Friday, 18 November 2011

Problems with education reform in Lithuania

An article (in Lithuanian) that recently appeared on the Lithuanian news site Delfi confirms some of the problems I touched on in my 24 October post, "Life in Lithuania II," concerning education reform in Lithuania.  In this recent article, Prof. Rimantas Mikalauskas talks about several of the factors that are preventing true change in the Lithuanian system of higher education and states that the main problem is the low quality of research and education.

His opinion is that some changes, such as making universities autonomous, have failed.  After gaining autonomy from state control, universities made changes to their study programs, administrative methods, and financial systems.  Intense competition for funding even began taking place.  But education and research quality "still remains low."  And serious problems have cropped up.  First, as Mikalauskas puts it, "the administration of every university abuses" this autonomy by adopting decisions that are important only to the administration.  And second, occupying a high-ranking administrative position is being equated to being qualified to hold this post.  Loyalty to the person and the "stupid ideas" that are emanating from that person, even when those ideas are "destroying academic values," is widespread.  This lackeyism is another thing I discuss in my "Life in Lithuania II" post.

The professor also touches on students not being required to study very hard to get a diploma (e.g. some students are able to have a full-time job while at the same time studying "full time") and the "relatively high level of corruption" in Lithuanian higher education. "Giving presents is widely practiced in the study process when taking exams and performing various academic qualification requirements."  (Yet another thing I hinted at in my earlier post.)  "The tolerance that universities have for corruption means that losing [the reputation of the university] has no effect on the financial standing of the university.  And there is one conclusion you can reach from that--that the level of knowledge that university graduates receive is not a priority."

Among other problems, Prof. Mikalauskas of course also mentions the problem of low salaries for professors.  The article is rather long and detailed, and I unfortunately don't have the time to translate everything now.  Besides pointing out the shortcomings of the system, Mikalauskas makes some suggestions about what could be done.  The professor ends the article by saying that solving the many problems in higher education in Lithuania will require the joint effort of the government, the private sector, and society.  I thought the article made some very good points.

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