1. Compare the Lithuanian education system with the system of any other country (UK, USA, France). Point out similarities and differences.
• In the United States education differs according to the state. In each school the “principal,” i.e. the headmaster of the school, decides the curriculum for each grade in his own school. Meanwhile in Lithuania it is unified and regulated by the Ministry of Education and Science.
• As well as in other countries, in Lithuania children start school at age of 6 or 7. Most of
• In Lithuania as well as in the USA children go to school 5 days a week. There is no school on Saturdays and Sundays. While in France students have free Wednesday and Sunday. However, in high schools they study all week long from Monday to Saturday.
• The school year begins in September and ends in June. There are three terms in Basic school and twwwo semesters in senior forms.
• Lessons begin at 8 o’clock in the morning in Lithuania and in America the typical school day starts at 8.30 or 9.00 am with the salute to the American flag. In the UK there is an assembly held evvvery morning before classes. Each lesson in our country lasts 45 minutes, the breaks are 5-25 minutes long. Meanwhile in Britain the length differs: the last lessons are shorter than the first ones and last only 20 minutes. It seems to be very sensible because students get tired during the day.
• Till the children are 16 years old the school is compulsory. The education (in public schools) is free, but some children are attending private schools. They are very expensive but considered to provide a better education and good job opportunities.
• The stages of education in Lithuania are similar as in other countries, just they are called differently: Primary school (1st-4th forms), Basic school (5th-10th forms) and Secondary school (11th-12th forms). Secondary schools as well asss British Comprehensives incorporate all schoolchildren into one scheme. The children are, therefore, of mixed abilities and may come from a wide variety of social backgrounds. There are also other types of secondary school, such as gymnasiums, lyceums and international baccalaureate schools.
• At the age of 16, children take exams in Maths and Lithuanian. In France they have to pass exams in 3 subjects: French, Maths, History or Geography. In England children may take exams in various subjects in order to have GCSE’s (ttthe General Certificate of Secondary Education) or ‘O’ (ordinary) level qualifications, students can choose any number of subjects in their curriculum; some may take 6 or 7, some only 2. Afterwards they can leave schools and start working; in Lithuania there are also youth and vocational schools, which offer both secondary education and the qualification. Or students may continue their studies in the same school as before.
• In senior classes the teaching is profiled. Students may choose the humanities or exact sciences. Meanwhile in France there are general and technical branches. When they are 18, in all countries they have to pass further examinations. In the UK they are called ‘A level’ (Advanced or Academic level), students normally take 2 or 3 exams, which are necessary for getting into university or college. In our country graduates may take from 4 to 6 exams in various subjects (only Lithuanian is compulsory) in order to get School Leaving Certificate. Brighter students usually choose state exams, which are more difficult, but very important for entering higher school. Students can apply for up to 20 specialties in different universities. The results are calculated into points and determine which higher school student can enter. As well as in France there are no entrance exams.
• Higher education isn’t free in Lithuania. Only the best students still don’t have to pay for studies. Government was going to introduce a fixed study fee, but many tutors objected and suggested to admit all students, who can afford to pay full charge. In the future they should receive loans on easy terms, but now they are usually supported by their parents, or try to find jobs. Meanwhile in the USA higher education is very expensive in private colleges and universities, but it is much cheaper in those supported by states and cities. Many students receive a scholarship from the university or have part-time jobs to help pay their expenses.
• In England there are 47 universities, the oldest and the most prestige ones are Oxford and Cambridge. The most outstanding America’s higher schools are Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Princeton. In Lithuania there are 26 higher education institutions: 16 autonomous universities and some colleges (non-university higher schools). The universities, as well as in other countries, award Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, you can also strive for doctoral or professor’s degree.
2. Express your opinion on the ideal school: subjects, curriculum, teachers, marks, uniforms, textbooks, school atmosphere, extra-curricular activities, examinations, etc.
There are a lot of disadvantages in school life, which could be changed:
• The atmosphere. At present in schools, especially in large ones, racket and bullying are wide spread. Students from asocial families usually don’t concern themselves about studies and future life. Instead, they blackmail, frighten, sometimes even hurt younger and physically weaker schoolchildren in order to get money for cigarettes, drugs, alcohol. What is more, students rival in all possible fields. It’s rather positive, if they try to reach better results in their studies and to get higher grades. But rivalry becomes ridiculous or even cruel, when it concerns appearance, e.g. girls are trying to lose as much weight or distinguish for expensive fashionable clothes, shoes. Those, who can’t afford it, are scoffed and humiliated. As the profiled teaching is introduced, the atmosphere gets even worse: students have to adapt themselves to new classmates, old friends, who know each other from the first form, now are separated.
