History of Education Strategy
Lithuanian education policy is developed in accordance with a long-term education strategy. First came the Concept of the National School (Tautinės mokyklos koncepcija), managed by Prof. Habil. Dr. Meilė Lukšienė. After the restoration of Lithuania’s independence, the General Concept of Education (Lietuvos švietimo koncepcija) was approved in 1992. In the 2003 version of the Law on Education, it said that “Lithuanian education policy priorities, long-term goals and directions for changes in education content and financing are set out by the National Education Strategy. The Government develops and proposes the Strategy for Seimas [Parliament] approval. The Strategy is prepared for ten years and adjusted once every four years.” In 2003, the Seimas approved the Provisions of National Education Strategy for 2003-2012.
In 2010, the Ministry of Education and Science launched preparations for the development of a new strategy. Discussions with the public started and lasted for a couple of years. Different topics were covered, starting from discussions on factors affecting the policy of education and moving on to answering the concerns of specific communities. In 2011, the ministry initiated a competition of educational scenarios, and in 2012 strategy directions were discussed in schools and municipalities. In September 2012, a new Education Strategy concept was delivered to the Seimas, and in December 2012 the first Strategy project was registered. A year later, in December 2013, the National Education Strategy for 2013-2022 (further in the text: the Strategy) ( Valstybinė švietimo 2013-2022 m. strategija) was adopted. During a year of review by the Seimas, the strategy project was presented to the Lithuanian Education Council. The then Committee of Education, Science and Culture prepared hearings with the education community.
The National Education Strategy for 2013-2022 reflects the State’s main needs. These are named in the State Progress Strategy “Lithuanian Progress Strategy ‘Lithuania 2030’” (Lietuva 2030), which sets out a vision for a smart Lithuania. Society has to become active, solidary and continuously educated. Each person must be open to change, creative and responsible. That is why education policy and the provided directions for changes in education must bring together the education society and all of the people of Lithuania (solidarity) to constantly and continuously develop (education) in seeking individual and national success (activeness) ensuring equal opportunities.
Weaknesses that prevailed in Lithuanian education until 2013 are identified in the strategy. Lithuanian general education, vocational education and training, higher and informal education schools insufficiently use the existing potential seeking better quality. Self-evaluation, strategic planning, social partnership and networking elements in school management have not become part of the traditional school culture. No Lithuanian schools are embedded at the top of the global rankings. Higher education institutions have little involvement from social partners in various types of activities. They have a low usage of modern quality management practices. The planning of future specialists’ needs and a rational study and education distribution between universities, colleges and professional schools is poorly executed.
Based on Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) data delivered by the Organization for Economic and Social Cooperation and Development (OECD), pupils’ reading skills, nature science and mathematics achievements are lower than the EU average. These results are not getting any better when analysing several studies in a row. National research reveals a vast difference in pupils’ achievements between separate municipalities, between schools in cities and villages, even between schools in the same cities.
Lithuania falls behind in statistics of inclusion in preschool education and adult lifelong learning. Social exclusion risk groups, especially young people, do not have equal opportunities to participate in society and have difficulties integrating into the labour market. There is also a lack of attention to the most talented.
Another challenge is with the educators – a barely changing and ageing community of teachers, especially high expectations for teachers in society, teachers’ changing roles in school. All this requires teacher training and professional development systems to be reconsidered, and the prestige of pedagogic professions to increase through a variety of means.
Funding also has to become one of the challenges. The international organizations UNESCO and OECD recommend allocating no less than 6% of gross domestic product (GDP) for education, but Lithuania’s allocated funds for education are within the 5% margin.
Strategy Targets and the Direction of Educational Change
The main aim of the Strategy is to make Lithuanian education a stable basis for the rise of the State’s welfare, and to foster the independent and active mindset of citizens who can responsibly create goods for themselves and other individuals.
