Student counts: new demographic wildernesses forming in Lithuania

DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

The journal Reitingai has presented new formal ratings for higher education and gymnasiums.

Furthermore the team has also researched which municipalities are emptying the fastest. It turns out that from 2000 to 2017, some municipalities had a decline in residents (particularly children of schooling age) from 2 to 3.5 fold.

New demographic wildernesses forming

“Thus new demographic wildernesses are forming in Lithuania with residential densities almost akin to those in the Mongolian steppes – just 2-5 residents per square kilometre,” the journal’s chief editor Gintaras Sarafinas observed.

Student counts declined the most in:

1. Visaginas municipality – 3.5 fold

2. Neringa municipality – 2.71 fold

3. Skuodas municipality – 2.7 fold

4. Pagėgiai municipality – 2.59 fold

5. Zarasai municipality – 2.55 fold

According to G. Sarafinas, prospects are arising for a third of Lithuanian municipalities to only be left a single school and kindergarten each just within ten years.

“One thing that is certainly happening in Lithuania is a decline in citizen numbers. Particularly the young. This demographic pit has possibly the greatest impact on our education, higher education system,” he outlined.

The chief editor states that this is both a drama for those regions, as it is for the state and the youth.

“Children, first of all, have to travel 30 kilometres to school. Second they receive certainly not the best education quality and it is likely that level will only decline. Furthermore such children have increasingly few chances to enter higher education for free. There are talks of mass social and wealth inequality in Lithuania, however academic inequality is also widely opening up. They simply cannot compete with the students of strong schools,” G. Sarafinas explained.

Where exams are held most successfully

“We observed some 50 from among the 400 gymnasiums and middle schools in the country, whose students were most successful in taking the State Maturity Exams (VBE) for Lithuanian and Literature, English, Russian, German, French, History, Maths, IT, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Geography,” G. Sarafinas said when presenting the new journal release.

According to him the formal gymnasium ratings allow students and their parents to select schools which would aid them in nurturing specific academic talents, those which teach languages, social, natural or exact sciences best.

For the second year running the schools were also rated via street light colours – whether their students perform well in respective exams.

Shocking news: exam would be failed in a whole 110 gymnasiums

It turns out that in only one (small) school, Rietavas municipality Tverai Gymnasium, the results of the Lithuanian language VBE were higher than 86 points. In another 32 gymnasiums the results of the Lithuanian language VBE varied between 50.07 and 79 points.

“In the remaining 333 gymnasiums and middle schools across the country, the total results of the Lithuanian language and Literature VBE vary between an average of 4 and 49.99 points,” G. Sarafinas admitted.

Meanwhile the journal’s journalist Jonė Kučinskaitė stated that in 2017 the cut-off for the Lithuanian language and Literature VBE was 30% and if we apply this criterion not to an individual student, but whole schools, we would see a whole 110 gymnasiums failing the exam.

The best preparations for the Lithuanian language and Literature exam are at:

1. Rietavas Tverai gymnasium

2. Vilnius Lyceum

3. KTU Gymnasium

4. Vilnius Jesuit Gymnasium

5. Klaipėda Lyceum

Who teaches maths the best? A third do not learn it over 12 years

Meanwhile the top 5 for maths teaching looks as follows:

1. Vilnius Lyceum. Average for exam takers reaches 97.04 points.

2. KTU Gymnasium. Average – 94.86 points.

3. Klaipėda Lyceum. Average – 91.05 points.

4. Vilnius Jesuit Gymnasium. Average – 87.23 points.

5. Vilnius region Egliškiai St. John Bosco Gymnasium. Average – 86 points.

“The 2017 maths exam was passed much better by students compared to the 2016 exam because the tasks were easier. That said the 2017 Maths VBE cut-off was 10%, in 2018 it will be raised to 36%. And if this cut-off had been applied when evaluating every gymnasium’s student’s result average, students from 114 of 367 gymnasiums would have failed the Maths VBE. Thus we should say that in fact an entire third of students do not learn or are not taught the basics of maths over the 12 year period,” G. Sarafinas pointed out.

