All gymnasiums were based in cities. The colleges for teacher training with six-year courses were equated to secondary schools .
As the 1920s were about to end, there was still a significant lack of highly qualified specialists in all spheres of life [11, 55]. Certain measures were taken to stimulate tuition in schools. It contributed to a rapid growth of the secondary school network in Latvia. Due to these actions, school related rules were set, allowing everybody who completed a six-year programme to continue their education. As a result of these activities, the number of students in secondary schools increased rapidly, reaching 16,000 successful applicants by 1928. Yet, it caused problems too. First of all, the network of such education institutions had to be broadened. Secondly, the number of experts working in these schools had to be increased.
There was a decrease in population in the aftermath of the war (born during the wartime). The economic crisis caused financial problems in many families while gymnasiums charged tuition fees, which resulted in decreasing numbers of applications after 1934. Despite these challenges, there were 76 gymnasiums in Latvia by 1938/1939: 39 were public, 13 – municipal, 18 – in the custody of different organizations and 6 were private [11, 69].
The author addresses the topic of the article Training of Secondary School Teachers in Latvia (1918–1940). Despite a considerable amount of research on history of schools in Latvia, various topics, such as teacher training, teachers’ qualifications and the level of their education in the 1920s–1930s, have not been previously studied. The current paper continues the discussion of the article entitled Training of Elementary Schools in Latvia (1918–1940)  and examines the level of education and qualifications of secondary school history teachers. This topic cannot be adequately analysed without the consideration of historical context pertaining to the establishment and development of education in Latvia in this specific and very significant period of time for Latvia described in the academic research papers History of Latvia in the XX Century. The Independent State (1918 – 1940) ; A Staris and B. Usinsh Development of Education and Pedagogical Science in Latvia during the Period of the First Independent State ; L. Zhukov and A. Kopelovich Pedagogical Thought of Latvia ), which are all mentioned in the author’s previous article. The information (statistical data) about potential history teachers having a higher education qualification in Latvia in the 1920s–1930s could be found in a book about the University of Latvia entitled University of Latvia 75 .
This research is based on the documents from the National Historical Archives of Latvia, namely those of the Ministry of Education (information about activities of the Society (Association) of History Teachers). Yet the main sources of information are commission protocols (minutes) related to the licensing of secondary school teachers (201 protocols in total) . In addition to the licensing protocols, the author uses the following sources: The Government Bulletin (Valdības Vēstnesis) [3; 4], a weekly bulletin of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Latvia released from 1919, which published laws, normative acts, etc.; reports of the General Directorate (later – Department) for School Affairs of the Ministry of Education [1, 6] on its activities; a book University of Latvia in Ten Years. 1919–1929 (Latvijas Universitāte desmit gados 1919.–1929)  that includes information regarding the University’s activities in the first decade of its existence, as well as the data about teachers; the digest of the Society of History Teachers The Past and the Present (Pagātne un tagadne) , which consists of activity reports of the Society and includes data about its members from 1933 to 1937.
Secondary school teachers and their in-service training (1919–1940)
As a result of organisational and operational activities, the number of elementary and secondary schools in Latvia increased in the beginning of development of the new national system of education. Hence, the demand for adequately trained teachers increased too. Initially, the specialisation of teachers had to commence in a secondary school only. In addition, secondary school teachers were obligated to obtain higher educational qualifications but this objective was not achievable at all times. Thus, in the beginning the level of education of the teaching staff in both elementary and secondary schools did not meet the new requirements [11, 111].
The information about the teachers of specific subjects in secondary schools could be discovered in the material of activities of the General Department of School Affairs for 1919–1924 as well as in an issue of The Government Bulletin (Valdības vēstnesis) . These sources provide data on the number of teachers of different academic subjects in secondary schools as well as the results of their licensing process in 1924. This information contributes to the research by providing an insight into the situation of history teachers during the specific period of time.
According to the material of the General Department of School Affairs, the subject of history was taught in secondary schools by 59 subject experts (history teachers) during the academic year 1919/1920. It equals to 9.29 % of the overall number of teaching staff in schools of this type. As stated in the sources mentioned above, only 130 teachers were employed by secondary schools in 1919/1920, which is 32.66 % of the overall teaching staff in Latvia.
173 teachers (26.62 %)  had a higher education diploma, while 51 (12.82 %) teachers held the status of unfinished higher education in the academic year 1919/1920; in the academic year 1920/1921 this number amounted to 108 (16.62 %) teachers. Such a tendency could be explained by an assumption that this category of teachers was partially represented by university students. According to the university publication University of Latvia 75 (Latvijas Universitāte 75) [10, 63], a large (60 %) proportion of students was in part- or full-time employment while in education. It can be assumed that a part of these students could have had undertaken pedagogical roles in secondary (or even elementary) schools.
None of the analysed sources provide specific information regarding history teachers, who had completed their higher education courses in the first years after the adoption of the Law of Education of 1919. Therefore, it could be a research topic for further papers. Yet, it might be assumed that some of secondary school teachers could have graduated from the University of Tartu or any other higher education institution in the Russian Empire.
