“Up till now while creating the state, politicians focused on state security, EU and NATO integration as well as energy independence. However education is the foundation of the state, one which we must construct very responsibly,” TS-LKD chairman Gabrielius Landsbergis once said, highlighting the importance of the education sector. Meanwhile the LVŽS leader Ramūnas Karbauskis has repeatedly stressed that there are three ministries he finds most important and first of all he always focuses on the Ministry of Education and Science.
Five Conservative pledges
The TS-LKD party programme moves onto education right after its economic breakthrough plan, with a total of 31 pages dedicated to the topic, albeit often speaking of problems, not solutions. It also contains five main pledges.
1. We will ensure quality and universally available early education for all inhabitants of Lithuania.
2. We will develop a general education system oriented toward the individual needs and abilities of students, helping them unleash their potential.
3. We will guarantee that vocational education will supply the labour market with the needed skills and abilities.
4. We will ensure the presence of high quality college studies that will suit the needs of the Lithuanian regions.
5. We will create conditions for universities in Lithuania to be competitive at the international level and raise students of the highest ability.
The Conservatives state that first of all they will seek to prepare and initiate a new Lithuanian education conception, which would be sustained for 20-30 years and would answer the major question of how should a free, critically thinking, responsible, creative and firmly value based individual be nurtured in the XXI century?
Attention to education, teachers and science
The “Peasant” programme connects education and culture, it is the third topic discussed. These are the key points:
1. Education – for the benefit of the individual and the state
i. A civic minded young generation which understand the role of the nation and the state in the world.
ii. Innovative general education programmes for the nurturing of harmonious personalities.
iii. Universally accessible quality education.
iv. Education financing based on the needs of society and state.
2. The role of the teacher and the school
i. The efforts of the school community – toward the nurturing and freedom of expression of each student.
ii. A consistent system of teacher training, qualification improvement and requalification.
iii. School independence and individuality.
3. Scientific research and innovation for the harmonious development of society
i. The interaction of studies, scientific research and innovation for the harmonious development of the state.
ii. Smart specialisation for implementing innovation.
Mandatory education from three, to school from six
Both parties stress the need to work with children from a young age individually and ensure they do not lose motivation.
The Conservatives seek to do this by increasing the number of assistant teachers, social and special educators in the hope of assisting children with special needs integrate. The Conservatives also observed that compared to other EU states, the number of children in kindergartens is the smallest. They propose to remedy this by raising pre-school education financing and accessibility, particularly for those in socially vulnerable families. Such children, according to the Conservatives, should have mandatory and free pre-school education.
The LVŽS intends to satisfy individual needs not through teachers, but through programmes. Their plan specifies they intend to seek variety in education institutions, taking into account specific local needs and conditions, preparing programmes for those with special educational needs and for children with lower achievements due to educational, social or economic conditions. This would include flexible measures such as mobile laboratories, learning consultation groups, creative camps and etc. The programme also contains a note that pre-school education should begin at the age of 5, while school should start at 6 due to experience and research showing that those participating in early education longer have higher achievements.
No more standardised tests and student baskets?
Both parties stress that primary education should not only provide knowledge, but also nurture individuals.
The Conservatives find this to be manifest in more intensive and effective work with each child, including annual week-long internships in the private or state sector for students of grades 8 and 9. They also mention removal of standardised tests, replacing them with other methods of evaluation that are oriented toward independent analysis and creative problem solving.
The “Peasants” focus on extra education for students, seeking integration between formal and informal education. Their programme discusses a focus on speaking of civic and moral values, respect to human rights and cultural diversity.
“General education (formal and informal) will cease using the “student basket” method, which increases inequality in educational conditions. It will be replaced with a class composition model which takes into account conditions in the cities and the periphery,” states the “Peasants” programme.
A focus on foreign languages for one, social, sport and art achievements for the other
Changes await final year students as well, with attention being placed on evaluations of knowledge, skills and competence.
The Conservatives explain that it is important to renew general education programmes by strengthening the teaching of mathematics, IT, natural sciences and languages (including Lithuanian), while also integrating logics, philosophy and financial literacy into general education. The focus on languages also is expressed through the idea of replacing state foreign language exams with internationally recognised formats such as IELTS, TOEFL, TestDaf, DALF and others. The teaching of classical languages such as Greek and Latin is also considered.
The Peasant-Greens focus not on languages, but social work, sport and artistic expression. Those with achievements in this field could expect easier access to higher education. They stress the need to improve school achievement evaluations, to allow student’s results to better reflect their combined achievements.
