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Challenges and tendencies - Lithuania

In an aim to improve student achievement in basic education, modernise Lithuanian schools and to make more efficient use of financial resources, the Education Improvement Project was developed by the Lithuanian Ministry of Education and Science (2002-2005). Today, it is the biggest Lithuanian investment into education, funded from a World Bank loan and co-financed by the Government of the Republic of Lithuania and municipal funds (180 mill. Litas).
Enhancing the quality of teaching and learning in basic schools, introducing new learning and assessment strategies into the classrooms, upgrading teaching equipment, renovation of schools and improving their energy efficiency, optimisation of municipal school networks, establishment of monitoring systems, creation of education quality management and policy analysis systems are all activities of the Lithuanian Education Improvement Project.

Development of the system of education quality management

The main objective is to create a system of education quality management, which is understood as the timely use of relevant information about the consequences of prior decisions, in order to improve our ability to raise system efficiency and pupil achievement.
In creating a system of quality management in education, the following objectives are pursued:

  • to create the education management information system (EMIS) embracing the organisation of the timely collection of data, the creation of databases, the assurance of their accessibility, training of the providers and users of information
  • to create a system of continuous monitoring of the system of education and to strengthen capacities of different management levels to develop education policies
  • to create a national system to assess pupils’ performance, providing reliable information about the achievements of the pupils in Years 4, 8 and 10, as well as the contents and process of education
  • to create and implement a system of external and internal audit of schools by training school communities to carry out an internal audit, by creating the methodology for external audit and training auditors of local municipalities to apply it

About 400 teachers from 70 schools in Lithuania are trained to use advanced teaching methods, modern equipment, and teaching aids in the classroom; they are also trained to assess the needs of their school and improve or renovate it.

Linking “needs assessment” and the traditional “medical-psychometric” approach

Classification of pupils according to impairments exists. The purpose of pedagogical and psychological assessment (at a school or at a local pedagogical psychological service) is to find out why a pupil experiences problems during the schooling process (The Definition of SEN given by the Law on Special Education (1998), and by mentioned above Legislation act from 2002.). It is important to underline that the information regarding the impairments is strictly confidential. Only recommendations that are needed to adapt educational programmes or teaching methods and to provide additional assistance of specialists are directed to schools' administration. Lithuania has achieved a lot striving to go further and develop its legislation regarding this matter:

  • First of all a wide network of pedagogical psychological services was developed in the country so assistance is as close as possible to families, pupils and schools.
  • Developing and improving education financing reform. Each pupil with SEN from the year 2005 gets plus 20 percent more funding. The problem is that the additional money is not directly related to the particular pupil’s special educational needs, which means that each pupil who is by definition is described as “having special educational needs” (the pupil went through formal assessment procedures at a school or at local PPS) is given the same “plus 20”. There is a draft of recommendations for municipalities regarding links between real educational needs and funding required for a certain pupil. There are needs that require for example “plus 40”. This draft document is going to be further discussed at the Ministry of Education and Science.
  • The next step is going to be changing the secondary legislation acts in line with an inclusive approach with advanced terminology and directed towards “necessary educational needs assessment and provision” more than towards impairments.

Challenges:

  • It is very important to stick to and further develop co-operation between teachers and special teachers and between different kinds of schools and staff from PPS and National Centre for Special Needs Education.
  • It is still important to influence politicians and municipal and county administrators on the issue of inclusive education. Some of these children might otherwise have to go to special schools.
  • Some children still stay at special (boarding) schools only because their parents are not able to take care of them. They should have had the option of living at home and going to a mainstream school.
  • The immediate objective is to ensure a successful transition for pupils with special education needs going from Year 4 of primary school to Year 5 of basic school.
  • Teachers must improve their pedagogical skills so that they can provide individual education plans for their pupils, allowing them to participate in ordinary study groups with additional support.
  • The challenge in Lithuania is to establish enough training courses for ordinary and special teachers to create good and adequate knowledge for the implementation of an inclusive school. This is knowledge, positive attitudes and know-how to establish training programmes at universities and other training institutions. There are now tools provided for teacher training programmes at different levels, but there is a basic funding problem for larger scale training.
  • Lithuanian teacher training is now implementing a new course combining theoretical knowledge with practical experience. Furthermore, an evaluation of teacher training programmes has been developed based on benchmarking systems.
  • To maintain and promote the teacher training programmes, it is recommended to organise long term collaboration between Lithuanian teacher trainers and partners from Nordic countries and EU-countries concerning the implementation of larger scale teacher training programmes.

Tendencies:

Tendencies are as follows: every year more Pupils with SEN choose mainstream educational settings.
The decreasing tendency of the number of Pupils with SEN attending special (boarding) school is very stable – since the restoration of political freedom and the introduction of changes in educational policy in the early nineties up to now the number has declined. In the school year 1999-2000 SEN the number of pupils attending special (boarding) schools were 14 %. In the school year 2004-2005 SEN the number of pupils attending special (boarding) schools was 1.1 %.
Another very important tendency can be noted and emphasised: In the school year 1999–2000 SEN 82 % of pupils were mainstreamed. In the school year 2004-2005 SEN 88.4 % of pupils have been mainstreamed.
In 2004–2005 there were 10.5% pupils (out of the total population of pupils) with identified special needs of various levels, and 9.7% of the total population of pupils with identified special needs were fully integrated (attending general education school together with their healthy peers).
The percentage of pupils’ educated at special (boarding) schools is as low as in those European countries which are committed to an inclusive education approach. What does it mean? Every year the number of Pupils with SEN who enter primary, basic and upper-secondary mainstream schools and vocational training schools, with aspirations and ambitions to study at higher education schools is constantly increasing.
With the emergence of pedagogical-psychological services in municipalities, the identification of children with special educational needs improved, while special pedagogical and psychological assistance became more accessible to them as these services are provided at the place of residence of these children. In 2005, pedagogical-psychological services were established in 51 out of 60 municipalities.

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