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Lithuania is a NE European state of 3.76 million people, with an 80-mile western coast on the Baltic Sea and land borders with Poland, Latvia, and Belorussia. The ancestors of modern Lithuanians were known as Balts and probably reached the area from the southeast around 2000 BC. By the 12th century AD the Balts were split into tribal groups practicing nature religions. Lithuanian geographic and political definition was strengthened in the 13th century, as Lithuanian warriors played a significant role in Eastern European affairs. For 200 years, pagan Lithuanians fought back incursions by German crusaders from the west and Mongol invaders from the east.

In 1386 the Lithuanian-Polish royal family led the conversion to Christianity, but a similarly important development was the immigration of many Jews, who made Vilnius a center of Jewish culture. Lithuania formally united with Poland in 1569, then was incorporated into Russia in 1795. After more than a century of Tsarist oppression, World War I gave Lithuania the opportunity to declare its independence in 1918, which lasted only until 1940, when the country was reoccupied by a Russia transformed into the Soviet Union. In 1990 Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare its sovereignty, and with the rapid breakdown of the Soviet Union, finally gained full independence a year later. Lithuania joined NATO and the European Union in 1994.

Lithuania has some 15 schools of higher learning, including the oldest in Eastern Europe, Vilnius University (1579). The Lithuanian language differs from other Indo-European languages, and is widely studied by philologists.


Primary and Secondary Education

Since 1986-87, the program at public general education schools lasts 12 years, in three stages, primary (4 years), lower secondary (6 years), and secondary (2 years). Four-year gymnasiums admit all applicants who have completed 8 grades in a general education school. International Baccalaureate (IB) schools have a 2-year curriculum and English as the language of instruction. General secondary education can also be acquired at vocational schools. “Youth schools” provide lower secondary education to 12-16 year-olds who have learning problems. Adults can acquire general secondary education at adult general education schools.

Post-Secondary Education

The system of higher education in Lithuania comprises universities, academies, and institutes, most in the capital Vilnius or in the second city, Kaunas. The newest university in Klaipeda serves that seaport town and other western regions distant from the capital, evidence of efforts to decentralize education in Lithuania. Reform legislation in 1991 emphasized principles of autonomy, academic freedom, and integration of research and higher education, with an eye towards European trends. Private institutions of higher education must be licensed by the state.

Lithuanian education distinguishes between university (academic) and non-university (professional and vocational) programs. Academies, seminaries and other institutions may be considered university level; colleges are considered non-university. Higher education may be offered by state/public institutions or non-state/private entities licensed by the state. The academic year is September to June, and languages of instruction are Lithuanian and English.

University-level studies are organized in three cycles, 1st/undergraduate, 2nd/graduate, and 3rd/post-graduate. Integrated, or uniform 1st and 2nd cycle programs lead directly to the Master's Degree and/or professional qualifications. The 2nd cycle (Masters) is viewed as specialization. The 3rd cycle trains researchers, artists, and medical practitioners.

First and Second Cycles

The Švietimo ir mokslo ministerija regulates program content, and the Center for Quality Assessment in Higher Education evaluates educational and scientific activities of higher education institutions. Since 2000 Lithuanian education is a binary system, distinguishing between university (academic) and non-university (professional/vocational) studies. An undergraduate university Bachelor program consists of 160 credits, lasts 4-5 years, and can lead to employment or university graduate studies. A non-university program— academies, colleges, research institutes—consists of at least 120 credits and last at least 3 years. Completion of a non-university program does not generally grant access to graduate level university studies.

University studies leading to a Master's Degree last 1-2 years beyond the Bachelor, and comprise 60-80 credits. Master's graduates defend a thesis or a diploma project. Upon completion of a basic non-university study program, graduates may pursue specialized vocational studies lasting 1-2 years and comprising of 40-80 credits.

Third Cycle

Lithuania has uniform/integrated programs—e.g. medical studies—that combine basic and Master's programs in a continuous 6 year curriculum Doctoral studies require the Master's Degree or equivalent higher education, and last 3-4 years. A doctoral thesis must be prepared and defended publicly. Doctoral studies may be jointly organized by higher education and research institutions. The highest academic degree in Lithuania is the habilituotas daktaras (post-doctoral qualification), awarded to holders of a doctorate who have published significant research. Credentials issued before Lithuania’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 may require reference to the USSR/Russian system.

Teacher Training

Pre-primary, primary, and secondary school teachers are trained at specific higher education institutions and universities. Master's Degrees confer the right to teach in gymnasiums and colleges. Entry requirement is the Bachelor's degree and at least one year of teaching experience. The Master’s may grant access to an entry-level university position, but generally the Doctorate is required for teaching in higher education institutions. The Habilituotas daktaras (post-doctoral qualification) may be required for senior posts in universities or other research institutions.

The Ministry of Education and Science has licensed 90 institutions to offer non-formal studies, and the Ministry of Economy recognizes hundreds of entities offering continuing and distance education programs for adults. Courses include training and retraining, particularly in the fields of pedagogy, psychology, special or additional education etc.



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