During the Soviet period, the education system and education policy reforms in Lithuania were strongly influenced by the laws of the Soviet Union. The movement for the independence of education from the Soviet Union started in 1988. The Concept of the National School (Lukšienė et al. 1989) was provided for the restructuring of education in Lithuania, based on the principles of democracy and national culture. The creation of The Concept of the National School was managed by the member of the reform movement Sąjūdis and literary scientist M. Lukšienė (EURYDICE 2015).
The Law of Education (25.06.1991 No. I-1489) sets up the main principles upon which the educational system of Lithuania is based:
- Equal opportunities – the educational system is socially fair, it ensures the implementation of each person’s rights, it guarantees access to education for any person, the attainment of a general education level and primary qualification, and creates conditions to improve the acquired qualification or gain a new qualification;
- Contextual interrelationship – the education system is closely related to the context of the country’s economic, social, and cultural development, is constantly adjusted to those developments, and meets the continuously changing needs of society;
- Effectiveness – the educational system pursues high-quality results by rationally and economically using available resources, by continuously evaluating, analysing, and planning its activity, and by relying on effective management, i.e. proper and timely decisions;
- Continuity – the educational system is flexible, open, based on interaction of various forms and institutions; it creates conditions for each individual to engage in life-long learning.
According to the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, (25.10.1992) education at state and municipal schools of general education, vocational schools, and schools of further education is free. Higher education is accessible to everyone according to his or her individual abilities. The state also guarantees free education at state schools of higher education for talented students. Financing of the education system in Lithuania is based on the principal of the ‘money follows the student’ in most education levels. The development and implementation of education policies is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Science. The Ministry also defines the criteria for the allocation of financial resources (EURYDICE 2015).
The Law on Education (25.06.1991 No. I-1489) defines the goals of education in Lithuania, the key principles of the education system, the basic structure of its organisation, activities, and relationships, as well as the major commitments of the state in the field of education. During the period from 1991, The Law on Education was amended 28 times, including three major revisions (02.07.1998, No. VIII-854; 28.06.2003, No. IX-1630; 17.03.2011, No. XI-1281). The large number of amendments highlights the main problem of Lithuanian independent education policy: It has lost its path or perhaps never found it in the context of various ideologies (Duoblienė 2014).
Organisation of the educational system
The system of education in Lithuania includes the following stages (Ministry of Education 2015):
Preschool education (ISCED 0)
Preschool education is defined as non-formal education. Preschool education is provided for children from birth until they start pre-primary or primary education. Preschool education is not compulsory. Preschool education groups are established in kindergartens or schools.
Pre-primary education (ISCED 0)
Pre-primary education lasts one year. It is provided to six-year-old children (in exceptional cases, five-year-old children) and is free, but not compulsory. Pre-primary education groups are set up in kindergartens or schools. Pre-primary education groups are attended by about 90 % of preschool age children.
Primary education (ISCED 1)
According to the Law on Education, children who have reached seven years of age must attend the first form. The duration of the primary education programme is four years. Compulsory primary education can be obtained in kindergarten schools, primary schools, and basic or secondary schools.
Lower-secondary or basic education (ISCED 2)
After completing primary education, students begin the six-year lower-secondary or basic education programme. The lower-secondary education programme is implemented by basic, secondary, vocational education, and training schools, pro-gymnasiums, and gymnasiums. Lower-secondary education is compulsory. It consists of two parts: part I – a four-year programme implemented in the 5th-8th forms and part II – a two-year programme implemented in the 9th-10th forms.
Upper-secondary and post-secondary level (ISCED 3)
Upper-secondary education is not compulsory and usually lasts two years (11th and 12th forms of the secondary school). Students have individual education plans; the programme may include the modules of the programme for vocational education and training. Upper secondary education is provided in secondary schools, gymnasiums, and vocational education and training schools.
Higher education (ISCED 4, ISCED 5)
Higher education is comprised of two types of institutions: universities and colleges. The upper secondary leaving certificate is required by all higher education establishments. A person might enter higher education after upper secondary general education, upper secondary vocational education, or post-secondary non-tertiary education. In higher education, undergraduate studies (Bachelor) usually last four academic years, while graduate studies (Master) last two years.
Compulsory education consists of two stages: primary education and lower-secondary education. According to the Law on Education, children start compulsory education in the calendar year when they turn seven years of age (17.03.2011 No. XI-1281).
Compulsory primary education, ISCED 1: The duration of the primary education programme is four years. Compulsory primary education can be obtained in kindergarten schools, in primary schools, and, less commonly, in basic or secondary schools. Parents and children can also choose schools of non-traditional education or individual classes/groups in municipal schools (Ministry of Education 2015). In primary grades, one teacher teaches all subjects throughout the four years. The number of students in grades 1–4 should not exceed 24 (EURYDICE 2015).
Compulsory lower-secondary or basic education, ISCED 2: According to the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania (25.10.1992), education shall be compulsory for persons under the age of 16. Compulsory education is usually provided up to the 10th form. After completion of the 10th form, students must take the basic education achievement test in the Lithuanian language, mathematics, and an elective basic education achievement test in their mother tongue (Belarusian, Polish, Russian, or German) (Ministry of Education 2015).
Public sector primary and lower-secondary schools are free of charge. Compulsory education curriculum is delivered by primary schools, pro-gymnasiums, basic education schools, secondary schools, gymnasiums, and vocational schools (Ministry of Education 2015).
After acquiring basic education and obtaining the basic education certificate, students may continue learning under the programmes for secondary education or vocational education.
- Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, 25.10.1992.
- Duoblienė, L. “National and Supranational Education Policy from a Lithuanian Perspective”. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy 5(2) (2014): 211-227.
- European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice 2015: http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/education/eurydice.
- Lukšienė, M., et al. “The national school. The Concept of Lithuanian secondary school”. Žinija, Vilnius (1989).
- Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania: http://www.smm.lt/web/en/
- Republic of Lithuania Law on Education, 02.07.1998, No. VIII-854.
- Republic of Lithuania Law on Education, 17.03.2011, No. XI-1281.
- Republic of Lithuania Law on Education, 25.06.1991, No. I-1489.
- Republic of Lithuania Law on Education, 28.06.2003, No. IX-1630.