The Law on Education divides formal education schools into the following groups: general education schools, vocational schools and higher education institutions. Lower secondary education is provided by general education schools − pre-gymnasiums, lower secondary education schools, and gymnasiums. Vocational schools can also provide lower secondary education.
Types of institutions
General education schools – pre-gymnasiums, lower secondary education schools, gymnasiums – deliver lower secondary education. The statistics on educational institutions is provided in the chapter 2.8 Statistics on Educational Institutions.
Pre-gymnasium. Usually a pre-gymnasium delivers the first part of the lower secondary education programme, i.e., for grades 5-8. However, the pre-gymnasium may include a broader education programme, covering not only lower secondary but also primary education, i.e., for grades 1-4. Pre-gymnasiums are not just for school-age children, adults who have not completed primary and lower secondary education may also attend.
The pre-gymnasium can base its chosen education programme on a unique pedagogical system (e.g., Waldorf, Montessori, Suzuki, etc.) or on separate elements of the different systems. The Minister of Education, Science and Sport approves the concept of the unique pedagogical system.
Lower secondary education school. The lower secondary education school carries out the first part of the lower secondary education for grades 5-8 and the second part for grades 9-10. The lower secondary education school can also implement a broader education programme that includes primary and lower secondary education and covers grades 1-10. Lower secondary education schools are also not just for school-age children, adults who want to complete or acquire primary and lower secondary education according to the primary and lower secondary education programmes for adults may also attend.
A school-multi-functional centre is becoming a popular form of lower secondary school. This kind of school provides not only primary and lower secondary education, but also provides pre-school education for children under 6-years old and compulsory pre-primary education for six-year-olds. Other non-formal and informal education programmes for children and adults are also offered at this school. The local community can also get necessary cultural, social and other services here.
The lower secondary education school can also base its chosen education programme on a unique pedagogical system (e.g., Waldorf, Montessori, Suzuki, etc.) or on separate elements of the different systems. The Minister of Education, Science and Sport approves the concept of the unique pedagogical system.
Gymnasium. Gymnasiums usually implement the upper secondary education curriculum (grades III-IV of gymnasium) and the second part of the lower secondary education curriculum (grades I-II of gymnasium). Gymnasiums cater for pupils aged 15–18 years. Gymnasium can also implement a broader education programme that includes both parts of lower secondary and upper secondary education or that includes primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education under these conditions:
- The school is in an area, where there are no other general education schools offering the general education curriculum in Lithuanian or/and an ethnic minority language.
- The school is assigned to the outskirts of the city according to the established criteria.
- The school is in a frontier zone.
- The school is a non-state school.
- The school caters for a region or rural pupils that have special educational needs.
- The school follows a specialised curriculum that requires consistency or the school is the only one in the area and bases its education programme on the elements of a unique pedagogical system.
There are also gymnasiums for adults that provide the second part of lower secondary education and upper secondary education.
Vocational education and training (VET) institutions. Even though these are not general education schools, they can also provide the second part of lower secondary education. Thus, pupils can acquire a professional qualification and lower secondary education.
Demographic issues – low birth rate and emigration – forces the school network to be reviewed constantly. The school network in Lithuania is organised according to the Rules for the Development of the Network of Schools Implementing Formal Education Curriculum. This document was approved by the Government on 29 June 2011. These rules establish networking provisions, procedures for developing general plans, establishing, reorganising and closing schools. The network of schools must be developed so as to provide accessible, good quality, compulsory and universal education for a reasonable price, that is, so that the state and municipalities can afford it. The municipality's network of schools is managed by the municipality. Municipalities can cooperate in managing their school networks, but so far this is not a common practice.
In order to create equal opportunities for urban and rural children to acquire appropriate education, pupils are provided with free transportation from their homes to the nearest suitable school. Under the laws, all children living in rural areas and small towns more than three kilometres from school must be transported to and from it. Transportation may be by public, school-owned or private transport. Transportation costs are reimbursed from the funds of the institution, that has the status of owner.
 The State is the owner of the budgetary institution that is maintained from the state budget. The owner of the budgetary institution maintained from the municipal budget is the municipality. The State and the municipality runs the institutions through the state‘s and municipality‘s institutions. These institutions are called institutions that implement the rights and duties of the owner (institution, that has the status of owner). In the case of the State, the institution that has the status of owner is the Government or institution authorized by the Government. For example, in the case of state‘s schools, the institution with the status of school owner is the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports. In the case of municipality it is the Council of the municipality. An institution that has the status of owner of private school is the founder of the school or a person authorized by the founder.
A programme that aims to provide schools with yellow buses has been implemented since 2008. These yellow buses are used for students living in remote areas to improve their transportation to the closest schools. These buses are also adapted to transport pupils with special educational needs. The programme is funded from the state budget.
Admission requirements and choice of school
Students are admitted to the lower secondary education programme in accordance with the General Admission Criteria. The institution, that has the status of owner, establishes the specific admission procedures. It is recommended that admission procedures be centralised, for example, electronically, where a person can submit all the necessary documents.
General requirements and priorities
After primary education pupils follow the lower secondary education programme. It lasts 6 years (first part – the first four, i.e., grades 5 to 8, the second one – the remaining two, i.e., grades 9-10 or gymnasium grades I-II). Pupils requesting admission to grade 5 must provide a certificate of primary education or other document proving that he/she has obtained primary education. If a person completes an individualised primary education programme, he/she provides a certificate of primary education or a certificate of learning achievement.
Priority admission to municipal general education schools to follow the lower secondary education programme is given to those living in the designated area for those schools. The institution, that has the status of owner, determines the designated area. If there are free places, non-residents may also be admitted to the school. In that case priority is given to:
pupils with inherited or acquired disabilities and whose special educational needs must be fulfilled;
pupils who already have siblings attending the school;
pupils who live closer to the school.
