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22 August 2017
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Education research & development

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Future of Lithuanian education:
Innovation and creativity


Minister of Education and Science
Gintaras Steponavičius

By: Minister of Education and Science, Gintaras Steponavičius

Starting the new school year, our focus of attention remains the same – fostering innovation and creativity.

More freedom to schools

Last year our schools started to work according to new curriculum programmes based on promoting practical use of knowledge and developing skills of independent learning. Our aim is to create an educational basis enabling kids not only to gain knowledge, but also to know, how to use it in practice. New programmes allow schools and teachers to choose the learning content, to decide what and how to teach.

Lithuanian schools possess high level of academic excellence and the credit goes to hardworking teachers and pupils. They continually win medals at international Olympiads. A graduate of a Kaunas gymnasium became the best young scientist of the European Union in 2011.

Electronic backpacks for fifth-graders

The Ministry of Education and Science plans to provide around 100 schools with tablet computers, they will be used by up to 10 thousand fifth-graders. Last year only, three educational websites were created for 5 to 8-graders where pupils can learn natural sciences and Lithuanian language by playing and conducting virtual experiments. In addition to virtual laboratories, classrooms of gymnasiums and secondary schools were supplied with new teaching resources for art and technology classes and state of the art laboratory equipment for natural sciences.

Almost 80 percent of the schools in Lithuania have exchanged the regular paper grade books for electronic ones. During the last 4 years, there was an explosion of electronic grade books. In this area we are leaders not only among the countries of our region, but also in Europe.

Electronic grade books not only lighten workload for teachers. They can be accessed online by parents and house school records, including grades, assignments, progress, attendance, schedules, as well as teacher notes.

Better access to after school activities

Unfortunately, as a result of demographic crisis, less kids come to school every year and we are faced with the necessity to close some smaller schools. At the same time, new educational opportunities arise. This year in rural areas 36 multifunctional community centers will open the doors, among other functions they can serve as pre-, primary or basic schools.

It is very important to make our classrooms vibrant, to give our kids access not only to interactive learning, but also to educational after school activities. Starting this October, 4 municipalities will test-drive non-formal education vouchers. We expect the new finance model to allow better access to after school activities, the percentage of children involved is expected to rise from 20 to 50 percent.

Professional development opportunities for teachers

Professional training and retraining for teachers is another area where investments are crucial. During next couple of years, over 8 thousand teachers will be able to participate in different training activities. Special attention is being paid to starting teachers.

Teachers today face a great challenge to help children, growing up under constant information, data and technology siege, not to loose natural keenness to be creative, to generate and implement new ideas, to keep individual outlook.

Communication Department
Ministry of Education and Science
www.smm.lt
info@smm.lt

Category : Education research & development

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When Donna heard that her English teacher was going to give daily
quizzes on Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird, she panicked;

“I can’t take tests, my
mind just goes blank”

By: Dr. Boris Vytautas Bakunas, PhD

When Donna heard that her English teacher was going to give daily quizzes on Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird, she panicked. “I can’t take tests,” she blurted out. “My mind just goes blank.”

On test days, twelve-year-old Andrew could hear his heart pounding the moment he walked through the classroom door. As his muscles tensed and his stomach churned, he felt increasingly anxious and confused.

Worldwide, tens of millions of students at the elementary, secondary, and university levels suffer from debilitating test anxiety.  In fact, researchers have discovered that the longer students stay in school, the more likely they are to become test anxious. 

Educational psychologists Paul Eggen and Don Kauchak have defined test anxiety as “a relatively stable, unpleasant reaction to testing situations that lowers performance.”  In many instances, test anxiety can become so severe that it leads to academic failure, loss of self-esteem, and missed educational and career opportunities. 

Test anxiety is not just limited to students.  Many highly-accomplished, successful adults also dread taking tests.  When the editors of Esquire magazine invited some of New York’s leading cultural celebrities to a fancy Manhattan hotel to take the Scholastic Aptitude Tests as part of a feature article they were planning, only P. J. O’Rourke, at that time the editor of the satirical magazine the National Lampoon, agreed.  How did some of the others respond?

David Halberstam, American Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author, and historian recoiled in horror.  “That’s the cruelest idea I ever heard of since the Chinese water torture!”

Gail Sheehy, best-selling author of Passages and 15 other books, cried out, “Oh, Jesus!  Oh God!  I don’t think I can take this.”

The Two Faces of Test Anxiety

Psychologists now recognize two sides to test anxiety:  emotionality and worry.  Physically we experience emotionality in several ways, including muscular tension, rapid pulse, dry mouth, upset stomach, and even nausea. 

