The formation of a school network and transportation are the two main measures that help pupils to acquire a primary education in schools that are closer to home. Schools are also allowed to have dormitories for pupils who live outside the school’s service area.
Demographic reasons and migration make it necessary to constantly review the school network. The total number of pupils studying in grades 1 to 4 has changed slightly compared to 2010. In the 2010-2011 academic year it was 115 635 pupils, and in the 2017-2018 school year this had risen to 116 626 pupils. The decline in the number of pupils in rural areas and the corresponding rise in the number of pupils in the cities and towns is becoming a challenge. In the 2010-2011 academic year, 87 069 pupils followed primary curriculum in urban areas, rising to 95 217 in the 2017-2018 year. Respectively, 28 566 pupils followed the primary curriculum in rural areas in 2010-2011, declining to 21 409 in the 2017/2018 academic year.[i]
Currently the school network in Lithuania is planned according to the Rules for the Development of the Network of Schools Implementing the Formal Education Curriculum (Mokyklų, vykdančių formaliojo švietimo programas, tinklo kūrimo taisyklės). This document was adopted by the Government on 29 June 2011. These rules establish networking provisions, procedures for developing general plans and for establishing, reorganising and closing schools. The network of schools must be created in order to provide accessible, good quality, compulsory and universal education at a reasonable price, which is affordable for the state and for municipalities. The municipality manages the network of municipal schools. Municipalities can cooperate in managing their school networks, but so far this is not common practice.
During the creation of a school network, the educational needs and the situation of the schools in a given area that are under different subordination are analysed. The school’s prospects are evaluated and the placement of schools and their diversity are analysed.
The aim is that education for the youngest pupils can take place closer to home. Consequently, schools are joined if there is a small number of pupils. They can continue to operate in the same premises as the structural units of the school concerned, for example primary education divisions or branches. In rural areas where the number of pupils is small, two or more schools can operate in the same building. Schools that have free space can change their designation and become school-multifunctional centres.
In order to ensure that children in urban areas and rural areas have equal access to appropriate education, the free transportation of children is organized. In accordance with the law, all children living in rural areas and small towns located more than three kilometres from the school must be transported to school and back. They are transported to the nearest school that conducts the appropriate educational curriculum. Some pupils are transported by public, school or private transport. A pupil who has a pupil’s certificate can travel on the route specified in the pupil’s certificate for free. The institution that has the status of owner compensates the expenses of transportation.
A programme of supply of yellow school buses has been implemented since 2008. Its purpose is to improve the transportation for pupils who live in remote areas to the nearest schools. These buses are also designed to carry pupils with special educational needs. The programme is funded from the state budget.
A general education school can have a dormitory. In many cases, schools that accept children from a broader area or even the entire country have dormitories. If the pupil lives in an area that is not assigned to the school, he/she can reside in the school dormitory at the request of the parents or guardians. The school principal determines the procedure for admission to the school dormitory. Living in the dormitory is free, while the parents or guardians pay for the child’s catering expenses.
Admission requirements and choice of school
The child begins compulsory education in accordance with the primary education curriculum in the calendar year when he/she turns 7 years of age. Parents can allow a child to be educated from 5 years of age according to the pre-primary education programme. In this case, the child can begin to learn under the primary education curriculum one year earlier. Institutions do not consider the maturity of a child in order to learn in accordance with the primary education curriculum. A child under the age of 16 cannot terminate compulsory education programmes.
The Law on Education specifies that parents and the pupil have the right to choose a school − state, municipal or non-state. Also they can change the school. Parents can also choose how to develop a child with special educational needs − in a special educational institution or in a general education school according to the personalized education curriculum (taking into account the recommendations of specialists and pedagogical psychological services).
General requirements and priorities
The pupil is admitted to study under the primary education programme in accordance with the General Admission Criteria (Priėmimo į valstybinę ir savivaldybės bendrojo ugdymo mokyklą, profesinio mokymo įstaigą bendrieji priėmimo kriterijai) adopted by the Minister for Education and Science. The institution that has the status of owner sets out a specific admission procedure. It is recommended that the admission procedure be centralized, using the one-stop shop principle, for example electronically, where a person can submit all the necessary documents.
Priority admission to municipal or state general education schools to follow the primary education curriculum is given to those living in the area assigned to those schools. The institution that has the status of owner defines the assigned territory. If vacancies remain, pupils who do not live in the assigned territory can be admitted too. In this case, priority belongs to:
• students with inherited or acquired disabilities and whose special educational needs must be fulfilled
• pupils who have brothers or sisters already attending the school
• pupils living closer to the school
Examination of knowledge
During the admission period, exams, tests or other methods for checking knowledge and skills cannot be performed, except in a few cases. Knowledge testing can only be applied if pupils are admitted to study at arts, crafts or sports schools, and with the separate permission of the institution with the status of owner or its authorized representative to implement the admission of pupils using a competition.