Best at teaching English

The best English teaching was at the following:

1. Vilnius Lyceum

2. KTU Gymnasium

3. Vilnius Jesuit Gymnasium

4. Klaipėda Lyceum

5. Klaipėda Ažuolynas Gymnasium

“The level of teachers varies dramatically and what is worse, prospects look poor in the weak schools. Thus a truly grim image forms overall,” G. Sarafinas outlined.

Only excellent Russian teaching

According to J. Kučinskaitė, a trend can be seen that the teachers of Lithuanian gymnasiums teach only Russian excellently.

“For example the total student averages of the Russian language VBE in the top 50 gymnasiums range from 87.06 to 100 points (compared to 88.17 to 100 points last year).

Averages of 100 points were present among the students of a whole five gymnasiums: Kaunas Art, Klaipėda H. Zudermann, Mažeikiai Gabija, Panevėžys 5th and Vilnius Private Gymnasium. Among another 45 gymnasiums the total student average for the Russian language VBE ranges from 87.06 to 99.50 points,” G. Sarafinas stated.

Most modern schools

Currently the top five most modern schools are as follows:

1. Vilnius Sholom Aleichem ORT Gymnasium

2. Kaunas Jesuit Gymnasium

3. Klaipėda Lyceum

4. LSMU Gymnasium

5. Marijampolė Sūduva Gymnasium

This rating was formed after interviewing municipal education departments.

Municipal ratings based on student competition achievements

“This year, in cooperation with the Lithuanian Student Informal Education Centre, we also created a municipal rating to reflect the medals won by students from 2012 to 2016 in various competitions. That said we counted not the absolute number of medals, but the number of medals per 1 thousand students in 5 years,” G. Sarafinas said.

The top 10 of this municipal rating is as follows:

1. Ignalina region

2. Vilnius city

3. Klaipėda city

4. Visaginas

5. Šiauliai city

6. Kaunas city

7. Mažeikiai region

8. Neringa

9. Kėdainiai region

10. Varėna region

“That said 2/3 of municipalities are no longer capable of preparing students for competitions,” the journal’s makers observed.

According to J. Kučinskaitė, we are not only no longer able to raise children to the average level so that they would learn the taught subject, but also unable to prepare them for, for example, maths competitions.

Best universities identified

Based on the formal university ratings, the top 14 looks as follows:

1. Vilnius University (VU) is first in 26 areas (in 31 last year).

2. Kaunas Technology University (KTU) – first in 11 (5 last year) areas.

3. Vilnius Gediminas Technology University (VGTU) – first in 10 areas (8 last year).

4. Vytautas Magnus University (VDU) – first in 7 areas (5 last year).

5. Lithuanian Health Science University (LSMU) – first in 4 areas.

6. Aleksandras Stulginskis University (ASU) – first in 3 (1 last year) areas.

7. ISM University of Management and Economics – first in 2 (3 last year) areas.

8. Klaipėda University (KU) – first in 2 (1 last year) areas.

9. Lithuanian Music and Theatre Academy (LMTA) – first in 2 (1 last year) areas.

10. Vilnius Art Academy (VDA) – first in 2 (4 last year) areas.

11. Lithuanian Sports University (LSU) first in 1 area (same as last year).

12. LCC International University – first in 1 area.

13. Gen. J. Žemaitis Lithuanian Military Academy – leading in 1 area (same as last year).

14. Šiauliai University (ŠU) – first in 1 study area.

What is also interesting is that this year every second school graduate applied for medicine studies.

Outlining causes for problems

Studies Committee member for the Lithuanian University Rector Conference, pro-rector of Vytautas Magnus University Kęstutis Šidlauskas said during the conference that the influence of social and economic processes is vast on higher education and the final blow is struck by demographic metrics.

“The financing provided by the state is consistently declining. Over the past years investment into academics declined twofold, calculating as a percentage of GDP despite plans to double the support,” he presented a paradoxical situation.

According to K. Šidlauskas, isolated from external factor, the higher education sector is actually doing well enough.

That said he decried the inappropriate claims about dead universities, progressive and supposedly not higher education schools, misleading supposed university adverts.

“There is talk everywhere that potential employees will have to manage to resolve complicated compound problems which are interdisciplinary, they will have to be creative. This is not a concrete speciality, it is something universities nurture,” he pointed out.

