Education policy in Lithuania: future’s conceptualisation and development guidelines
The world faces a range of challenges that will shape the future social setup. The challenges paving the way for crisis in many societies include the accelerating climate change, growing inequalities, social divisions and political extremism. Advances in digital communications, artificial intelligence and biotechnology have enormous potential, but also pose serious challenges for governance, especially as the promise of innovation and technological change contributes unevenly to the sustainable development of society. The changes may take the form of gradual trends or sudden systemic shocks. Whichever the form they take, they will certainly have an impact on the future of communities. For these reasons, education is extremely important today, as the volatile, technology-rich and globalised world demands high-levels of competence and skills. Education systems have become key drivers of economic growth, creation of nations and communities, and social progress. Education shapes the world by developing the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that underpin the society, as well as by developing social cohesion and shaping individuals so they become competent workers and active citizens. Education systems support democracy and the transition to an innovation-driven knowledge society. In the future, education will go beyond imparting knowledge and skills to helping pupils and students develop a reliable compass that will allow them to live confidently in contexts of complexity, volatility and uncertainty. In Lithuania, the implementation of education policy is ensured by the relevant provisions of the Constitution and regulated by the relevant legislation. In addition, strategic education objectives are set out in various documents, including but not limited to Lithuania’s Progress Strategy Lithuania 2030, the National Progress Program (Objective No. 3) and the Education Development Program. These documents are designed to ensure high quality education for every child. The fundamental values of the national education were formulated on the eve of the country’s independence and took account of the challenges national education faced at the time. Their formulation took the form of the concept of the National School in 1988. In the independence era, back in 1992, Meilė Lukšienė improved the education concept by underpinning education in Lithuania on the following values: personal dignity, empathy, fundamental equality of people, freedom of conscience, tolerance, and democracy. In 2015, the Good School concept brought new elements to the school concept. Apart from defining schools as learning communities and determining teachers as learners, it introduced modern learning methods, the diversity of learning organisations and environments, the fusion of learning and school life, and a new management culture. The state of education in Lithuania is often measured against international and national performance indicators and other indicators. The latest cycles (2015 and 2018) of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) cover the performance of Lithuanian pupils. Data from the study suggests that performance rates are stable, but lower than the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average. The national data demonstrate progress in performance rates. Between 2018 and 2021, there was an increase in the number of pupils who have reached the basic and upper levels of performance in Lithuanian language and literature and mathematics (the data show an increase by 7.5 and 27.3 percentage points, respectively), and an increase of 4.2 percentage points in the number of school leavers who have passed three or more state matriculation exams. The achievement gap remains an issue, with pupils in urban schools outperforming those in rural areas; girls outperforming boys in reading, Lithuanian language and literature; and Lithuanian language learners outperforming minority language learners. However, it is questionable whether these indicators really reflect the state of affairs in the Lithuanian education system and the national educational goals and values. Quantitative indicators show only the tip of the iceberg, while they cannot be used to assess whether the Lithuanian society is ripe for change and what changes should be introduced in the education system. Therefore, it is important to assess whether the current assumptions that underpin educational concepts are still relevant today and will be relevant in the future. Similarly, the objectives set and the indicators used to measure success should also be reviewed. The Feasibility Study on Education and Skills Challenges notes the importance of recognising the reciprocal interaction between education and the state: the state guides education, and education creates the state. During the drafting of the National Strategy, it was understood that there are exceptionally high expectations for education. However, a significant breakthrough in education is impossible without changing the relations within the ecosystem and its functioning. This analytical review is designed to summarise future educational megatrends and research insights and to list the possible guidelines for education development in Lithuania. In other words, the main goal of this review is to conceptualise the trends of development of the Lithuanian education and to shape the guidelines for education policy to inform the consideration of the State Progress Strategy Lithuania 2050. The review was made at the request of the Committee for the Future of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania. The Committee has discussed education issues on numerous occasions at its meetings in order to ensure the sustainable development of education underpinned by values that will meet future needs. The Committee for the Future will also be the lead committee in the context of consideration of the State Progress Strategy Lithuania 2050 at the Seimas. Education, alongside democracy, has been identified as the key element in the State Progress Strategy for considering future scenarios that will determine the quality of life in Lithuania and will have the greatest impact on the country’s long-term development. At the same time, the choice to follow the North Star strategy demonstrates that education, social and health policies are becoming the foundation of future ambitions. In preparation for this review, initial interviews were conducted with education experts who helped to collect information about the future trends in education. We have summarised the information on the challenges and trends in the realm of education, based on an overview of research literature and documents adopted by international organisations. The first part of the review provides an overview of research literature and analytical papers on the purpose, concept and pedagogy of education. The keywords used for the selection of sources were education, future, trends in education, and future pedagogy. The date of publications was also taken into account. The second part of the review covers research of international organisations with a high level of expertise in the field of education at global and local levels. In particular, we review the analytical work and findings of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), the OECD, the World Bank, the European Commission (EC) and Vilnius University. Based on the findings of international organisations and institutions, a list of megatrends affecting the future of education is drawn up. The final part of the review presents possible guidelines for the development of education, which are based on the findings from the literature review and an analysis of documents adopted by international organisations. This review, namely, the first part of research on education policy in Lithuania, is an attempt to conceptualise the content of Lithuania’s future education policy and guidelines for the development of the education system. The review will be supplemented with other parts. Their content will depend on the relevance of issues in education research and on education policy changes, in particular at the national level, as well as on the agenda of the Seimas and/or the Seimas Committee for the Future. Other interrelated topics of this review, to be written as its consistent parts, may include the feasibility of applying innovative pedagogical approaches in Lithuania, a comparative analysis of conceptual models of national education strategies, a study of the system that underpins the setting of Lithuania’s strategic objectives and monitoring their implementation, and other matters.
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Committee for the Future of the Seimas (CFF-Lith)