Secondary schools were facing the same problem of the lack of teaching staff that troubled elementary schools in the first post-war years (it is discussed in more detail in the author’s article Training of Elementary School Teachers in Latvia (1918–1940) . Therefore, the improvement of education and the boost of qualifications of secondary school teachers became a priority on the agendas of secondary schools. These issues were first addressed in 1920, when special training courses were organised for the first time.
Reports on the activities of the General Department for School Affairs mention the courses organized for teachers of the Latvian language, mathematics, history and the English language. These courses used to last three semesters. The History programme of these courses covered information about all the periods of World History and History of Latvia. They consisted of a 53-hour theoretical course, which included 11 hours of Ancient History (3 for History of the East, 4 for Ancient Greece and 4 for Ancient Rome), 6 hours of Medieval History, 11 hours for Modern History and 8 hours for History of the 19th Century. The focus on the history of Russia was strong but it was considered to substitute this subject by another subject related to another unspecified country.
Additionally, students were offered to attend lectures in Cultural History (6 hours) and Introduction to Philosophy (11 hours). However, while all teacher training for elementary schools after 1920 had subjects of pedagogical cycle in their curriculum, these pedagogical subjects were not included in the programmes for secondary school teachers, except for two hours spent on Methodology of History Teaching and Pedagogical Practice.
All of the above suggests that these courses were intended for students who were new to teaching history as a subject and, as the author believes, were likely to have no higher education qualifications in history since most attention was paid to the theoretical questions of history in the courses. Yet, the amount of applications for these courses is surprisingly low – only eight people applied. The courses did not take place, which seems rather odd at the time due to the growing demand for courses related to other subjects [6, 547].
The importance of teacher training and qualification improvement courses for secondary school history teachers is somewhat unclear due to the lack of available information. None of the reviews on activities of the General Department of School Affairs (Directorate prior to 1926) mention courses designed for secondary school history teachers specifically.
After the overturn of 1934, National History as a subject received considerable attention from the government. It was regarded as contributory to the unity of the nation. The subject of history had an important place within the school curriculum. As a result, history teachers gained a notable role in schools. This fact could be proven by an example of special courses for elementary and secondary school history teachers organized for three years in 1934–1936. These courses have been discussed in the author’s previous paper dedicated to the training of elementary school teachers .
Level of Education of Secondary School Teachers
The information regarding the number of teachers and their qualifications could be obtained from the material about teacher licensing. Starting from 1924, teachers had to match certain licensing criteria in order to gain permission to teach in schools . Both elementary and secondary school teachers had to achieve a certain status-related category as either fully-licensed teachers or candidates in accordance with the rules of licensing [3, 278], which was granted by a licensing commission approved by the Ministry of Education. Certain rules were developed for the licensing process in elementary and secondary schools.
However, the information about the level of education of subject teachers, including historians, appears only once in a summarized form in the reports of the Department of School Affairs for the period 1919 – 1924 [7, 274]. According to the data, the overall teaching body of secondary schools consisted of 88 teachers-candidates (69 men and 19 women) and 546 fully-licensed (competent) teachers by 1 July 1924. With regard to history teachers, 18 of them were competent (2 men and 16 women), while 27 (16 men and 11 women) were not fully-qualified [7, 276]. In fact, these numbers and the situation of history teachers are fairly good, if compared to the situation of other subjects and the amount of teaching hours of these subjects in schools.
However, it is difficult to fully evaluate the level of education of teachers working within a specific subject category because, as stated in paragraph 14 of the Law of Education Institutions of Latvia (Likums par Latvijas izglītības iestādēm) of 1919, any citizen of Latvia was eligible to teach in a secondary school, if he either had graduated from a higher education institution with a specialty in a certain subject and had undertaken an additional course from a pedagogical cycle, or had had a suitable pedagogical experience. The minimum level of education required was secondary. According to the requirements of licensing [1, 326], an individual with higher education qualifications in history was not eligible for a fully-licensed, or competent, teacher status, if he had no pedagogical education. On the other hand, the fully-qualified teacher status could be granted with only a secondary education diploma, if pedagogical courses had been undertaken and an individual had had a long-term experience within a pedagogical field [4, 552].
Thus, the rules of obtaining the discussed teaching status were contradictory. Higher education qualifications in history without pedagogical qualifications did not allow becoming a fully-qualified teacher. Nevertheless, secondary school graduates, if they met the applicable requirements, were suitable for the role of competent teachers. All of the above suggests that some of the teachers without the fully-qualified teacher status could actually specialise in history and could have a higher education diploma in the subject but might simply lack pedagogical education [1, 552]. The data about history teachers with higher education qualifications (after 1924) could be found in the archival materials of teacher licensing only .