If the whole territory of the municipality is assigned to the municipality school, priority for admission to the second part of the lower secondary education programme is given to:
pupils wishing to continue studying the subjects, subject modules that they have begun studying under the first part of the lower secondary education and
pupils according to thier learning achievement (annual assessments, implemented projects, portfolio or other assessments of learning achievement).
Examinations, tests or other methods of checking knowledge and skills cannot be conducted as part of a school admission policy, except in a few cases. Knowledge testing can be applied only if a pupil is admitted to study in arts, crafts, sports schools; and with individual permission of the institution having founder status or its authorised representative to conduct pupil admission through a competition.
Admission to a gymnasium implementing separate elements of a unique pedagogical system
There are no requirements for admitting pupils from anywhere in a municipality to a gymnasium, which implements separate elements of a unique pedagogical system (e.g., Montessori, Waldorf, Suzuki, etc.). The pupils, their parents (guardians, caregivers) are introduced to these gymnasiums to get to know the main principles of education applied, important curriculum and learning process' details. If there are more applicants than places, the motivation of students and parents (guardians, caregivers) to study at such school is evaluated.
Age levels and grouping of pupils/students
School is compulsory for pupils up to 16 years of age. Compulsory education usually lasts till grade 10 (often finishing lower secondary education coincides with the 16th birthday.
Under the legal acts, the maximum number of pupils in a general education class of lower secondary education cannot exceed 30 pupils. The size of a class depends on the type of the location (a rural area or municipal centre), the type and size of the school.
In schools with a small number of pupils, joint classes may be formed. In the lower secondary education programme, adjacent grades may be joined together: grade 5 with grade 6, grade 6 with grade 7 and grade 7 with grade 8. The maximum number of pupils in a class of two joint grades is 18 learners.
A pupil with inherited or acquired disabilities who has special educational needs is integrated in the general education class. One pupil with special educational needs is equated to two pupils in the same class. The maximum number of pupils in the class is reduced accordingly.
Teachers and subjects taught
Each subject is taught by a specialist teacher. Each class has a mentor (i.e. a form tutor) who is responsible for developing the class community, which consists of pupils, their parents and other teachers working with the class. Mentors usually remain with the same class until the class finishes the school.
Class division for curriculum
In order to implement a school’s curriculum, a class can be divided into groups or temporary (mobile) groups can be formed for particular subjects. These subjects are:
Moral education (if part of the class has chosen ethics and the other – religion).
IT and technologies (the division of the class depends on the number of computers/work places in one classroom).
Foreign language, and Lithuanian language as a state language, if there are more than 21 pupils in the class.
Other subjects if the school has sufficient finances.
Pupils who are considered members of an ethnic minority and foreigners who have permission to live temporarily or permanently in Lithuania and who are in a school where they are not taught through their mother tongue, can learn their mother tongue as an elective subject if there are at least 5 pupils in the group.
Organisation of the school year
Length of the school year and educational process
The school year is organised according to the general plans of the lower secondary and upper secondary education curriculum for the specific school year approved by the Minister for Education, Science and Sport. The 2017/2018 school year is organised according to the General Plan of the Lower Secondary and Upper Secondary Education Curriculum for 2017/2018 and 2018/2019.
The school year begins on 1 September and ends on 31 August of the following year. The school year consists of time for educational process and time for holiday.
In order to improve pupil achievements, the length of educational process has been increased. In the 2017/2018 school year, the length of the educational process is 181 school days for pupils in grades 5-10 and gymnasium grades I-II. In the 2018/2019 school year the length of the educational process will be185 school days.
The decision on organising the time for 10 added school days in the 2017/2018 school year and on 15 school days in the 2018/2019 school year are adopted by:
- schools that decide on 5 school days in the 2017/2018 school year and on 10 school days in 2018/2019; and
- the institution having founder status, that decides on 5 school days after the school gives its proposals.
Pupils have holidays in the autumn, at Christmas, in the winter and at Easter. School personnel work during these school holidays (except for public holidays). The total length of these holidays is no more than 17 school days. It does not include public holidays. It is recommended to plan holidays every 7-8 school weeks. The principal sets the holiday dates. The summer holidays start after the educational process is completed. There is no fixed date in the legal acts when the summer holidays starts. In 2018 and 2019 it started at the second part of June.
Division of the educational process
The school year is divided into trimesters, semesters or other periods. The school principal in agreement with the school council determines the lengths of education periods.
The main form of the educational process is a lesson. Schools, that choose a different way of organising the educational process, for example, by project or otherwise, must coordinate it with the relevant institutions.
Organisation of the school day and week
Pupils attend school 5 days per week. The learning load per week has to be optimal and distributed rationally. There cannot be more than 7 lessons in a school day for the lower secondary education programme. For 5th graders in the first part of a lower secondary education programme it is recommended to foresee the minimum number of obligatory lessons. It is recommended to organise fewer lessons on a Friday. There should also be time for non-formal education and for meeting pupil’s individual educational needs.
Classes start between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. If the school works in two shifts the pupils in grade 10 and gymnasium grade II attend the first shift. The beginning of lessons in the second shift is decided by the school but all classes must end by 7 p.m.
The duration of a lesson is 45 minutes. In the case where pupils are given tests or have to carry out creative tasks, the lesson time may be adjusted but the maximum duration of uninterrupted activity should not exceed 90 minutes.
The length ofbreaks between the lessons must be at least 10 minutes. There must be one long break of 30 minutes or two breaks of 20 minutes each for lunch.