As distressing as these physical symptoms feel, they are relatively benign when compared to the real culprit in test anxiety – worry.

When test anxious students – and adults – fill their minds with thoughts about the consequences of failure and the embarrassment it would cause, they have little attention space in their working memories to devote to problem-solving. 

Working memory is that part of the mind that does verbal and nonverbal tasks such as reasoning and comprehension.  It has often been likened to a computer screen because it is where conscious information-processing occurs.  And just like the computer screen on your desk, it has a limited capacity.  The average adult can hold about seven (plus or minus two) unrelated bits of information in mind at any one time.  A second important limitation is that a person cannot perform two unrelated mental tasks simultaneously.  Just try to say the words of a song you know by heart out loud while adding a pair of two-digit numbers like 37 plus 45, and you will see how reciting the lyrics blocks your ability to solve the addition problem.

When people suffering from test anxiety fill their minds with task-irrelevant cognitions like “What if I fail?  I couldn’t bear it!” or “What makes me think that I’m smart enough to write a dissertation,” they overload their minds with distracting and useless information.  To extend the computer analogy, it’s as if they fill their minds with malware, and their minds operate in a slow, sluggish fashion, or even appear to shut down completely. 

Recognizing Test-Anxious Students

Sometimes test-anxious students are easy to spot.  Consider the experience of Robert, a chemistry teacher at a suburban high school in the United States, who had been assigned the job of monitoring ACT testing for students aspiring to gain admission to college. 

”An hour into the exam, one kid got sick to his stomach and ran to the bathroom to vomit.  Several others complained of very bad headaches.  One nearly fainted.”

Some of the signs of test anxiety are behavioral.  Whenever Matthew took a test, he charged into it like a racehorse.  When the rest of the class had barely finished writing their names on their papers, Matthew would be handing his in.  Asked if he studied, he muttered, “Yeah, sort of.”

Cynthia was just the opposite.  Give her a test, and you would have to pry it loose from her fingers.  A close look at one of her math tests showed that she utterly failed to budget her time.  The first few problems were done in great detail while the rest where skipped altogether.

Students like Matthew avoid study and test-taking situations, while those like Cynthia are immobilized with fear by them.  Several studies of test-anxious students have shown that as a group, they lack study and test-taking skills.  Because they display many of the behaviors of students who lack self-discipline, these test-anxious students are frequently overlooked.  In addition, some teachers simply refuse to admit that test anxiety is a real phenomenon, insisting that it is no more than an excuse for laziness.  Yet ask these teachers how they feel when their teaching is being evaluated by a school principal or department chair, and they readily admit to being extremely nervous.

What Teachers Can Do to Help

Before giving a test, make sure that your classroom is quiet, well-lit, and free of distractions.  Post a sign on your classroom door saying “Testing in Progress” and directing visitors to return later. 

Stock your classroom with extra pencils, pens, calculators, and other materials your students may need.  Teach your students an orderly procedure to follow in obtaining these items.

Allow time to review the day before and immediately prior to a test.  Quiz students on key terms, concepts, and applications.  Give them a chance to leaf through their texts and ask you questions they think might be on the test.  Also, provide pointers on how they can identify important content, e.g., italicized terms, chapter sub-headings, and tables and graphs.

Give practice tests.  Uncertainty is a breeding ground for anxiety.  Students who know what expect are much less likely to worry. 

During tests, give clear and precise instructions.  For example, if you require that students answer questions using complete sentences, tell them so explicitly and emphatically.  Write a sample complete-sentence response on the board next to one that is incomplete, and highlight the difference. 

Give untimed tests.  In one study, test anxious fifth and sixth graders made three times the number of computations errors when asked to solve simple arithmetic  problems than they did when time pressure was removed.  If a few students are still working when the class period ends, allow them to finish at a later prearranged date.

Use different kinds of assessment and a variety of test formats.  This will improve the accuracy of the semester grades you obtain from your students.  It will also give them a wide range of test-taking experiences.

After tests, avoid social comparisons and public displays of grades.  Use high-frequency errors to re-teach concepts, principles, or operations students have failed to master.  Analyze common mistakes with the class and show how they can be corrected.

Interview students who have done poorly.  Ask them how they prepared for the test and what they can do to improve their performance next time.  Some schools offer free tutoring for students who need extra help.