The stated facts and the content of the reports on operation of the courses for history teachers prove that the topic of teacher training for the experts of specific subjects was not fully covered and stabilised in the 1920s. However, the situation in the republic changed, resulting in the growing demand for well-educated specialists. Thus, the requirements for the quality of education increased accordingly. As a result, mandatory higher education for secondary school teachers became more relevant and required. The number of history teachers in secondary schools gradually increased.
Secondary school teachers mainly gained their qualifications at the University of Latvia, whereby the Pedagogical Department with a two-year programme was established as part of the Faculty of Philology in 1919. This Pedagogical Department became an independent unit in 1924/1925 [14, 160]. History experts were also educated at the University of Latvia, but, according to the data, the number of graduates educated in history was insignificant in comparison to other subjects. However, this number of history graduates could be sufficient to meet the needs of secondary schools in Latvia, the number of students and school curricula on condition that all these graduates became teachers. As stated in the published material of the University of Latvia of 1939 [2, 64–65], only 29.2 %, or 6,841 students, of all applicants (23,438 in total) completed the course. There were 345 historians, which equals to 5 % of the total number graduates at the time discussed.
The life stories of these people and the biographies of those who dedicated their lives to the teaching profession could become a topic for separate research. Yet with an access to the information about the number of history teachers and the level of their education by 1924 (as the material of the Department for School Affairs shows), an assumption can be made that the majority of history graduates with higher education diplomas, who are mentioned in the licensing material starting from 1927 and who taught in schools, were most likely the graduates from the University of Latvia. Thus, they were the experts who completed higher education during the period of the republic at the only existing higher education institution in Latvia offering a history course. Protocols (minutes) of the licensing commission for 1927–1940  suggest that 191 historians with a higher education diploma, which equals nearly half of the total number of history graduates from the University of Latvia for the period of time, were mentioned in the meetings of the licensing committee. In addition, by 1927 (according to the supplement to the licensing requirements for secondary school teachers, 1924 [7, 419–420]), secondary school history teachers, who completed higher education by 1919, already had to receive a certain category. This statement proves that secondary school history teachers with higher education diplomas (mentioned in the above licensing documents) graduated from the University of Latvia. The material published by the University do not provide information about the graduates who had undertaken a cycle of pedagogical lectures by Professor A. Dauga in April 1924 [2, 185], completed the pedagogical modules for university students following the decree of the Minister of Education of 8 January 1926 and were planning to work in secondary schools. Yet, the analysis of the protocols mentioned above allows us to assume that the candidates for teaching roles, who had obtained higher education diplomas, were also the graduates from the University.
In summary of the information obtained from all the material available to the author, it can be stated that the prestige of teaching as a profession increased as the situation in the state and the education system underwent substantial changes over the years. Thus, from 1923 to 1934 the number of teachers increased by a quarter. Their qualifications improved, resulting in 79 % of secondary school teachers being higher education graduates in the academic year 1933/1934 [9, 728]. A support to the statement is the establishment of the Society of History Teachers in 1932 [5, 6]. Despite the low number (21) of participants of the Society’s constituent assembly, which is reasonable since there were not many ‘active’ historians at the time and the initiatives belonged to higher education academics, the situation was changing. As demonstrated in the publications of that time , the first decade after the establishment of the Republic of Latvia became the time of active research of the history of Latvia. Thus, the fundamental elements for successful teaching of history in schools were established, including certain teacher training, i.e. their professional development. The consolidation of professionally active people with the interest in the topic was one of the solutions to the tasks generated by the requirements of the era. A society, which would operate as the centre of education for teachers, became a necessity. Meanwhile, the number of teachers specializing in history increased in schools, which is apparent in the active work of workshops for history teachers at teachers’ conventions (unfortunately, there is no data on the numbers of attendees of these workshops).
The second part of the digest The Past and the Present (Pagātne un tagadne) , published by the Society in 1938, provides insights into the organization’s operation during the period of five years . Among other information, this document provides data about the members of the Society in 1933–1937, showing a rapid growth of the Society: there were 81 members in the first year of operation, 97 members in two years, 186 members in 1935 and 196 in 1936. Thus, adding the numbers of history teachers by 1927 (59 people ) and afterwards (156, according to the licensing protocols) and considering the fact of some Society members being representatives of higher education, it can be observed that the majority of history teachers were members of the Society of History Teachers.
Summarizing the above information, it can be concluded that the developments that took place in education after the adoption of the Law of Education in 1919 and consisted of new governmental regulations for schools’ operations as well as successful implementation of organizational plans (including teacher training) helped to overcome the consequences of war and to start building a new system of education with the first positive results following shortly after. The foundations were laid for further developments in the education system. The requirements for the quality of education in elementary and secondary schools increased. A growing number of teachers (subject experts) with higher education working in schools demonstrated successful implementation of the plans for the development of education. As a result, Latvia managed to stand out from many European countries in terms of higher numbers of secondary school and university students by the mid-1930s.
Sources and literature
Ilze Šenberga. Vidurinės mokyklos mokytojų rengimas Latvijoje (1918–1940 m.)
Įteikta / Received 2014-03-05