There are general education schools that implement separate elements of a unique pedagogical system, for example Waldorf Pedagogy Education, Catholic Education, Classical Education, etc. Pupils may go to these schools from the entire territory of the municipality according to their free decision and the decision of their parents. If the number of pupils willing to study is higher than the number of vacancies, admission is based on the results of a motivation assessment, assessed on the basis of a submitted motivation application.
Special educational needs
Pupils with large and very high special educational needs are admitted to state and municipal general schools for pupils with special educational needs and to general education school classes for students with special needs.
Age levels and grouping pupils
Primary school is designated for children aged 6 or 7 to 10 years. Pupils of the same age study in one class. A difference of about one year is permissible, depending on whether the child started school at the age of 6 or 7).
Distribution of primary education programme
The primary education programme consists of 4 years (grades 1 to 4). This consists of two concentres. The duration of every concentre is 2 years. One study year equates to a grade.
General education schools can offer preparatory classes for pupils with special educational needs. This is an additional year for studying the programmes of grades 1 and 2 using a longer period of time.
In primary grades, one teacher teaches all subjects. If the teacher lacks the required qualifications, for example to teach a foreign language, dancing methodology, etc., these subjects are taught by subject teachers. Specialists (a psychologist, speech therapist, special educator, etc.) and teachers’ assistants provide educational support in the primary education programme. The primary education teacher integrates the activities of all educators into the overall process.
Usually the same teacher teaches the same pupils throughout the 4 years, beginning with grade 1 and finishing with grade 4.
In grades 1 to 4, the number of pupils in a class must be at least 8 and no more than 24 pupils. The size of a particular class also depends on the location (small town or municipality centre), the type of school and the school size[ii].
If the number of pupils is low at the school, the school administration may decide to join classes together, in which case it is recommended to join adjacent classes. It is possible to combine two or even three classes. Two classes can be joined up to a maximum of 18 pupils, three classes to no more than 15[iii].
One pupil with considerable or great special educational needs is equated to two pupils without any impairment learning in the same class in a mainstream general education school. Accordingly, the maximum number of pupils in the classroom can be also reduced. A joint class or the class of a mainstream general education school may have no more than three pupils recognised as having considerable or great special education needs (this number applies when forming new classes and joint classes)[iv].
Class division for curriculum
The class can be divided into groups for the implementation of the school curriculum. Temporary (mobile) groups from several classes of students for learning specific subjects can also be formed.
The class is divided when:
- pupils of the same grade study religion and ethics
- teaching Lithuanian at an ethnic minority school, where there are at least 18 pupils in the class
- teaching Lithuanian in a joint class at an ethnic minority school, in which two classes are joined and there are no less than 12 pupils in the class, or where three classes are joined and there are no less than 10 pupils in the class (if the school has enough learning resources)
- teaching Lithuanian at a school in a multilingual environment, with at least 18 students in the classroom
- teaching Lithuanian in a joint class of a school in a multilingual environment, in which two classes are joined and there are no less than 12 pupils in the class, or where three classes are joined and there are no less than 10 pupils in the class (if the school has enough learning resources)
- teaching a foreign language with at least 20 pupils in the classroom and if the school has enough learning resources.
Temporary groups from pupils of several classes may be made:
- for moral education (religion, ethics)
- to teach the native language of an ethnic minority
- to teach the foreign language
- to develop physical education for pupils with special educational needs (special medical physical fitness groups)
- for group counselling, teaching aids or other educational activities aimed at addressing school-relevant educational issues (for example, talented pupils, pupils with learning difficulties)
- for the provision of special pedagogical assistance.
Organisation of the school year
Length of the school year and educational process
The school year is organized in accordance with the general plan of the primary education curriculum for a specific year, adopted by the Minister for Education and Science. The 2020-2021 school year is organized according to the General Plan of the Primary Education Curriculum for 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 (2019–2020 ir 2020–2021 mokslo metų pradinio ugdymo programos bendrasis ugdymo planas).).
The school year begins on 1 September and ends on 31 August of the current year. The school distributes educational and holiday days for one year. Usually, pupils start their summer holidays in June, which last until 1 September. In order to improve pupils’ achievements, the school year has been extended. In the 2020-2021 academic year, the duration of the educational process for primary school pupils was 175 school days.
Pupils have their holidays in the autumn, at Christmas, in the winter and at Easter. During these holidays the school staff continue to work. The total duration of these holidays is no more than 17 school days. Public holidays are not included in the holiday periods. It is recommended to give pupils holidays for at least every 7 to 8 weeks of education. The school principal determines the exact holiday dates. Summer holidays are provided after the educational process, usually starting in June.
Division of the educational process
The school year is divided into trimesters, semesters and other periods. The school principal in agreement with the school council determines the lengths of the education periods.