Best colleges elected

Meanwhile the top 9 of the best colleges appears as such:

1. Vilnius College is first in 18 (17 last year) areas.

2. Kaunas College – first in 15 (7 last year) areas.

3. Kaunas Technology College – first, same as last year, in 4 areas.

4. Lithuanian Maritime Academy – first in 2 areas (1 last year).

5. Klaipėda State College – first in 2 (1 last year) areas.

6. Vilnius Technology and Design College – first in 2 (1 last year) areas.

7. Vilnius Design College – first in 1 area (same as last year).

8. Vilnius Business College – first in 1 area (same as last year).

G. Sarafinas stated that the Social Sciences College accepted more than 100 first years this year, whose competition score was lower than 1.6. This score was also not reached by 25 of 46 first years at Kolping College.

“The gap between quality and non-quality higher education is increasing,” he observed.

Applicant numbers to some colleges declining by a third annually

Meanwhile presidium member of the Lithuanian College Director Conference, Kaunas Technology College director Nerijus Varnas stated that today more than 30% Lithuanian students study in colleges.

“We have an unfavourable situation and external factors when in some regions the number of applicants is decreasing by a third and there is no silver bullet for it,” he admitted.

According to N. Varnas, the mission of colleges is to educate specialists who employ the newest technologies invented by, perhaps, university students, thus their use is beyond doubt.

“Today we talk much about the wages of doctors and teachers, but somewhat less about lecturers. What can we say about lecturers from whom we demand a master’s degree, several years of experience and offer 500-700 euro? Is this a motivational environment for our youth?” the college representative asked colleagues.

Presenting evaluation method

The formal rating of university and college vocational bachelors was formed on the basis of:

1. Evaluations of 2.2 thousand employers surveyed by the social research company Prime Consulting regarding which institution best prepares representatives of specific areas (weighted at 30% of the evaluation score).

2. What wages college alumni of the 2012-2016 cohorts receive (based on a monitoring tool by Mosta specialists) – 5% weighting.

3. How many alumni of the 2012-2016 cohorts from specific study directions that have gained employment (based on a monitoring tool by Mosta specialists) – 5% weighting.

4. How many of the best students (those whose State Maturity Exam results range from a score of 86 to 100) enter the specific institution’s study directions (based on LAMA BPO data) (weighted at 20% of the evaluation score).

5. What the average scores of all those accepted (based on LAMA BPO data) by a specific study direction is (weighted at 20% of the evaluation score).

6. What the minimum score (based on LAMA BPO data) for entry to specific study directions is (weighted at 20% of the evaluation score).

Knowledge also for those planning master’s studies

Meanwhile in researching master’s studies, other than the first three aforementioned conditions, academic figures were also observed (this time the Reitingai journal employed the newest academic works formal evaluation of the Lithuanian Science Council (LMT) from 2015 and 2016. This parameter formed 30% of the rating weight).

Another important evaluation criterion is how many state financed doctorate positions (based on LMT data) each university received (This parameter is weighted at 20 points.)

“Truth be told, in evaluating biomedicine, medical, odontology, pharmacy and veterinary specialist training there were evaluation exceptions (because these topics do not grant a degree). As such we evaluated the following: employer opinions (25 points), number of scientific publications ((based on LMT data) – 25 points), number of doctorate positions (10 points), number of accepted best students (10 points), average score of invited first years (10 points), number of invited first years with the lowest scores (10 points), employment (5 points) and wages received (5 points),” G. Sarafinas explained.

1. VU is first in 31 (32 last year) areas.

2. KTU is first in 8 (7 last year) areas.

3. VGTU is first in 7 (5 last year) areas.

4. LSMU is first in 5 (6 last year) areas.

5. KU is first in 4 (2 last year) areas.

6. VDA is first in 3 (4 last year) areas.

7. ASU is first in 3 (1 last year) areas.

8. MRU is first in 3 areas.

9. LMTA is first in 2 areas (same as last year).

10. VDU is first in 2 (3 last year) areas.

11. LEU is first in 2 areas (same as last year).

12. Gen. J. Žemaitis Lithuanian Military Academy is first in 1 area (same as last year).

13. LSU is first in 1 area.

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