Dienys, Antanas Levickas, Romualdas Pusvaðkis
Tertiary education traditionally has educated an
elite group of young people to higher levels immediately after they
complete upper secondary education. Recent technological, social and
economic developments, a transition to the knowledge based society have
resulted in wider demand for access to tertiary education. Three main
reasons should be mentioned:
proportion of young people who complete a full cycle of secondary
education, and therefore are eligible for entrance into tertiary
education, is increasing;
and more applicants are coming from the employment system to develop their
knowledge and skills to the higher level;
constantly increasing number of vocational type occupations are requiring
skills and knowledge of the tertiary level.
Traditional higher education
institutions are not able to meet all those needs. Therefore a reform of
tertiary education systems is taking place in fact all over the world, and
challenges for postcommunist countries are even higher as their societies
and economy are undergoing very radical changes.
In Lithuania there are four types of post-secondary
programmes, which differ in duration, in level or in orientation:
Post-secondary VET programmes to train those who have attended all
course of upper secondary education for the qualification of a qualified
worker. They are usually given at vocational schools and last from 1 to 2
years. The programmes are oriented towards development of professional
skills. As they contain no well defined educational component, the
programmes are classified as level 4 of the ISCED 1997.
Higher vocational (college level) programmes. According to the Law
on Education duration of those programmes should be 2-4 years of full-time
studies. In practice the most popular duration is 3 years (more than 95%).
Programmes are given in specific institutions “aukðtesniosios mokyklos”
(colleges). Public colleges have evolved from previous technicums which
had a status of special secondary educational institutions. The reform has
started in 1991 with the aim to develop a non-university higher education
sector. Specific requirements for programmes were formulated: it is
compulsory to have in the programme a group of general subjects (e.g.,
philosophy, foreign language, informatics, business economy etc.) and to
make an accent to practical orientation of education (at least 30% of time
is to be allocated for practical training). However college level
education is not recognized as higher education in Lithuania. In the
national version of ISCED a special level in-between levels 4 and 5 is
allocated for this type of programmes. This is made under the pressure of
universities. In the college
level a private sector has also emerged.
Professional programmes in universities. There is a lot of
universities (Kaunas technological university, Vilnius technical
university, Vilnius pedagogical university, University of agriculture,
Veterinary academy etc.) which programmes should be in most cases
professionally oriented and after first years of study graduates should be
awarded a qualification (e.g., cattle-breeding technology, agronomy,
agricultural technique, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering,
pilotage of airplanes). However a very strong tendency to concentrate on
academic issues is observed, practical placements are often excluded, and
therefore in many cases only the academic bachelors degree is awarded
after the first 4 years of study. In some cases both the academic degree
and qualification are awarded and only very rarely a qualification is an
output of studies. As professional and academic streams are not separated
in statistics, it is very difficult to evaluate the importance of
professional sector in university studies.
Academically oriented studies in universities (humanities,
sciences, mathematics etc.).
Data on the development of the system of
institutions offering various types of post-secondary programmes and
numbers of students in different types of programmes are given in Tables 1
and 2, correspondingly.
in post-secondary programmes
the basis of provided data some remarks can be made:
for post-secondary education is steadily increasing both from the side of
youth and from employed people.
from employment system more and more prefer to enter college level
sector has emerged only in the sector of college level studies.
are rather small: average number of post-secondary students in public
colleges is only 484 and in private ones is 192.
A problem of further development of professional
post-secondary education is discussed very widely in Lithuania at present.
First, the time has come to give a status of non-university higher
education to programmes delivered at colleges. Second, universities have
realized that they are too elite to adequately respond to the needs of
employment system. Several activities were undertaken to start changes:
the initiative of the Ministry of Education and Science and Phare VET
Reform programme a White Paper on VET was prepared where for the first
time it was officially declared a necessity to introduce a non-university
higher education sector and it was suggested to form it by further
development of temporary colleges;
the initiative of the Seimas a drafting of new Law on Higher Education was
started with the intention to legally introduce the non-university sector;
EU Phare Higher Education Reform Programme was started. One of the
objectives of the Programme is to develop “detailed recommendations for
the rationalization of the higher education sector, including
recommendations for the relationships of the college sector to the higher
education sector”. A working group for the preparation of White Paper on
higher education was formed, a new push was given to the drafting of Law
on Higher Education, a problem of the development of quality assurance
system in higher education was put on the agenda etc.
As a result of those activities nobody is already
arguing the expediency of building-up a binary higher education system
with both university and non-university sectors present. A new period of
intensive reform is started in the college sector: colleges have made
self-evaluation, are revising their curricula, are working on the
development of internal quality assurance systems etc. Universities in our
opinion are less active.