A year’s self-improvement holiday and advance pensions for teachers
Speaking of the changes awaiting teachers, the Conservatives stress that they will seek to raise the appeal and prestige of the teacher profession, as well as improving conditions for training and raising qualifications, furthermore implementing means to adequately express respect for and reward teachers who reach pension age. A part of this is to be done by moving to tariff based wages, where the average minimum wage for teachers should reach 75% of GDP per capita and maximum average wage would reach 135% of GDP per capita by 2020.
Teachers are also promised more freedom, being allowed increased individual decision making power in how to nurture students into successful and wholesome individuals. Also there is talk of an improvement holiday, after working for six years at school, the seventh could be spent on self-improvement, while receiving full wages.
Meanwhile the Peasant-Greens also intend to change the system behind paying educators wages, their view is to make for differentiated wages, based on qualification and working condition differences, depending on the educational institution and its location type. There are also plans to establish new long term educator training plans. Training centres are planned in Vilnius and Kaunas with branches in Šiauliai and Klaipėda, there are also apparently ideas for an Educology and Educational Policy Perspective Research Institute. Beyond that the LVŽS is also concerned with the transparency of teacher evaluation and the balance of responsibilities and obligations.
Establishing a teacher’s bureau, green and healthy schools
There is also discussion of strategic changes in schools, that of appointing leadership, the appearance of more municipal jobs for teachers and the establishing of specialised schools.
The Conservative programme observes a need to change the appointment of school directors, from the current commission based model which includes the municipality, teachers, parents and the central government, to one that involves teachers and social partners of schools more actively. So-called “windows”, free classes, are to be eliminated as well, with replacement teachers being made available to substitute where local resources are insufficient.
The “Peasants” focus on the idea of specialised schools: “harmonious school”, “green schools”, “health improving schools”, and etc. The LVŽS programme speaks of a specialised education strategy that should answer the expectations of teachers, students and their parents, as well as the administration. It discusses the need to modernise the educational infrastructure of schools as well.
Conservatives on higher education: agreements with institutions, 2-3 national universities, higher entry barriers, part of costs paid by the student.
Both parties agree that there is a dire need to change the higher education institution network. Delfi reminds that there are currently 22 university and 23 colleges in Lithuania.
The Conservatives propose to set minimum requirements (criteria) which all higher education institutions have to fulfil. They also speak of setting up contracts with these institutions which, upon fulfilment would provide extra financing, while penalising underperforming institutions.
They also set out two main goals
1. To create 2-3 national universities with the capacity to compete at the international level, with at least one entering the top 100 European universities by 2030.
2. To create a network of 10 colleges which reflects the specialisations and educational and economic development needs of Lithuanian regions.
According to the party, university and college financing based on study baskets and stipends should continue only when minimum entry barriers are established and continuously raised as needed. The TS-LKD notes that it intends to have the minimum entry score for universities to be no lower than 3 and for colleges no lower than 2, while also setting minimum entrant numbers for specific study programmes. Even with decreasing numbers of students, it is pledged that education funding will not decrease, thus raising the value of the study basket, which would help rapidly raise average wages for lecturers and researchers. Finally the Conservatives state that some students will be expected to cover a part of the cost of their education themselves, with government loans being made available, as well as grants and stipends for high achievers.
“Peasant” proposals for higher education: entry not just by academic criteria, removal of study baskets, contracts with institutions, free education for all those who meet criteria.
The LVŽS seeks equivalent participation in higher education from all groups of society. Entry to higher education will no longer be based solely on academic criteria with conditions being made for “rational and individualised” decision making.
Higher education institutions will lose access to study baskets, but instead a system of state procurement would be put in place, where the state would request specialists of specific spheres to be prepared.
Interaction of educators and education institutions with social and business partners is to be encouraged to ensure that graduates would obtain the specific and general skills needed for their professions, particularly in the fields of creativity, innovation and business.
“All the inhabitants of Lithuania, who fit the entry requirements will be guaranteed free tuition in Lithuanian higher education institutions, to study for the duration of one academic degree. Equal opportunities and social mobility will be ensured in higher education by applying specialised means to support socially vulnerable and underrepresented in higher education groups of society (ethnic minorities, the disabled, inhabitants of rural areas and others). Free study positions and social support will be tied to a student’s pledge to reach specified study results,” explains the LVŽS programme.