Developments of adult education
The first edition of the Law on Education was adopted in independent Lithuania in 1991. There is no separate article or clause for adult education and training and it describes formal education in general: general education, vocational education, higher education (though colleges were considered as institutions providing comparative studies whereas universities were considered as institutions providing higher education. This situation continued until the reform of higher education), additional education. According to the first edition of the law, general education, vocational education and higher education, which were provided by the state‘s education institutions, were funded by the state. The additional education that is now known now under the name of non-formal education (it also covers non-formal adult education) was poorly regulated. The Law on Education (1991) provides brief information about additional activities: ‘Extracurricular courses and those who wish to pursue interests in fields such as art, sports, languages, and technical studies‘.
A significant step in adult education was taken in 1998. The new edition of the Law on Education states that the education system comprises of pre-primary education, general education of children and youth, vocational education and comparative studies, which is provided in colleges, conservatories etc., higher education, which is provided in the higher education institutions, and adult education. It also states that education is free in state and municipality general education and vocational education institutions and institutions providing comparative studies. Training is partially subsidised in other education institutions.
In the same year the Law on Non-Formal Adult Education was adopted. It was important that formal and non-formal adult education was clearly distinguished. It was stated that formal education, training and studies are regulated and controlled by the state. Upon completion of studies, learners were issued officially recognised diplomas and professional qualifications. Whereas upon completion of non-formal and informal education (organised informal trainings, courses, seminars, lectures etc.), learners did not receive officially recognised diplomas or professional qualifications that proved the level of education attained, module or qualification. This law also established the Non-formal Adult Education Council, however, its activities ceased immediately after establishment. Interested legal and natural persons and participants can finance non-formal adult education. It can also be funded from municipalities or the State Budget in some cases, for instance, if a learner had the right to social support or finances for non-formal adult education, these were allocated through the programmes of the state or municipalities. In 2015 the new edition of the Law on Non-formal Adult Education and Continuing Education came into force and replaced the former Law on Non-formal Adult Education.
In 2003 the Seimas adopted the National Education Strategy 2003-2012. One of the three key aims of this strategy is to develop an accessible system of continuing education that guarantees lifelong learning and social justice in education. In the national education policy the lifelong learning concept started to prevail over the separate segments of the education system. Lifelong learning was described as all learning activity, going on in any age group with the aim of developing personal, civic, social and professional competences.
In 2004 the Strategy of Securing Lifelong Learning was signed in order to strengthen adult education − one of the segments of lifelong learning (the Strategy was renewed in 2008). The aim of the Strategy was to forecast and define tendencies in the development of a lifelong strategy, as well as identify measures for their implementation, with an emphasis on vocational training and adult continuing education. The Strategy raised a few objectives relevant for adult education:
- to provide a mechanism for evaluation and recognition of competences gained through non-formal and informal education;
- to guarantee a ‘second chance’ for all adults that had not obtained lower-secondary or upper-secondary education;
- to create programmes of distance learning and to develop a network of users;
- to abolish existing restrictions for adults seeking to obtain marketable professions and to increase the level of competences.
The objectives for adult education were broadened in the renewed Strategy of Securing Lifelong Learning (2008):
- provide conditions for persons of different needs and skills to acquire, develop and change their qualifications and competences, facilitating their placement and survival in the labour market, guaranteeing progress of the country’s economy, its competitive ability and sustainable development;
- ensure the match between the qualifications acquired and the economic needs, transparency and comparability of qualifications, continuity of learning, vocational and territorial mobility while designing a general and transparent system of qualifications, encompassing all levels of qualifications;
- enhance the quality of life and integration into modern society; to sustainably and consistently develop throughout the country non-formal and non-professional and informal adult education in all types of adult educational and cultural institutions;
- provide a ‘second chance’ opportunity for adult persons to acquire primary, basic and secondary education, develop their general competences and increase accessibility of lifelong learning services for all groups of society;
- provide conditions for personnel working with adult persons to pursue in-service training, ensuring a high quality of services for learning adults;
- offset funding for various spheres of continuous and adult teaching in an attempt to satisfy various needs manifested by the country’s residents to pursue continuous learning and increase funding for the most deprived spheres.
