Monday, 24 October 2011

Life in Lithuania II

There's a lot of talk about education reform in Lithuania now.  Various ideas have been put forward.   The current Minister of Education and Science says that a lot has been accomplished.  Others say that very little of substance has been accomplished.  One idea that is often mentioned is reducing the number of post-secondary institutions.

I have to say that I can't get very interested in the discussion.  Perhaps something such as what is mentioned in the preceding paragraph needs to be done.  I'm more interested in the view that I receive of post-secondary education however.

Did you know that if you are a university student and your mother is a member of the Lithuanian parliament, you will be able to regularly drink coffee with the dean of the Faculty of Medicine and get passing grades no matter how little you do or how poor the quality of your work is?  Did you know that if your father is a professor in the Faculty of Medicine and you are not passing an introductory class in that faculty, you can transfer to another introductory class where the teacher is more easily persuaded to give a passing grade?  Did you know that the Lithuanian doctor who could now be treating you or a loved one (or making medical policy as a member of the government) may not have passed one class without cheating?

That's just a glimpse of the view I have of Lithuanian post-secondary education.  It's the same problem that can be found in much of Lithuanian society: lack of moral/ethical standards by a large percentage of people and plenty who feel that such a situation is none of their business or don't care to get involved.  Oh, there are a few, a very small minority (by my calculations), who would like to do something, but they are so afraid that they rarely raise their voices.  Those who do make waves often have their careers derailed by both the guilty parties and the many who hold the idea that conformity is sacred and the whistle-blowers are the real criminals.  As in many other parts of the world, these same people hide behind patriotism and church/family/loyalty to superiors/etc.

So, yeah, education reform in Lithuania:  I just don't think that anything meaningful is really going to happen.  Those rotten parts of the system are encouraging more rot by helping put their children and other family members into positions of authority.  And that problem is one that I haven't seen anyone in Lithuania address seriously in the 16 years I've been here.

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