Teach study and test-taking skills as formal lesson plans.  You’ll be surprised at how many students, even at the university level, fail to engage such basic strategies as systematically reading directions or reading all potential responses on multiple choice tests before answering.  Among other skills, I recommend teaching students how make and use flashcards to learn important terms, how to highlight key sentences that convey main ideas as well as summary paragraphs.  Be sure to allow your students time to practice the study skills you have taught during class sessions so that you are there to verify that they actually study and can offer help when needed.  Pairing students with a study partner and allowing them to quiz each other the day before a test will make studying more enjoyable and effective.  Once students see from their own experience that studying improves their grades, you can gradually phase out the time you devote to studying in class.

Keep your eyes open for signs of test anxiety.  If a student appears frustrated or extremely tense, approach and offer assistance.  Many students want help, but are afraid to ask.  Be on the lookout for such warning sighs as rushing through tests, dawdling over a single difficult question, and complaining of stomachache, headache, or dizziness before a test.  

No matter what you do, there will still be students who need more assistance to manage test anxiety than you can give in a regular classroom.  Refer such students to their counselors or school psychologists for help.  Also, contact the parents and tell them that their children may be suffering from test anxiety.  Ask if the students are bringing textbooks home to study and check if they have a quiet place to study without interruption.  Also, caution parents to avoid placing too much pressure on their children. 

In many parts of the world, students and teachers are under enormous pressure to raise test scores.  Ironically, such pressure may actually lower the scores of anxiety-prone students.  By learning more about test anxiety yourself, and by creating a classroom climate in which the need to achieve does not subvert your primary goals – helping your students learn the content you teach and develop a positive attitude toward learning – you will help them develop learning and coping skills that they will help them for the rest of their lives.    


References:

Bakunas, B. (1993). Putting the lid on test anxiety. Learning, 22, 64-65.

Eggen, P. E. & Kauchak, D. (1977).  Educational Psychology:  Windows on Classrooms.  Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Prentice Hall. 

Hill, K. T. (1984).  Debilitating motivation and testing:  A major educational problem – possible solutions and policy applications:  In R. Ames & C Ames (Eds.) Research on Motivation in Education (pp. 245-274).  New York:  Academic Press.

Ottens, A.J. (1984).  Coping With Academic Anxiety. New York: Wilson.

Spielberger, C.D. & Vagg, P.R. (1995). Test anxiety: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment. Bristol, PA: Taylor & Francis.

Williams, Janice E. (1996). “Gender-Related Worry and Emotionality Test Anxiety for High-Achieving Students.” Psychology in the Schools; v33 n2 p159-62.

Zeidner, M. (1998).  Test anxiety:  The State of the Art.  New York:  Plenum. 

Dr, Boris Vytautas Bakunas is an educational psychologist and independent consultant specializing in individual and group performance improvement. His article “Helping Students Overcome Test Anxiety,” is based on a graduate, professional-development course he developed, which he teachers through St. Xavier University/International Renewal Institute.
Category : Education research & development

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Vilnius University during
“Soviet Times”


Excerpt from Tomas Venclova’s book “Vilnius a Personal History”.

I entered the University shortly after Stalin’s death. I was sixteen years old, one of the youngest students there. Times had somewhat improved―become more “vegetarian,” to quote Anna Akhmatova. The war against the anti-Communist Lithuanian and Polish partisans was coming to an end, most of them having been killed. The deportations had stopped, and people―though not all, by far―were coming back from Siberia and the prisons. Yet grim Soviet conditions still prevailed.

Polish professors from the prewar era had been ousted―“repatriated” was the official term―and there were scarcely any Lithuanian professors left. Some ended up in America, others in concentration camps or six feet under, and still others were simply not permitted to teach. In the best of cases, they were replaced by high school teachers (most of them very intimidated); in somewhat worse cases, by young careerists; and in the worst of all cases, by individuals who had sent dozens of people into slave labor. Among this third group were many recent arrivals from Russia, who were more successful than the locals in adapting to the system since they knew it better. Lithuanian continued to be the language of instruction. The local Communists thought this was to their great credit, but those in power probably weren’t especially interested in which language was used―what was more important to them was what was said. Marxism (oh, if only it had really been Marxism!) and military training took up almost all the students’ time. At least half of the university library could not be accessed without special permission, something that was practically impossible to get.