A lot of problems
are to be solved before a well functioning non-university higher
education sector will be established. Most of them are traditional and
well known to everybody: development of new curricula, improving links
with employment system, training of staff, diversifying of financial
resources etc. But there are two specific problems, which hinder the
process of establishment of non-university sector:
first period of the reform has led to the system of small colleges. To
meet up to date international standards colleges are to be much larger.
This could be done by merging several colleges to form one institution. It
is quite understandable, that individual colleges often do not support the
start a second period of the reform a process of the establishment of new
type institutions is to be legitimated. This should be done in the Law on
Higher Education. When preparing the law there is a very strong pressure
from the side of universities to make new colleges as academic as
possible. For example, they have succeeded to include into the draft of
law such statements: a director of the college is to have a scientific
degree; at least one third of members of the pedagogical council are to
have scientific degrees; at least 25% of pedagogical staff are to have
scientific degrees etc. If such requirements will be formulated in the law
colleges will face big difficulties when changing their status.
Thus there are forces which stem the further
development of tertiary professional and vocational education. Therefore
we are of the opinion that a political decision is needed to make the
reform effective and that our government is to play a leading role in
creating the sector of tertiary professional and vocational education.
Elen Raudsepp , Tallinn Commercial School; Reet
Neudorf, Ministry of Education
1998, a policy document was approved that aims at developing a VET system
that ensures the adaptation of qualifications to the changing needs and
lays the basis for life-long learning. However, many of the aspirations
expressed in this paper can be put into practice only in a longer-term
perspective. A major breakthrough in VET reform
was achieved when the Law on Applied Higher Education Institutions and the
Law on Vocational Education Institutions were adopted in June 1998.
According to the latter, the transfer of the state vocational
education institutions currently under the Ministry of Agriculture to the
administrative jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education will be completed
by 1 September, 2000. It also provides for (a)
integrated financing of the VET institutions, (b) setting up of the
tripartite sector bodies dealing with skill needs analyses and vocational
standards, (c) more responsibility to be given to school managers and
their tripartite boards and makes (d) the development and application of
programmes more flexible. A new Law on Occupations is currently under
Another novelty, initiated from the demand in the
labour market, is the opportunity for the graduates from the vocational
education and training institutions to continue their studies. The higher
vocational education level, which corresponds to ISCED level 5B, is
supposed to meet the demand for the highly skilled technicians and
give definition of tertiary professional and vocational education, basic
definitions of the levels of post-secondary education in Estonia must be
specified. First, post-secondary education itself is education which
prerequisites secondary education (secondary general or secondary
vocational). It has the following levels (See Annex):
Post-secondary vocational education based on upper secondary
general education (kutsekeskharidus
üldkeskhariduse baasil): the objective is to prepare the employees
with high general and theoretical knowledge about certain occupations in
the service trade, office and customer services. In the Estonian
educational system, it is not considered tertiary education but second
level education which prerequisites secondary general education, i.e., it
can be called post-secondary but not tertiary education.
Vocational higher education (kutsekõrgharidus):
the objective is to prepare technicians and associate professionals.
Diploma studies (diplomiõpe):
a specialised higher education programme with tendency towards
Bachelor studies (bakalaureuseõpe):
the first step of the academic studies. It consists of science- and
occupation-related studies or other creative work and includes the thesis
tertiary education is offered by the following types of institutions:
Education and Training Institutions (Kutseõppeaasutused): which offer post-secondary vocational
and the higher vocational education (Kutsekõrgharidus)
(3 – 4 years of study, 120- 160 credits, one-third devoted to the
practical training, ISCED5B).
higher education institutions
(Rakenduskõrgkoolid): which offer the diploma programmes (Diplomiõpe)
(3 – 4 years of study, 120 – 160 credits, ISCED 5A);
and higher vocational education programmes (Kutsekõrgharidus)
(3 – 4 years of study, 120 – 160 credits, ISCED5B).
which offer the diploma programmes (Diplomiõpe)
(3 – 4 years of study, ISCED 5A);
Bachelor’s studies (Bakalaureuseõpe)
(3 – 4 years of study, 120 – 160 credits, ISCED 5A); Master’s studies (Magistriõpe)
(2 years of study, ISCED 5A);
Doctoral studies (Doktoriõpe)
(4 years of study, ISCED 6)
are both general and specific
requirements for accessing the studies at the first stage of higher
Two general requirements, approved
by the Ministry of Education, are common to the higher education. These
two, which provide admission to either diploma
or Bachelor’s courses are: the secondary general school graduation
certificate (gümnaasiumi lõputunnistus);
and the certificates of national examinations (riigieksamitunnistus).