The main format for an educational process is a lesson. The duration of an academic hour or lesson is 35 minutes in grade 1 and 45 minutes in grades 2 to 4. The school can also choose other forms of organization for the educational process, for example integrated activities, creative workshops, projects, etc.
Minimum number of education hours per week:
Grade 1 - 22/25*
Grade 2 - 23/27*
Grade 3 - 24/27*
Grade 4 - 23/28*
*At school, in which teaching is organised in an ethnic minority language
Distribution of education hours according to subject is indicated in ‘Curriculum, Subjects, Number of hours’ in Section 5.2. ‘Teaching and Learning in Primary Education’.
Organisation of the school day and week
Pupils study five days a week at school.
The pupils’ learning load per week must be optimal and distributed proportionally. The school chooses how to organize the education process – using a lesson or other forms.
If the school organizes the educational process using a lesson[v]:
If the school organizes the educational process in another form[vi]:
In grade 1, no more than 5 lessons daily, in grades 2 to 4, no more than 6 lessons daily.
This provision does not apply to schools implementing an elementary education programme together with arts, music, sporting or other education, or to schools with an ethnic minority language.
These schools can provide 1 or 2 lessons more per week.
Educational activities (combining the content of formal and non-formal education programmes) can take longer than 5 hours of education per day in grade 1, or 6 hours in grades 2 to 4, depending on how much time the school can spend on implementing non-formal education programmes. The time for organizing activities in an extended day group is not included in this time.
In grade 1, a lesson lasts 35 minutes, in grades 2 to 4, 45 minutes. If the school chooses a duration for a lesson that is shorter than 35 minutes in grade 1 and 45 minutes in grades 2 to 4, the number of weekly subject lessons is increased accordingly.
If tests or creative works are organized during the educational process the duration of the lesson can be corrected, but the maximum duration of a student’s activities without a break must not exceed 90 minutes.
The educational process can be divided into educational periods with various continuous duration.
Lessons begin no earlier than 8:00 am and no later than 9:00 am. If the school works in two shifts, the pupils in the primary school will study in the first shift.
The duration of breaks between classes is determined by the school. Breaks between lessons usually last for 5–15 minutes (most often 10 minutes). There must be one lunch break for 30 minutes or two lunch breaks for 20 minutes each. The school may organise extended day groups for primary school pupils, the duration of which is regulated by the school. The time spent in an extended day group does not count as a compulsory part of the education process. The school itself decides which services will be provided in the extended day group.
[i] Statistics Lithuania (Lietuvos statistikos departamentas), 2018. Number of general schools and students in them (Bendrojo ugdymo mokyklos ir mokiniai jose). In: Education 2017 (Švietimas 2017). Vilnius: Statistics Lithuania, p. 45 (last accessed 2/10/2018).
[ii] Government of the Republic of Lithuania, 2016. Rules for the Development of the Network of Schools Implementing a Formal Education Curriculum (Mokyklų, vykdančių formaliojo švietimo programas, tinklo kūrimo taisyklės) (last accessed 12/10/2018).
[iii] Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania, 2017. General Plan of the Primary Education Curriculum for 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 (2017-2018 ir 2018-2019 mokslo metų Pradinio ugdymo programos bendrasis ugdymo planas) (last accessed 12/10/2018).
[iv] Government of the Republic of Lithuania, 2016. Rules for the Development of the Network of Schools Implementing the Formal Education Curriculum (Mokyklų, vykdančių formaliojo švietimo programas, tinklo kūrimo taisyklės) (last accessed 12/10/2018).
[v] Ministry of Health of the Republic of Lithuania, 2017. Lithuanian Hygiene Norm HN 21:2017 ‘School for general education curriculum. General Health Safety Requirements’, approved by Order of the Minister of Health of the Republic of Lithuania on 10 August 2011, no. V-773 ‘On Lithuanian Hygiene Norm HN 21:2017 ‘School for general education curriculum. General Health Safety Requirements’ Approval’ (Lietuvos higienos norma HN 21:2017 „Mokykla, vykdanti bendrojo ugdymo programas. Bendrieji sveikatos saugos reikalavimai“, patvirtinta Lietuvos Respublikos sveikatos apsaugos ministro 2011 m. rugpjūčio 10 d. įsakymu Nr. V-773 „Dėl Lietuvos higienos normos HN 21:2017 „Mokykla, vykdanti bendrojo ugdymo programas. Bendrieji sveikatos saugos reikalavimai“ patvirtinimo“) (last accessed 12/10/2018).
[vi] Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania, 2017. General Plan of the Primary Education Curriculum for 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 (2017-2018 ir 2018-2019 mokslo metų Pradinio ugdymo programos bendrasis ugdymo planas) (last accessed 12/10/2018).