Only the University buildings resisted the new times. They were dilapidated and full of garbage. The sewer system didn’t work, and paint and plaster were crumbling off the walls―but the huge labyrinth of inner courtyards, perhaps the most important feature of the Old City, remained. You could wander through this labyrinth for hours. Students joked that there were places where no man had ever set foot. And indeed there were some courtyards we could only see through the auditorium windows; it was a total puzzle how one could gain access to them. All the courtyards had been renamed, since the pre-war names recalled professors of the Jesuit era who, to say the least, seemed suspect to the Soviet authorities. (The Lithuanian nationalists didn’t like the Jesuits much either: although they may not have been Poles, they were cosmopolites.) But sooner or later, the old names turned up again, almost of their own accord. The most archaic courtyard and the one I knew best had a dry fountain with the trunk of a birch tree hanging over it. The southern wing of the courtyard, which had hardly changed since the days of the founding of the University, was supported by massive Gothic pillars. Other, more slender columns decorated an adjoining building; they lent the courtyard color, even cheerfulness, for the upper part was entirely clad in red brick. It was called the Courtyard of Philology, but we all knew that its real patron saint was Sarbievius, the seventeenth-century poet.

Poczobutt Courtyard, on the other hand, dated from a later era. It had an aura of mystery, its arcades usually fading into the dusky light. But the filigree pattern of shadows cast by bare tree branches fell on rough, sun-bathed, cylindrical little towers decorated with bas-reliefs of the signs of the zodiac. On the wall between the towers it was possible to make out Latin inscriptions. I memorized one of them, the hexameter verse, Addidit antiquo nova lumina coelo. Telescopes from the eighteenth century were preserved in the towers’ round rooms. This is where the Jesuit Martin Poczobutt built his observatory, and through these telescopes he observed Mercury, the comets, and the first asteroids. Once, according to his contemporaries, when he was trying to establish the precise orbit of the newly-discovered planet Uranus, he was so exhausted after several sleepless nights that he suffered a hemorrhage and thought he would die. He created a new constellation on the cosmological charts called “Poniatowski’s Bull” (Taurus Poniatovii) in honor of the last Polish-Lithuanian King. Poczobutt proudly carved it into the bas-relief among the other signs of the zodiac. From this courtyard, it is possible to go through a low archway and arrive at the largest and most beautiful courtyard, named in honor of Piotr Skarga, the University’s first rector. In contrast to Poczobutt Courtyard, which calls to mind a semi-dark, idyllic room, the Skarga Courtyard opens up like a wide Italian plaza surrounded on three sides by ochre elliptical arches, and bordered on the fourth by a remarkable façade shaped like an organ, with a massive, square bell tower rising to the right. It looks very southern, even when I’ve seen it during a blizzard. Some compare the plaza to San Marco in Venice.

The façade next to the bell tower is perhaps the consummate work of the architect Johann Christoph Glaubitz. Glaubitz blended it with the very large, old Gothic Church of St. John’s, built by Jogaila. The first school in Vilnius―and in all of Lithuania―was affiliated with it. The University was also established on this spot, which is so rich in tradition. Glaubitz’s façade is late Baroque and truly monumental, yet it seems to vanish into the air. Its colonade consists exclusively of arches and curves; groups of columns tied together by niches, volutes, curved cornices, and metal ornamentation spread out like a web. Silhouetted against the sky with curving, non-Euclidian arcs, the multi-story building becomes smaller toward the top, and its reliefs lighter. Neither solidity nor substantiality remains: architecture renounces itself here and enters the spheres of music and poetry. The kaleidoscopic composition of the ten altars inside the church is in the same style. Originally, there were twenty-two altars, but the most were destroyed in the first half of the nineteenth century; the sculptures and statues were reduced to rubble and carried off in three thousand wagons.

A second misfortune overtook the church after the Second World War. As a student, I couldn’t imagine―even in my wildest dreams―that I would be permitted to enter into the same space where theological issues had once been debated, and where later Mickiewicz and Daukantas attended Mass. With its windows smashed, its interior deserted, the church had been turned into a storeroom for paper―not for vodka, as was the case with St. Casimir’s. Later, the paper probably disappeared too. There was a rumor that some Soviet film outfit was using the church to make a war film, and several dozen live artillery shells were fired off inside the church. It wasn’t until the University’s anniversary that money was found for renovations. The church has only recently once again served as a place of worship.

It was these buildings that kept us from forgetting the very idea of civilization. I am describing only what first strikes one in the Latin quarter of Vilnius. There were countless other mysterious, remote corners: little interior courtyards with upper storeys and pilasters; statues atop old stairways; illegible inscriptions on cracked bas relief, where above windows one could make out medieval symbols. There were chambers preserved from the time of the Jesuits; on one ceiling there was a peaceful Madonna next to portraits of Democritus and Epicurus; Copernicus’s book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium was resplendently displayed in a vitrine―a copy that had allegedly been presented to the author on his deathbed. The ceiling arches of the auditoriums, the clumsy wooden benches on which generations of students left their marks with pens or pocket knives, were much more human than the lectures about the history of the Communist Party or seminars dealing with the history of Soviet literature.

Category : Education research & development

Vilnius University during “Soviet Times”

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Excerpt from Tomas Venclova’s book “Vilnius a Personal History”.

I entered the University shortly after Stalin’s death. I was sixteen years old, one of the youngest students there. Times had somewhat improved―become more “vegetarian,” to quote Anna Akhmatova. The war against the anti-Communist Lithuanian and Polish partisans was coming to an end, most of them having been killed. The deportations had stopped, and people―though not all, by far―were coming back from Siberia and the prisons. Yet grim Soviet conditions still prevailed. Polish professors from the prewar era had been ousted―“repatriated” was the official term―and there were scarcely any Lithuanian professors left. Some ended up in America, others in concentration camps or six feet under, and still others were simply not permitted to teach. In the best of cases, they were replaced by high school teachers (most of them very intimidated); in somewhat worse cases, by young careerists; and in the worst of all cases, by individuals who had sent dozens of people into slave labor. Among this third group were many recent arrivals from Russia, who were more successful than the locals in adapting to the system since they knew it better. Lithuanian continued to be the language of instruction. The local Communists thought this was to their great credit, but those in power probably weren’t especially interested in which language was used―what was more important to them was what was said. Marxism (oh, if only it had really been Marxism!) and military training took up almost all the students’ time. At least half of the university library could not be accessed without special permission, something that was practically impossible to get.

Only the University buildings resisted the new times. They were dilapidated and full of garbage. The sewer system didn’t work, and paint and plaster were crumbling off the walls―but the huge labyrinth of inner courtyards, perhaps the most important feature of the Old City, remained. You could wander through this labyrinth for hours. Students joked that there were places where no man had ever set foot. And indeed there were some courtyards we could only see through the auditorium windows; it was a total puzzle how one could gain access to them. All the courtyards had been renamed, since the pre-war names recalled professors of the Jesuit era who, to say the least, seemed suspect to the Soviet authorities. (The Lithuanian nationalists didn’t like the Jesuits much either: although they may not have been Poles, they were cosmopolites.) But sooner or later, the old names turned up again, almost of their own accord. The most archaic courtyard and the one I knew best had a dry fountain with the trunk of a birch tree hanging over it. The southern wing of the courtyard, which had hardly changed since the days of the founding of the University, was supported by massive Gothic pillars. Other, more slender columns decorated an adjoining building; they lent the courtyard color, even cheerfulness, for the upper part was entirely clad in red brick. It was called the Courtyard of Philology, but we all knew that its real patron saint was Sarbievius, the seventeenth-century poet.

Poczobutt Courtyard, on the other hand, dated from a later era. It had an aura of mystery, its arcades usually fading into the dusky light. But the filigree pattern of shadows cast by bare tree branches fell on rough, sun-bathed, cylindrical little towers decorated with bas-reliefs of the signs of the zodiac. On the wall between the towers it was possible to make out Latin inscriptions. I memorized one of them, the hexameter verse, Addidit antiquo nova lumina coelo. Telescopes from the eighteenth century were preserved in the towers’ round rooms. This is where the Jesuit Martin Poczobutt built his observatory, and through these telescopes he observed Mercury, the comets, and the first asteroids. Once, according to his contemporaries, when he was trying to establish the precise orbit of the newly-discovered planet Uranus, he was so exhausted after several sleepless nights that he suffered a hemorrhage and thought he would die. He created a new constellation on the cosmological charts called “Poniatowski’s Bull” (Taurus Poniatovii) in honor of the last Polish-Lithuanian King. Poczobutt proudly carved it into the bas-relief among the other signs of the zodiac. From this courtyard, it is possible to go through a low archway and arrive at the largest and most beautiful courtyard, named in honor of Piotr Skarga, the University’s first rector. In contrast to Poczobutt Courtyard, which calls to mind a semi-dark, idyllic room, the Skarga Courtyard opens up like a wide Italian plaza surrounded on three sides by ochre elliptical arches, and bordered on the fourth by a remarkable façade shaped like an organ, with a massive, square bell tower rising to the right. It looks very southern, even when I’ve seen it during a blizzard. Some compare the plaza to San Marco in Venice.

The façade next to the bell tower is perhaps the consummate work of the architect Johann Christoph Glaubitz. Glaubitz blended it with the very large, old Gothic Church of St. John’s, built by Jogaila. The first school in Vilnius―and in all of Lithuania―was affiliated with it. The University was also established on this spot, which is so rich in tradition. Glaubitz’s façade is late Baroque and truly monumental, yet it seems to vanish into the air. Its colonade consists exclusively of arches and curves; groups of columns tied together by niches, volutes, curved cornices, and metal ornamentation spread out like a web. Silhouetted against the sky with curving, non-Euclidian arcs, the multi-story building becomes smaller toward the top, and its reliefs lighter. Neither solidity nor substantiality remains: architecture renounces itself here and enters the spheres of music and poetry. The kaleidoscopic composition of the ten altars inside the church is in the same style. Originally, there were twenty-two altars, but the most were destroyed in the first half of the nineteenth century; the sculptures and statues were reduced to rubble and carried off in three thousand wagons.

A second misfortune overtook the church after the Second World War. As a student, I couldn’t imagine―even in my wildest dreams―that I would be permitted to enter into the same space where theological issues had once been debated, and where later Mickiewicz and Daukantas attended Mass. With its windows smashed, its interior deserted, the church had been turned into a storeroom for paper―not for vodka, as was the case with St. Casimir’s. Later, the paper probably disappeared too. There was a rumor that some Soviet film outfit was using the church to make a war film, and several dozen live artillery shells were fired off inside the church. It wasn’t until the University’s anniversary that money was found for renovations. The church has only recently once again served as a place of worship.

It was these buildings that kept us from forgetting the very idea of civilization. I am describing only what first strikes one in the Latin quarter of Vilnius. There were countless other mysterious, remote corners: little interior courtyards with upper storeys and pilasters; statues atop old stairways; illegible inscriptions on cracked bas relief, where above windows one could make out medieval symbols. There were chambers preserved from the time of the Jesuits; on one ceiling there was a peaceful Madonna next to portraits of Democritus and Epicurus; Copernicus’s book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium was resplendently displayed in a vitrine―a copy that had allegedly been presented to the author on his deathbed. The ceiling arches of the auditoriums, the clumsy wooden benches on which generations of students left their marks with pens or pocket knives, were much more human than the lectures about the history of the Communist Party or seminars dealing with the history of Soviet literature.

Category : Education research & development

Vilnius University since 1579

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Since its establishment in the 16th century, Vilnius University, as integral part of European science and culture has embodied the concept of a classical university and the unity of studies and research.

Vilnius University is an active participant in international scientific and academic activities and boasts many prominent scientists, professors and graduates. Scientific development and the expanding relations with global research centres have contributed to the variety of research and studies at Vilnius University.

We invite you for a walk around the University.

1. Grand Courtyard

2. Observatory Courtyard

3. Library Courtyard

4. M. K. Sarbievijus Courtyard

5. M. Daukša Courtyard

6. S. Daukantas Courtyard

7. Arcade Courtyard

8. L. Gucevičius Courtyard

9. A. Mickevičius Courtyard

10. S. Stanevičius Courtyard

11. K. Sirvydas Courtyard

12. Printing House Courtyard

13. Bursų (Hostel) Courtyard

A. Astronomical Observatory

B. St. Jonh’s Church

C. Library

D. Faculty of Philology

E. Faculty of History

F. University bookshop “Littera”

G. Centre of Orientalistics  H. Faculty of Philosophy

R. Rector’s Office

S. Reading Room

I. Aula Rectoris – Rector’s hall

II. Aula Parva – the Small hall

III. P. Smuglevičius hall

IV. The Theatre hall

Read more...
Category : Education research & development

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“I’d like 6 kilograms of
innovation, please”

Ojasaar Yrjö, representative of Solon partners Ltd., Estonia,
at this year’s Baltic Dynamics Conference.


Ojasaar Yrjö

Text: Evelina Kutkaitytė

Last month the annual Baltic Dynamics conference invited innovation supporters from around the Baltic Sea to Tallinn, Estonia.

Estonia’s president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, opened the conference emphasising the importance of Baltic cooperation. “The Baltic States make huge impact to EU economy as well as help withstanding the business competition with the bigs like China”, said the Estonian president, who also is the initiator of EU’s Baltic Sea strategy.

According to the president, the findings of Baltic Dynamics conference should be presented to the Baltic governments. The bureaucracy level in Estonia makes it almost 3 years to get business support from the state thus the companies prefer working on their own. Similar conditions are observed in Latvia and Lithuania.

