True Lithuania

Education in Lithuania

In Lithuania, the education is mostly public (taxpayer-funded) with private or religious facilities being an exception. The school life is especially long with university education being a norm for modern youth. Literacy is at 99,8%.

Schools and pre-school education

Most children attend state (public) schools where the education is free (taxpayer-funded). These have three tiers: for ages 7-10 ("primary schools") a single teacher teaches most subjects, for ages 11-14 ("progymnasiums") there are separate teachers for each subject but still no choice on what to learn (save for religious education and 2nd foreign language), while at ages 15-18 ("gymnasiums") students have a limited choice of their lectures. While there are prestigious gymnasiums, at the earlier tiers most pupils are enrolled at schools closest to their homes as the quality varies little.

The official language is Lithuanian but there are minority-oriented public schools that use their languages for instruction. The network of Russian schools covers the main cities while the Polish schools are concentrated in the southeast.

Private schools tend to be expensive (by Lithuanian standards) and not very popular. Few schools cover the entire school life with private schooling more popular for younger kids. For English medium-of-instruction education, however, "private" is the only option and largely limited to Vilnius.

There are also a few Roman Catholic schools in the cities.

Pre-school education (kindergartens) is not compulsory. With more women than ever working (the female share of the workforce is larger in Lithuania than in every single Western society), there is a shortage of public kindergartens in the main cities. It is common to write your child into a queue immediately at birth. Akin to schools the private kindergartens are expensive although the shortages make them somewhat popular. Some families rely on (great) grandparents to rear their toddlers instead of kindergartens.

Lithuania has a wide range of paid informal education, most of it in the Lithuanian language. Lithuanian basketball academies are especially famous.

Universities and colleges

In Lithuania, most young people attend public universities of which there are many. Vilnius University is the oldest and the most prestigious but some others successfully compete at specific fields (Mykolas Romeris University in social sciences, the Kaunas University of Technology in technological sciences, Lithuanian University of Health Sciences in medical sciences). Public university tuition is state-subsidized for Lithuanian citizens; to many better local students the education there is free.

Yet other public universities are however widely known to be "second-choice" and some politicians doubt their need. The few private universities (limited to social sciences) are somewhat infamous for being a choice of "rich-yet-incapable" as they accept nearly everyone whoever pays a large tuition. Even the largest tuitions are small by the US standards however with a 3000 USD annual fee considered expensive.

University education takes 4 years (Bachelor's degree), 6 years (Master's degree, the most sought-after) or 10 years (PhD). Some universities offer English medium-of-instruction studies and attract a sizeable foreign student population (up to 10% in Lithuanian University of Health Sciences).

Numbers of Lithuanian people with varying levels of education in different decades. In the 2000s the numbers of higher-educated people in Lithuania increased rapidly as it became the social norm for anybody of mediocre capabilities or above.

Alternatively, there are colleges with 3-year education and more practice-oriented studies - but they all are regarded as less prestigious.

Even less prestigious is the vocational education opted mainly by those seriously incapable of doing anything "more". However, even some of those people attempt to seek a Master's degree regardless (at some obscure humanity they dislike but were able to successfully apply to). The government would prefer to popularize vocational training as many of the less capable university graduates ends up in blue-collar jobs anyway.

Enrollment into Lithuanian universities and colleges is largely based on the annual Lithuanian National Exams (May-June) taken by those graduating gymnasiums that year. Each potential student may choose which of 14 subject exams to sit, while each study program has a pre-decided set of National Exam results taken into account when admitting. A student then drafts a National Application (one for all Lithuanian universities and most colleges), listing up to 20 study programs by priority. In July-August, he/she is automatically admitted to the highest-priority one where National Exams results have been enough. The National Exams are hyped as making-or-breaking a person as they decide both the career path and scholarships/tuition discounts. To prepare for National Exams many students hire tutors one or two years in advance. Foreign students may pay the full price and enroll into universities without sitting at National Exams.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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  1. Dear Augustinas, many thanks for such an informative site! One question: I intend to incorporate your chart “Numbers of Lithuanian people with varying levels of education in different decades” in my research, could you please write me a source for it? I would be indeed very grateful.
    And a Happy New Year!

    • The source is Lithuanian Department of Statistics. This is part of their publication on the 2011 census results, available online.

  2. I hope to come Lithuania for my higest studies. I need to come with my 2 children. Elder’s 16 years and youngest 9 years . How I enroll them to school education? Is it free for us? What is the medium of instructions in teaching?

    • Medium of instruction in schools is either Lithuanian, Polish or Russian (depending on school). There are a couple of English schools in Vilnius, but those are generally private and expensive (expatriates typically use them). To join a private school, one should contact particular schools for details on fees and procedure.

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