6.1 General context
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As stated in the Education and Training Monitor 2016 Lithuania, Lithuania has the highest tertiary educational attainment rate in the EU, but the quality and innovation outcomes of higher education, in particular the quality of teaching and provision of soft skills, and practical training in higher education remain challenges. Lithuania has a very low early school leaving rate, but pupils’ reading and maths skills are below the EU average. The participation rate in early childhood education and care is low when compared to the EU average, and there are significant disparities between urban and rural areas. The Government has taken several measures to increase participation rates and quality. Only a small percentage of adults older than 25 participate in lifelong learning. The vocational education and training remains an unattractive option for young persons and their parents, there is a need to improve its quality and cooperation with businesses. Lithuania has also witnessed considerable emigration of the general population and young people in particular in recent years. In Lithuania, teacher salaries have to be calculated by applying coefficients which vary depending on experience and teaching category. They were increased by 7 % for teachers in early childhood education and care; by 5 % for young teachers, who still do not fall into any pedagogical category; by 3 % on average for other educators; and by 2.5 % for pedagogical employees such as special pedagogues, psychologists and social pedagogues. As stated in the Education and Training Monitor 2016 Lithuania, reforming the teaching profession is one of the main challenges in Lithuania. There is a need to strengthen the overall quality of teaching (to tackle the low performance in PISA and national tests); make the teaching profession attractive to young talented people (due to the low numbers of candidates for initial teacher training); and tackle potential teacher shortages in science subjects (Lithuania has the oldest teaching staff in mathematics and physics). Most teachers indicate that they need special knowledge to work with children who have special needs and with those who lack the motivation to learn. When assessing preparedness for working life, young teachers rate their theoretical knowledge of a particular subject as very good; however, they feel they lack pedagogical competencies, such as the ability to individualise teaching and differentiate education Education and Training Monitor 2016 Lithuania.
Primary, basic and -upper-secondary education in Lithuania is free of charge and compulsory from the age of 6 or 7 to 17 years (covering "primary" and "basic" education), as stated in the national Law on Education. The pre-school programme for children aged from 5 to 6 at nursery schools, school nursery schools and primary school is conducted by qualified teaching staff and is voluntary. School begins at the age of 6 - 7, ten class system for primary and lower secondary education. The 4-year primary school is followed by 6 years of basic education. If a pupil is successful in the final examination, this concludes with a basic education certificate usually at the age of 15-16. After completion of basic education, a two-year course of upper secondary education may be embarked upon. It is also possible to transfer to an upper secondary school upon completion of class 8, this school then continuing until class 12. In classes 11 and 12, pupils are permitted to select subjects in a targeted way in accordance with their personal interests and strengths.
Vocational education and training can be completed in vocational schools by young people from the age of 14. The training comprises the imparting of both theoretical and practical knowledge. Four types of vocational training programmes can be distinguished. Type 1 For young people from the age of 14 who have not gained a basic education leaving certificate which forms the basis of vocational education and training. This framework also affords the opportunity of gaining the lower secondary school leaving certificate. Type 2 3-year vocational education and training for those who have gained the basic education leaving certificate. They acquire a VET qualification (skilled worker status). Type 3 For those who have passed the upper secondary school leaving certificate, 1 to 2 years of vocational training. Type 4 For those who have passed the upper secondary school leaving certificate, 3 to 4 year course of training comprising higher education and occupational qualification. Some modules correspond to bachelor level, and credit for these may be transferred to a later course of higher education study. Vocational education and training, however, is not very popular with young Lithuanians.
Lithuania has academic (universities) and non-academic institutions of higher education (colleges). Students gain entry via selection procedures which mostly involve consideration being accorded to marks obtained in the upper secondary school leaving certificate. Higher education is based on the European credit system. The duration of the course of study leading to the acquisition of a Bachelor degree (basic higher education study) is 3.5 to 4 years (with some exeptions e.g. medical studies which might take longer). This can be followed by a one or two year vocational qualification diploma, such as a teaching qualification or a Masters degree which in turn can be followed by a 4-year doctoral studies.
As stated in the Law on Education, education is an activity intended to provide an individual with a basis for a worthy independent life and to assist the individual in the continuous cultivation of abilities. As stated in the Law on education, the education system of Lithuania comprises the following: 1) formal education (primary, basic, secondary education, formal vocational education and training and higher education studies); 2) non-formal education (pre-school, pre-primary, other non-formal education of children (as well as the teaching supplementing the formal education) and of adults); 3) informal education; 4) educational assistance (vocational guidance, informational, psychological, socio-pedagogical, special pedagogical and special assistance of education, healthcare at school, consultation, in-service training of teachers and other assistance). The Law on Education provides detailed explanations of the following concepts.