Despite all independent efforts to survive in the market, today‘s businesses show lack of knowledge and creativity. Why Apple was so successful? Because it combined technology and design. In our universities technology, design and arts are still taught separately. If we observe and compare people involved in innovation support and creative industries, we will notice their language and understanding of environment are quite different. The first ones talk about clusters and valleys, and the others – about garages and camps.

At the conference, six creative Baltic incubators were presented.
Tallinn creative incubator is one of three incubators of in Estonia, with 47% of the country’s creative enterprises as participants. Standing out for its orientation to business rather than to traditional industries, the Tallinn creative incubator was awarded as the second best creative incubator in the world last year.

Riga creative industry incubator is the only creative incubator in Latvia, established in 2010. The aim of the incubator is to be a one-stop-shop providing all creative services in one place. Riga creative industry incubator is responsible for distributing 2 million Euros for start-up companies and providing business support for at least 100 companies in 5 years.

The role of creative business incubators in the regeneration of city regions was presented with a quote of the famous sculptor Constantin Brancusi – “to see far is one thing, to go there – another”.

Liverpool stopped being sorry for itself
Basecap3TM is an award-winning business community in Liverpool (UK) supporting creative industries. It provides a modern environment where new start-ups and early stage development companies can access quality business support, engage with likeminded entrepreneurs and improve their chances of starting and maintaining a business. “The incubator made the city alive and Liverpool stopped being sorry for itself” claimed the presenter Roy Jones. “Creative industries are full of SMEs which are the key of all economies” – added R. Jones reasoning why helping creative SMEs is necessary for the economy.

2800% growth
Arabus business incubator at Aalto start-up centre (Finland) aims at promoting entrepreneurship in the field of creative sector and industries. Their success stories include companies demonstrating growth of 2800% like Footbalance and Futurice as well as Microsoft award winners GWEB and Sopima.

In the USA an average 11% of industries grow on venture capital, 25% of GDP and 80% of jobs are created by companies with venture capital investments. When Angry Birds, a video game developed by a Finish company, got so successful, many more investors came to Finland to check whether there was something more happening.

The problem is you cannot order innovation and success in advance
“I’d like 6 kilograms of innovation, please” – laughs Ojasaar Yrjö, representative of Solon partners Ltd. In Estonia. On the way to innovations there is always a valley of death – a period of time when companies and business starters need support and few are interested in investing. In many countries state comes to help at this stage of business development. Springboard in Finland offers 9 thousand Euros per investor you succeed to attract with your idea. Estonian development fund runs a virtual incubator Seedbooster, and Baltic Innovation Agency offers trainings to entrepreneurs on how to present your idea to a potential investor.

A venture garage
Aalto University (Finland) is running the Aalto Centre for Entrepreneurship WITH the aim of “creating engines” for new and existing companies. Collaborating with Stanford University (USA) and other partners they recently opened a Venture Garage – a co-working space for Baltic and Nordic entrepreneurs. With annual budget of 400 million Euros Aalto University employs 15 people to work with young entrepreneurs, 9 of which are exclusively involved in technology transfer. In 2010/11 there were fifteen companies established on the basis of Aalto originating ideas. Aalto University believes that entrepreneurs should be seen as heroes thus awareness building is one of the main tasks within entrepreneurship programs.

Business leading innovations are never concrete in the beginning. The good news is that there are milestones indicating if it’s worth investing more. Technology transfer process in Aalto University involves evaluation of ideas looking for anything “sunny” that might work rather than anything “cloudy” proving the idea will fail. The bright sides of ideas are sought either in business potential, feasibility to manufacture or intellectual property rights.

University roles
Professor Pasi Malinen (Finland) demonstrated his models for developing 3rd generation universities. He, like most of the speakers, marked the need of change in management and communication. “Nowadays universities try to become more innovative by creating special departments, leaving everybody else to do their old, regular work. But everyone should be involved,” said the professor.

The urge for collaboration was also expressed among Swedish start-ups. In one case, a student’s initiative resulted in the establishing of a business incubator which later evolved into a local science park:

“Young entrepreneurs at that time didn’t ask for an incubator – they simply wanted an environment for collaboration, and today Jönköping Science Park (Sweden) is offering a unique meeting place for entrepreneurs. The physical environment has no walls. Combining ideas is what makes them happen”, said managing director Therese Sjölundh. Differently from other similar institutions Jönköping Science Park has both pre-incubation and post-incubation programmes. Also, this science park focuses on business excellence rather than technology excellence. 14 employees are working mainly as business developers, evaluating about 300 business ideas per year, helping 100 of them to start, and hosting 15 companies in business incubator. Sjölundh noted that no linear development will ever lead companies to success. Thus the aim of business incubators and science parks is to help companies finding their own business model for growth.