The vision of the education sector for the year 2022 is the following: “Every child, youth and grown-up person should want to learn and should be able to easily find ways to increase their competences. The system of education consists of governmental, municipal and non-governmental institutions that constantly improve their activities and have strong bonds with stakeholders, society and other educational institutions. The employees of such institutions will be respected in society and will maintain an ongoing public discussion about the enhancement of education, the development of Lithuanian culture and the economy, taking into account sustainable urban and rural development.”
In order to implement the vision and main aim, the strategy sets four main targets:
- To achieve a level of education in the community where professional teachers and lecturers are reflective, constantly developing and working effectively.
- To develop a data analysis and self-evaluation-driven education culture, ensuring effective interaction among institutions of self-governance, social partners and the management of education institutions. The strategy aims at strengthening the power of education institutions in decision-making. Schools will be encouraged to make a greater effort to involve pupils, parents and social partners in building a strong school community and to start developing the rudiments of solidarity and social behaviour right from the school days.
- To ensure that pupils, students and young people have the best opportunities to realise their full individual potential by ensuring accessibility of education and equal opportunities, enhancing the scope of education providers available to children and youth, and to provide effective pedagogical and psychological aid to pupils experiencing learning difficulties.
- To establish a system of incentives and equal conditions for lifelong learning that would include support for individuals to recognize their skills and aspirations, to enable them to choose the right career. Also to combine individual choice with the needs of the State.
The Ministry of Education and Science implements the strategy according to set objectives. The ministry evaluates how the strategy is implemented based on set indicators. These indicators include the results of PISA; the number of higher education institutions that make it into the top 500 of the Academic Ranking of World Universities; education and employment rates in society; funding indicators; indices of change in the pedagogic sector, etc.
These indicators are presented in the Education Management Information System, Statistics Lithuania, the Eurostat database and also in overviews on the state of education prepared by the Lithuanian Ministry of Education and Science.
The Link between the Strategy and EU Education Policy
The strategy is developed based on the European Commission policy document (March 2010) Europe 2020: Strategy for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth, and other European Union education-related legislation.
Indicators identified in the National Education Strategy are in line with EU-imposed targets: to increase the percentage of people who attain a higher education, to reduce early school leaving, and to increase both the number of children attending pre-school educational institutions and the level of lifelong learning.
Strategy Coordination and Implementation
The institution in charge of implementing the National Education Strategy for 2013-2022 is the Ministry of Education and Science. In pursuit of achieving the set goals and objectives, the Ministry of Education and Science prepares legal acts for the implementation of the strategy and performs ongoing strategy practice monitoring. The ministry brings together other states, municipal institutions and social partners to implement the strategy. A separate institution for strategy implementation has not been created or appointed.
The monitoring of strategy implementation is also performed by other institutions. The Seimas is evaluating the strategy mid-term, while the Lithuanian Education Council – the public authority for education – conducts an annual analysis.
In order to accelerate the implementation of the strategy and to specify some of the goals set in the strategy, the Seimas adopted the Guidelines for Change in General Education Schools (Bendrojo ugdymo mokyklos kaitos gairės). More on these guidelines can be found in the section Fundamental Principles and National Policies in sub-section 2.6. Guidelines for Change in General Education Schools.
Strategy Initiated Educational Change
In order to achieve the main aim of the strategy, the education curriculum has been updated. The 2015 Description of the Achievements of Pre-school Children (Ikimokyklinio amžiaus vaikų pasiekimų aprašas) was prepared in order to renew and improve pre-school education and its curricula. The description should help educators, parents and educational aid specialists to understand what achievements children can obtain during the first six years of their lives. Pre-school education is evaluated in this methodical tool from the perspective of children. In this description, each child is considered as a separate personality who has his/her needs and interests and who can learn and accumulate experience. At the end of December 2015, the Description of Primary, Lower Secondary and Upper Secondary Curricula (Pradinio, pagrindinio ir vidurinio ugdymo programų aprašas) was approved. It sets out general education goals and principles, explains the use of general curricula and describes learning results. It outlines the structure and content of general curricula. It also includes the main learning process features, involves the learning environment, contains pupils’ progress and result evaluation, and sets out quality assurance for general curricula. At the end of November 2018, the main directions of the General Curriculum were presented to the education community. This is intended to change the overall curricula over the coming years, starting with the General Curricula: methods, pupils’ achievement and progress evaluation methods, and educational materials.
