The population of Lithuania is highly educated. Virtually all those in the age-group fifteen to thirty-nine have completed basic schooling. The average level of education, however, gradually drops for those older than forty. Large numbers of students attend special schools and schools of higher education. In 1993 Lithuania had 67.3 students per 1,000 population in universities and other institutions of higher education, and 46.4 in vocational schools. These numbers compared with 25.9 and 49.0, respectively, for Estonian and Latvian university students and 18.6 and 36.1 for vocational school students. Lithuania had 106 university graduates per 1,000 population. Enrollment rates compared favorably with those in Western Europe. Lithuania had a literacy rate of 99 percent in 1994.
Schools using Lithuanian as the language of instruction are a product of the twentieth century. The system of education--primary, secondary, and higher--was developed between the two world wars. Soviet officials further expanded it, added adult education, and severely ideologized and politicized the philosophy of education and the teaching process. Independent Lithuania has replaced a "Soviet school" with a "national school" philosophy, although the system still maintains some Soviet organizational features. Primary and secondary education together last twelve years. Three types of schools exist: schools that include grades one to four, those that include grades one to nine, and those that include grades one to twelve. Schooling begins at age six. Since 1978 secondary education has been compulsory. In 1993-94 there were 2,317 primary and secondary schools, 108 secondary specialized institu-tions, and fifteen higher education institutions in the country. Separate schools exist with Russian or Polish as the language of instruction.
Lithuania's "flagship" institution of higher learning is Vilnius University. Others include Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, founded by the Lithuanian diaspora of the United States and based on the American model, and the new university in Klaipeda. Unlike the Soviet universities, Lithuanian universities are self-governing and have their autonomy guaranteed by law. The entire system of education is administered by the Ministry of Education and Culture.
Following Soviet practice, research and teaching functions in Lithuania are institutionally separated. Research is mainly conducted by the seventeen institutes of the Academy of Sciences. Altogether, in 1990 forty-six research institutes em-ployed 15,400 scientists. Research is relatively weak in the humanities and the social sciences. Probably the most internationally distinguished activity in these fields is the study of Baltic linguistics under the aegis of the center for such studies in Vilnius. Studies in probability theory by the faculty of Vilnius University are internationally known, and important advances have been made in semiconductor physics and chemistry, biochemistry and genetics, studies related to various aspects of environmental protection, and other fields of the natural sciences and technology. Distinguished advanced research has been carried out in the fields of medicine (especially in cardiovascular disease) and agriculture. Internationally, the best recognized Lithuanian contribution is in biotechnology.
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