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January 30, 2007

Homeschooling in Lithuania

The Constitution of the Lithuanian Republic states that all children under the age of 17 have a right to free primary and secondary education. It also says that education is compulsory. The law defines the period of compulsory education as beginning at 7 years of age and ending after age 16.

There is no state religion in Lithuania, therefore the state education system is secular. The constitution also says that the family is the basis for society and the state.

The Law on Education guarantees the right for parents to freely choose an educational institution for their children. However, parents must comply with local school requirements in order to homeschool.

The Law of Education allows homeschooling (it is called “self-education” or “independent studies”) as long as the learners generally follow the state curriculum (“the learner must study in compulsory education programs until the age of 16”) and the children are examined by the local school once or twice per year.

Children wishing to be homeschooled must be listed with a local state or private school, must sign a contract (parents sign on behalf of the child until he or she is 14) with that school and apply for permission to be homeschooled.

Then it is up to the school authorities to establish and oversee the order. There is a so-called “order of independent studies” in which it is stated that “independent studies for a learner can be organized only by the school which has an educational program chosen by the learner.” Usually this order is applied to gifted children and only in some schools, so local schools are not always aware of the provision.

The Law of Education states: “Parents (foster parents, guardians) must send their children who have reached the age of 6-7 to school,” and “A learner has the right according to his abilities and needs, to study at school or independently and attain an education level and qualification that meets state standards, to study according to an individual program of studies, to study in a psychologically, emotionally and physically safe environment based on mutual respect, to have a learning workload and a workplace that conform to health (hygiene) requirements.”

Article 18 states this about self-education: “The purpose of self-education is to provide an individual with possibilities for continuous independent learning supported by the surrounding information space (libraries, media, Internet, museums, etc.) and life experience gained from other persons,” and, “A person’s competence acquired by way of self-education may be recognised as being a part of a formal education program or a qualification as prescribed by the government or its authorised institution.”

How many families homeschool in Lithuania? No one knows, but we’ve heard of growing interest in this area.

The Baltic Assembly resolution on family policy, enacted December 17, 2006, urges the parliaments and governments of the Baltic states to foster family-related spiritual values, so it is a good time to encourage the homeschool movement in Lithuania.