In order to strengthen the sector of higher education, an optimization of national universities was initiated. This is not just a mechanical connection for universities. By merging universities the duplication of study programmes is reduced, research capacities are concentrated and opportunities for cross-curricular studies and research are enhanced. In order to improve quality, investments are planned in updating the study programmes, in improving the skills of teachers and in research. More on the connection of universities can be found in section 14.4: National Reforms in Higher Education.
The first targetin the strategy is aimed at the professional competence development of teachers and lecturers. The problem was viewed from all angles: teacher training, qualification development and possibilities to attract young teachers to schools were evaluated. Teacher training was revised in essence – three new national pedagogic training centres are being established. The acceptance of educational studies is being enhanced. New possibilities are being created to obtain an academic profession in more diverse ways. A one-year pedagogical internship is being developed for trainee teachers. The possibility is being provided for teachers to develop skills and qualifications in other fields. A new payment model for teachers is being established. More on changes in teachers’ development can be found in sections 9.1 Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education, and 14.2: National Reforms in School Education.
From 1st January 2018, a 5-year term of office for the heads of schools was introduced in order to improve the teaching quality culture. The school head has to prepare a yearly activity report. The school council is empowered to demand that there is a qualitative change in the school head. If the council does not approve the school head’s yearly activity report in two subsequent years, he/she may be dismissed by the school founder. More on the functions of the school head and school council can be found in section 2.7. Administration and Governance at the Local and/or Institutional Level. More on the establishment of the term of office for the head of school is in section 14.2: National Reforms in School Education.
A maturity thesis is introduced from 2017/2018. This can be done during the last year of upper secondary school. The maturity thesis may be comprised of one or several subjects and is the equivalent to the School Matura examination. More about the maturity thesis can be found in section 6.9: Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education.
In order to expand learning accessibility and equal opportunities, from 1st September 2018 pre-school education became mandatory. During a two-year period, the step was taken towards starting pre-school education from an even earlier age. From 1st September 2018, a 5-year-old can begin pre-school education. No specific certificate is required to prove the child’s maturity to start pre-school learning earlier.
Funding for non-formal children’s education was established in 2015. It is a specific amount of funds distributed to each child by the State. The Ministry of Science and Education recommends that the budget is 15 euros (from 10 to 20 euros). The child can use these funds for a selected non-formal educational activity. General education schools are not eligible for such funding. In the interests of strengthening the quality of non-formal children’s education, in the first half of 2018 quality assurance methodology was tested. More on the methodology can be found in section 14.2: National Reforms in School Education.
Since September 2017, multiple prevention programs including a program for bullying and violence have been initiated. Each school must carry out at least one long-term violence prevention program (which also encompasses the prevention of addictive behaviour). Violence against any member of the school community is prohibited in all educational institutions. Since 1st September 2017, all the necessary support needed for children and their parents has been provided in a coordinated matter in cooperation with educational, social and health institutions. It is overseen by the interinstitutional partnership coordinator, and a coordinator’s post in each municipality was put into operation from September. Support will be provided more easily, in the principle of a Single Window. To read more about these innovations, refer to section 14.2: National Reforms in School Education.
During the 2018/2019 school year, 40 general education schools in different municipalities are piloting All-Day School models. The aim is to create conditions for a high-quality, inclusive, socially fair and equal-opportunity-ensuring education for children in a safe environment throughout the day. More on the All-Day School concept and models can be found in section 14.2: National Reforms in School Education.
In order to promote life-long learning, the Law on Vocational Education and Training (VET) (Profesinio mokymo įstatymas) has been renewed. Step by step, the education system is being renewed, the management and funding of the VET Centres is being rearranged, and new qualitative requirements for education are being introduced. More information about VET renewal is in section 14.3: National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning.