In Lithuania, diversity in education is mainly manifested through schools with different educational approaches that are called non-traditional education schools. Their activity is regulated by the Concept of Non-Traditional Education, approved by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports in 2010.
The aim of non-traditional education in Lithuania is to provide opportunities to realise the right of both the parents and children to choose the type of education that corresponds to their values, worldviews and religions. The Concept of Non-Traditional Education statesthatestablishment of educational institutions based on alternative education structures increases the range of choice, expands the institutional diversity of Lithuanian education, promotes modernisation of the educational process and the emergence of alternative teaching methods, as well as reflects and reinforces the democracy of the Lithuanian education system.
According to the Concept of Non-Traditional Education, non-traditional education is the type of education implemented according to the formal (primary, basic and secondary), and (or) non-formal (pre-school, pre-primary and other non-formal) education curricula based on some unique pedagogical system (Maria Montessori, Waldorf, Shin’ichi Suzuki, etc.) or its separate elements. Non-traditional education is part of the education system that is consistent and equivalent to the traditional system of education and comprises formal (except for vocational training and higher education) and non-formal education of children. Non-traditional education is implemented in non-traditional schools and in traditional schools according to the curriculum of primary and (or) other non-formal education. Schools of non-traditional education may operate according to their own programmes, but the total number of subjects and the total number of hours allocated for each subject in forms 1-12 can only differ from those specified in the state general education plans by less than 25 per cent.
In 2022, a range of non-traditional education schools operated in Lithuania, for example: 1 school with special focus on ecology and environmental technologies, 4 schools with special focus on arts and humanistic culture, 3 schools based on the Ignatian pedagogical paradigm, 17 catholic schools, 1 school with a classical curriculum, 2 Montessori schools, 1 Suzuki school and 4 schools of Waldorf education. In these schools, the duration of organising the education process (days, weeks, or the entire school year) may differ from the duration of organising the education process in a traditional school. Alternative schools are free to choose teaching methods and strategies to help realise their goals of education. They can create a unique learning environment, develop and use specific teaching materials and school achievement assessment systems.
Four Lithuanian secondary schools of non-traditional education in the three largest cities focus their curriculum on the education of humanistic culture and artistic abilities. Their aim is to combine the general educational curriculum with the development of artistic competences and awareness of humanistic values, cultural heritage, and cultural diversity. In the curricula of traditional education schools, diversity is not a particular focus of education. Arts education curricula in traditional schools are more focused on creative self-expression, development of artistic skills, and understanding of works of art. Schoolchildren’s awareness of cultural and social diversity is mainly developed through subjects of history and citizenship that are compulsory in basic and secondary education.
In Lithuania, there are also schools of national minorities. The schools with national minorities’ language as the language of instruction operate in the areas inhabited by large national minorities’ populations. According to the data of the Education Management Information System, in 2021 there were 102 schools of general education in Lithuania with one or several national minority/foreign languages of instruction. Of those, 46 schools have Polish as the language of instruction, 27 schools have Russian language of instruction, and 29 schools have other languages of instruction. A total of 31502 children attended these schools, which is 9,6 % of the total number of Lithuanian schoolchildren.
National minorities’ schools can work in Lithuania also as Saturday or Sunday schools. Their concept is defined, and activity regulated by the Concept of the school of national minorities on Saturdays and Sundays. This form of education is used in areas where national minorities make up only a small group. According to the data of the Department of National Minorities, in 2020, 46 Saturday/Sunday schools of national minorities were working in Lithuania. 4 were established by Armenians, 3 by Belarusians, 1 by Estonians, 1 by Greeks, 1 by Karaits, 2 by Latvians, 14 by Poles, 1 by Romanians, 4 by Russians, 5 by Tatars, 4 by Ukrainians, 1 by Uzbeks, 4 by Germans, and 3 by Jews residing in Lithuania. These schools were attended by 900 children.