Types of institutions
The Law on Education divides general education schools into the following types: primary school, pre-gymnasium, lower secondary education school, gymnasium. Gymnasiums implement the upper secondary education curriculum.
Gymnasium. Gymnasiums usually implement the upper secondary education curriculum for gymnasium grades III-IV and the second part of the lower secondary education curriculum for gymnasium grades I-II. Gymnasiums 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) institution. VET institutions can implement the upper secondary education curriculum. 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.
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
A person is admitted to a state-run or municipal general education school in accordance with the General Admission Criteria, approved by the Minister for Education, Science and Sport in 2011. The institution holding founder status establishes the specific admission procedures.
General requirements and priorities. Pupils who have acquired the lower secondary education certificate can study according to upper secondary education curriculum. Pupils may choose the school he/she wants to attend.
State-owned schools accept pupils who wish to follow the upper secondary education curriculum from all parts of Lithuania. Schools owned by municipalities give priority to pupils from their territory. If there are more candidates than places in the school, priority is given to the pupils according to their previous education and achievements (lower secondary education assessments, annual assessments, implemented projects, portfolio or other assessments and achievements).
Four-year gymnasiums (except for gymnasiums of fine arts) admit pupils who have completed at least eight grades in a lower secondary education school or pre-gymnasium. The procedure for admission is based on the gymnasium’s regulations. Two-year gymnasiums admit pupils who have completed a ten-year lower secondary education school.
Examinations, tests or other methods of checking knowledge and skills cannot be conducted as part of a school admission policy except:
- for entrants to the International Baccalaureate programme (an international education programme for grades 11–12 in English), art or sport school and
there is individual permission of the institution having founder status or its authorised representative to conduct pupil admission through a competition.
Age levels and grouping of pupils/students
Upper secondary education is usually provided for pupils aged approximately 17-18 or 18-19. The course is a two-year programme. The word ‘grade’ is equivalent to one school year. Pupils of the same age learn in one grade. However, a year’s difference may occur (that depends on whether the child started attending school at 6 or 7).
Under the legal acts, the maximum number of pupils in a general education class of upper 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.
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
When pupils follow the upper secondary education programme, temporary groups of pupils who choose the same subject course programme, the same subject module, or elective subject are formed.
In order to implement a school’s education 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/ workplaces 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 the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019.
The school year begins on 1 September and ends on 31 August. The school year consists of time for educational process and time for holiday.
In order to improve pupil achievements, the length of the educational process has been increased. In the 2017-2018 school year, the length of the educational process is 181 school days for pupils in grade III; for pupils in grade IV– 166 school days. In the 2018/2019 school year, the length of the year will be extended to 185 school days for pupils in grade III. The school year of 165 school days will remain for final-year students (one day difference is usual between school year). The decision on organising the time for 10 added school days in the 2017/2018 school year and on 15 school days in 2018/2019 school year are adopted by:
- Schools that decides on 5 school days in the 2017/2018 school year and on 10 school days in the 2018/2019 school year.
- 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. The principal sets the start date of the summer holidays for the grade III pupils. Usually it is the second part of June. The summer holidays for school leavers starts after the examination session is completed.
Division of the educational process
A school can divide the school year in trimesters, semesters or a few periods of different length if the school provides lower secondary education. The school year might be divided into two semesters or a few periods of different length if the school provides upper secondary education. The dates of a semester or other period are determined by the school principal upon coordinating with the school council.
The main form of the organisation of 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 upper-secondary education curriculum. 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 12 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.
A lesson normally lasts 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 of breaks between lessons, including the long break for lunch, is at least 10 minutes. There must be one break for lunch lasting 30 minutes or two breaks lasting 20 minutes.
There should be no more than 3 free lesson-length periods between lessons per week in the schedule of a pupil following the upper secondary education plan.