• Relationship between teachers and students are rather complicated. There are such teachers, who mix personal life with work, they bring their home problems to school and (išsilieja) on children, they are more angry and strict. But it seems, that students don’t have a right to feel unwell, to be tired or in a bad mood. Students usually treat their teachers as enemies, who give only low grades and want to exhaust them by giving tons of homework. Meanwhile teachers can’t stay objective all the time, they have their favourites and often assess students according to personal likes or dislikes. Prejudice is also very important: some teachers do not believe that students who lag behind can make a shift and get a high grade. So both sides should show more respect, confidence and tolerance to each others.
• Uniform is a compulsory attribute of all the most prestige schools in the world. However, Lithuanian students associate this word with those terrible brown dresses, which schoolchildren had to wear during the Soviet period. Everyone will probably agree that they were both, uncomfortable and unattractive and we felt a relief, when we were able to wear ‘normal’ clothes again. But ten years passed and it seems that uniform is coming back. It equalizes all students, in spite of their financial status; they automatically become more disciplined, gathered. Though some people say that uniforms constrict freedom, we think that students can show their originality in spare time wearing whatever clothes they like. Of course, the uniforms should be designed according to students’ wishes and suggestions and should be sold for a reasonable price.
• Textbooks. Most schools can’t afford to buy enough, so students still have to learn from old ones or to share the same books with their classmates. Different publishing outfits offer a wide range of new textbooks. But more isn’t always better: textbooks are not based on the syllabuses; the authors are concerned about getting large honorariums, so they write large heavy books including a lot of extra information, which isn’t essential. The Ministry of Education should set very exact list of compulsory textbooks; they should weigh less or students could get copied papers for each lesson as they do in foreign countries.
• Extra-curricular activities should be more various, especially in village schools, e.g. there could be dance, drama, yoga classes. Schoolchildren ought to be involved in making projects, organising different festivals, concerts, competitions, meetings with interesting people. Such events would vary monotonous school life, students would fill their free time more usefully.
• Modern technologies. Computers are used in Computing lessons mainly, but their technical possibilities could be useful in other subjects. E.g. students should be allowed to type their literature works instead of handwriting; schools should have educational computer programs of Geography, Maths, Chemistry and other subjects; distance learning could be available – schools from different cities or even countries could broadcast lessons via Internet or arrange video conferences.
• Marks. State exams are evaluated in points (1-100), meanwhile in schools students get marks 1-10, so it would be sensible to introduce one evaluation system. But we don’t agree that marks should be abolished at all: students aren’t conscious enough to study for knowledge, not for marks.
3. Do schools do a good job of preparing people for life? Should education be more practical? What would you change in a present curriculum if you were given such a right?
Lithuania doesn’t have deep educational traditions, so it tries to follow those countries, which are said to have the most progressive education systems, such as France or Scotland. But it seems that such imitation has more negative than positive sides:
• Learning loads are very unbalanced. Students have to do both – study hard at school during lessons and spend the rest of the day doing their homework. Still, syllabuses and the requirements of examinations are inadequate. Exams are too strict and often require extra knowledge, which wasn’t given at school. But we think that one of the most important aims for school is to help you to do as well as possible in the exams.
• As the profiled teaching was introduced, students being only 16 years old have to know exactly, what their future career will be. The system is rather narrow, especially in province schools. Students are strictly divided into to two categories: humanitarians or students of exact sciences. But sometimes they are good at both spheres, and entering higher schools exams in various subjects are necessary. Besides, there are few possibilities that one’s individual requests will be completely satisfied because students have to make mobile groups of at least 5 in order to learn their chosen subjects. So our suggestion would be to introduce a flexible system of ‘free choice’ with compulsory course of Lithuanian only. Students would be able to study any subject they wish.
• Education should be more practical because now students leave schools without being prepared for life. In Basic school (5-10 forms) there should be a compulsory course of various practical subjects to help you to become independent and stand on your own feet. Students should get psychological knowledge in order to know how to get on with other people; such as, those you work with, your future wife or husband. Public spirit and political consciousness should be developed by giving more information about Lithuanian political system (the main institutions, elections, political parties and their leaders etc.), integration to EU and NATO. Household course could include sewing, cooking, running a home, repairing your home, decorating, plumbing, to pay a bill etc. Students should be taught about different sorts of jobs and careers so that they can decide what they want to do. In senior forms the curriculum ought to be concentrated on preparing for higher studies and practical course could be optional.