To summarise it can be said that adult educations, as a field, is strategically managed and has a clear direction of improvement. In Lithuania, there was no tradition to fund non-formal adult education, while the same funding rules were always applied to adults as to other age groups regarding formal-education. But a shift towards funding not only formal but also non-formal adult education can be identified, a good example of it is the government resolution adopted in January 14, 2016.
Current priorities of adult education policy
The current priorities of adult education policy are set in the Long-Term Development Strategy of the State ‘Lithuania’s Progress Strategy “Lithuania 2030”’ and the National Education Strategy 2013-2022 (more information about these documents can be found in Chapter 2 ‘Organisation and Governance’). A learning society is one of the main principles that is seen as a guarantee for the successful development of the state. The state commits in the strategy to ‘establish an effective system of lifelong learning that efficiently uses Information Communication Technologies and guarantees acquisition and development of the essential knowledge and skills for a dynamic society'. Lithuania aims to move from being ranked 22 among other EU Member States (Eurostat data, 2010) to 17 or higher by 2030.
The objective of establishing an effective system of lifelong learning is reflected in the National Education Strategy 2013-2022. The strategy states that Lithuania leads some Member States under a few indicators. In Lithuania the level of attainment of tertiary education of youth (aged 30–34) was 51.3 per cent in 2013 and rose by two points in 2014 to 53.3 per cent . Under the level of employable persons (aged 25–64) that have at least upper-secondary education Lithuania is the leader in the EU. However, Lithuania has been unsuccessful in its efforts to increase the percentage of adults in lifelong learning from 5 per cent to 15 per cent. This goal has been set in the Strategy of Securing Lifelong Learning. According to the Eurostat data, just 5 per cent of adults (aged 25–64) had participated in adult education in the 4 weeks before the data was collected. These figures are from the survey done in in 2014. In 2013 5.7 per cent of adults (aged 25–64) had participated in adult education . In order to solve the above-mentioned issues, the following objectives are raised in the National Education Strategy 2013-2022:
- ‘To foster the variety of lifelong learning and the capability of continuing activity’ types according to the needs of the economy and society and to establish a flexible system of accessibility, to guarantee the education quality, to strengthen the abilities of culture institutions and business to participate in the lifelong learning process.
- To organise educational civic activity and self-help across the whole country, to develop various organisational forms, to foster the consolidation of pupil and student organisations.
- To strengthen the motivation to learn by linking lifelong learning with the choices of learners and establishing a system of financial support. To develop the integrity of lifelong learning and work experience through practice, apprenticeships, internship and vocational education. To create and apply a recognition system for competences and qualifications attained in different ways.
- To enable learners to control their career independently by providing individualised assistance in the real and virtual environment, by developing needed skills and abilities, by training important competences and shaping the consciousness of choosing a career and continuing learning. To initiate and support the popularisation of qualitative study programmes.
- To establish a harmonised system of adult education that covers the funding mechanisms of non-formal adult education, interinstitutional coordination, information and consultation, guarantee of non-formal education quality and recognition of the non-formally attained competences.’
The objectives stated in the National Education Strategy 2013-2022 should be implemented using the renewed Law on Non-formal Adult Education and Continuing Learning.
This new version of the Law on Non-Formal Adult Education and Continuing Education entrenches the following main changes:
- it addresses the issues of planning, supplying information and advice, providing quality assurance, and recognising the competences that are acquired.
- the role of the Non-formal Adult Education Council is strengthened in forming and implementing the policy of non-formal adult education and lifelong learning;
- the mechanism of financing non-formal adult education will be introduced by new regulations adopted by the government (the funding methodology is being prepared);
- a maximum of 5 days of vacation is provided for each person for non-formal education activities. The vacation must be agreed with the employer (Articles 181 and 210 of the Labour Code have been amended to this end);
- the concepts of lifelong learning, andragogue (adult teacher), and university of the third age are included in the Law on Non-Formal Adult Education and Continuing Education. As a result, these concepts have been entrenched in the law.