This chapter provides a thematic and chronological overview of national reforms and policy developments since 2020.
The introduction of the chapter describes the overall education strategy and the key objectives across the whole education system. It also looks at how the education reform process is organised and who are the main actors in the decision-making process.
The section on ongoing reforms and policy developments groups reforms in the following broad thematic areas that largely correspond to education levels:
- early childhood education and care;
- school education;
- VET and adult learning;
- higher education;
- and transversal skills and employability.
Inside each thematic area, reforms are organized chronologically. The most recent reforms are described first.
Overall national education strategy and key objectives
From the 1st of January 2020 the state strategic planning system is changing. The previous ten-year strategies in individual areas are being replaced by National Progress Plan (NPP, Plan). The National Progress Plan is a 10-year planning document and covers all areas of state activity where a breakthrough is expected. It sets strategic goals; targets for progress; and indicators showing the impact of ongoing activities. At the same time, the horizontal principles, those responsible for the implementation of the activities and those involved in their implementation are identified. At the same time, finances and their sources are provided for the implementation of the breakthrough.
The government coordinates the preparation of the NPP. It enables an institution to draw up a plan in cooperation with various social and economic partners and the draft plan is then discussed by Seimas committees and commissions. The government approves the prepared and agreed National Progress Plan and coordinates its implementation. The newly elected government may, during the term of the plan, revise the plan and adjust it in accordance with its programme. The revision of the NPP is now scheduled for the 1st of July 2021.
The 3rd strategic goal of the 2021-2030 NPP is dedicated to education – “to increase the inclusion and effectiveness of education in order to meet the needs of the individual and society”. Based on the directions of the breakthrough, it is indicated that the results of the achievements of Lithuania’s fifteen-year-olds, measured by the PISA 2015 survey, are lower than the OECD average. The progress, when the PISA results for 2018 are compared to 2015, is insufficient. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the need for faster digitization, as Lithuania, like many countries, switched to partial remote education and during strict quarantine – fully remote education. Remote education has revealed a number of challenges: the lack of digital skills of teachers, the need to develop quality digital content, and ensure access to digital tools for both students and teachers. The description of the problems also emphasizes the lack of inclusion and equal opportunities. The following progress targets have been set to address the education challenge:
- individualise education, get to know, assess and respond better to the individual needs and opportunities of learners;
- create a favourable, motivating, stimulating way of thinking and create an educational environment and educational content;
- optimize the school network;
- increase the inclusion and accessibility of various levels of formal and non-formal education for people with special educational needs, disabilities, poverty, psychological and other difficulties;
- adapt the education system to the mobility of learners and strengthen the readiness of the education system for the full integration of children who have come (returned) to Lithuania;
- improve the compliance of the education system with the labour market and the changing environment;
- create a common system of lifelong learning, which would integrate the measures implemented so far by individual institutions and which have been insufficiently coordinated between them;
- solve the problem of an ageing teaching population, which is especially important for Lithuania, strive to attract talented, creative, young people, motivate older teachers to deal with changes, and reorganize teacher training and improvement of professional competencies;
- promote top-level free scientific research and make better use of the potential of free research.
Some of the elements important to education in the plan can also be found in other strategic objectives. For example, the first strategic goal is about the transition to sustainable economic development based on scientific knowledge, advanced technologies, innovation and increasing the country’s international competitiveness. The second objective, which addresses social challenges, deals with the development of citizenship in society.
The 2013-2022 National Education Strategy is coming towards the end of its term. This strategy was created in accordance with the older statements from the Law on Education. For two decades the priorities of Lithuanian education policy, its long-term goals, directions for changes in education content, and funding priorities were set forth in the National Education Strategies. The strategy was drawn up by the government and presented to the Seimas for confirmation. The strategy covered a period of ten years and was to be reviewed at least every four years. This is the main strategic document in the field of education, and it provides the basis for ongoing reforms and initiatives in education.
Overview of the education reform process and drivers
Education reform usually covers horizontal processes that take place not only in education but also in various spheres. The Seimas, the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, other state institutions, municipalities, non-governmental organizations, and social partners participate in the implementation of reform. If the reform is to be legitimised by changes in the law, the right of legislative initiative belongs to members of the Seimas, the President of the Republic, the government, and a body of 50,000 Lithuania citizens. The laws and reforms are implemented by mid-term documents. For example, sectoral development programmes are being prepared to implement the National Progress Plan. They set targets for progress achievement. There is a particular national development programme for each area of state activity. The Seimas conducts parliamentary scrutiny. The Ministry of Education, Science and Sport implements supervision and it will be the main institution responsible. The reforms are financed by the state budget, EU Structural Funds, and private funds, with the Seimas exercising parliamentary control over the implemented reforms. The Ministry of Education, Science and Sports will normally carry out ongoing monitoring and will be the main body responsible for the Education Development Programme and the Science Development Programme. These development programmes have not yet been approved but will be approved by the government. State budget funds and EU Structural Funds have been allocated for the implementation of reforms, and efforts are being made to attract funds from natural and legal persons.