Secondary education can be obtained, as already discussed, at upper
secondary general school (gümnaasium)
or, at upper-secondary vocational education and training institution, from
which students graduate with the certificate about obtaining the
vocational and secondary general education (lõputunnistus
kutse- ja keskhariduse omandamise kohta). For admission to vocational higher
the secondary vocational education certificate is now required
according to the Law on Vocational Education Institutions and the Law on
Applied Higher Education Institutions (June 1998); and for some courses
the requirements are the same as for diploma or Bachelor’s courses. The
post-secondary vocational education and training certificate, (lõputunnistus
keskerihariduse omandamise kohta) can be considered an equivalent to
the secondary general school graduation certificate.
admission requirements vary depending on the higher education institution
and the area of specialisation. The number of examinations may range from
one to four, can be in the written, oral or interview form, and the other
considerations such as the average grade on the secondary education
graduation certificate, or the grade in a given subject.
the public universities, the basis for admission is the enrolment control
number fixed by the State and funded by the State allocation. But, the
universities have the right to admit students above the State quota, who
have to pay for their study places.
academic year is divided into two semesters, beginning in September and
ending in the first half of June (the lectures end usually in May).
Generally, it comprises 40 weeks of lectures, seminars and practical
training, along with a period for examinations.
volume of study, or course workload, is measured in credits/credit points
(ainepunkt). One credit
corresponds to 40 hours (one study week) of coursework (lectures,
seminars, practical training and independent work) completed by students.
The normal study year comprises 40 credits.
requirements for studying and teaching are set up by the Standard of
Higher Education (Kõrghariduse
standard). It is a collection of requirements drawn up by the
Government for all levels of higher education. The objective is to set
goals for instruction geared to acquisition of the speciality, vocational
or professional skills and the general requirements for graduating from a
university, including those related to the final thesis.
higher education institutions are obliged to end subject courses with an
examination or a preliminary examination, while the separate stages of a
given subject can also be examined.
who teach applied subjects leading to a diploma normally have at least
five years of specialist working experience. No less than half the
subjects in the program are taught by the teachers with a Master's degree,
or an equivalent qualification, or by acknowledged creative artists in the
field of arts and music. Teachers in higher vocational education also
normally have at least five years of work experience, in addition to their
higher education qualifications.
No less than
three-quarters of the curricular subjects for the Master's degree and no
less than half of those for the Bachelor's degree are taught by the
academics with doctorates or equivalent qualifications, or by acknowledged
creative artists in the field of art and music. All curricular subjects at
doctoral level have to be supervised by holders of doctorates.
of the program development, staff qualifications and the links to the
labour market of the tertiary vocational education and training
institutions in Estonia.
The EU Phare VET Reform
Programme started in September 1995 and its objective was to “support
the development, preparation and restructuring of human capital in and for
enterprises and the public entities as required by the economic and social
13 pilot schools providing
vocational education and training at the secondary level were selected to
participate in the programme. Three of these schools applied for the
status of a vocational higher education institution. During the program
implementation stage, 2 – 3 “satellite” schools were selected for
each pilot school. These groups of schools form a central part of the
programme’s dissemination strategy.
Estonia has chosen a
flexible, modular-based and employer-led model for the program design. New
national standards-based programs are being developed as a part of a
modular system. The standards reflect the range of competencies required
in a particular occupation. The course designers of the pilot schools have
completed 13 new programs for different occupations/occupational groups.
Each new program is prepared on the basis of an occupational analysis.
and other reforms to be effective at the school level, active and
continuing upgrading of skills of the school management, teachers and
course designers is essential. Teachers involved in delivering the new
standards-based modular programs in 13 pilot schools attended national
workshops on (a) international trends/developments on the
initial/continuous training of VET teachers, (b) practical techniques of
program development, (c) presentation skills and (d) techniques of
supporting the learner.
The assessment strategy in
Estonia will be as follows: these experts who were involved in drawing up
competence/occupational profiles will also be involved in examinations and
in evaluation of the competence profiles. There will be one additional
expert to evaluate the new program. The whole assessment procedure must be
seen in the broader context of establishing tripartite trade committees
– Professional Councils – (Kutsenõukogud).
The aim is to continuously improve the graduates’ performance on the
labour market, to provide teachers with an instrument for measuring the
students’ performance against the expected criteria, to receive feedback
from the employers and students, and to find out a good way for monitoring
and evaluating the new programs. The assessment of the quality and
relevance of the VET program outputs is intended to be done by tracer
studies, which means following the career paths of the graduates who
benefited from the new programs and by consulting teachers and labour
market experts; and by consulting the employers about the relevance of the
new programs for the qualifications needed.