Lithuania is losing to Estonia
According to the competitiveness index, Lithuania is in the middle of the three Baltic States, losing its former leading position to Estonia. KTU Regional Science Park (Lithuania) shared statistics proving financial benefits of innovation and business support for the State. In Lithuania there were nearly 60 Million EUR invested into infrastructure of incubators and science parks so far meanwhile companies that grow with their help pay over 6 Million EUR taxes each year.

The next Baltic Dynamics conference will take place in Lithuania, 13 – 15 of September, 2012. We kindly invite to you to join the next event of sharing ideas and best practices on business support in the Baltic’s.

Category : Education research & development

We do not have long to get a school system right

- Posted by - (2) Comment

Text: Mervyn Bedford

Mervyn Bedford at one of the many Oxford landmarks of higher education.

Because I know Aage Myhre and his wife and very much respect what he is trying to do for Lithuania, I offered to write of educational values for the new version of VilNews. The Baltic nations have a perfect opportunity to change the map of educational provision in ways that better fit the rapidly changing world of the 21st. century. Education is not about buildings. It is not about systems and organisations. It is not about tests and inspections. It is about people and the relationships between those who want to learn, or need to learn, and those who already know it. For almost 150 years State school systems have imposed a model of teaching and learning that has hardly changed while society has fundamentally changed and, recently, very rapidly. Those changes are racing unseen towards our youngest children.

At a conference in Norway in 2009, reported in the respected UK magazine “New Scientist,” experts discussed how soon human beings will need to be wired to the super computers rapidly arriving in the work place. Earliest suggested date was 2045. At MIT in the US by 2029 they will have computers able to replicate human thought and decision by copying the chemical and electrical patterns in the human brain. Two Oxford University teachers have argued in print about whether it is right to allow students drugs to enhance their brain performance. Drugs to provide specific hours of sleep and brain implants that help deaf children to hear and paralysed limbs to move already exist. Job requirements in a very few years time and the character of society will change dramatically. We do not have long to get a school system right.

 

1 An Ideal School System

The Early Brain

School systems have been rooted in teaching mainly facts which pupils and students have only to remember and write down on test papers. Testing systems of all kinds, including the university sector, are seriously flawed. Research shows that at best they test speed if handwriting and memory. These are not the most desirable qualifications for employment. Business people in England and some academics openly complain that despite escalating results at 18+ we are still not producing enough people who can think for themselves. That is why future human beings, including my four young grandchildren, may have to be electronically plugged into the machines.

Modern scanning reveals that the human brain, even before birth, is imprinted for learning. The two senses- touch and hearing- are alive and working from the first day. "Feed them now" nature is crying, but how little we do to work them effectively. A baby's early experience is a total lottery. There is abundant evidence that the brain has enormous reserve power that even the Einsteins and Hawkings do not tap. School systems threaten the human brain with redundancy.

Early encouragement of free, natural learning experience in babies is now essential. The priority for national investment must now be early education. The obvious risks can be managed effectively. We have to build raw brain power in those early years, up to three and four, when the brain is plastic enough to believe anything is possible. That is the power needed to stay ahead of the machines. What we have built by around 4 and 5 will continue to mature and learn but we cannot much increase its raw power. If we do what is right for our youngest children we shall solve all the problems most countries observe with later education, including many costly efforts to repair the dame of educational failure.

Parent-Teacher Partnership

Research clearly shows the power for young children’s learning when teachers and parents are on the same wavelength. This is best found in smaller schools. Across the UK and elsewhere standards in small schools are at the top of national performance despite all the alleged “problems” argued for closing them. No educational evidence is ever offered to support closures. They are said to be too expensive but this is a badly flawed argument. When total education spending is calculated small schools generally cost less. It is not fair only to calculate their pupil unit costs. Small schools serve mainly rural areas and bring rural community benefit, but our urban children and their communities urgently need the same benefits. The “big is better and by the way cheaper” myth has never been right. Long-term, small-scale education delivers profit on its costs. Academic achievements are more widely achieved and are more enduring. This brings better qualifications and jobs and eventually higher tax revenues for the State while the healthy partnership between home and school reduces the heavy costs of later educational failure.  A wise government will invest in small-scale provision and partnership between teachers and parents.

Effective Teaching and Learning

Research has consistently shown that up to 50% of all outcomes still reflect home background- for better or worse. The other 50% is quality of teaching. This will also reflect quality of headteachers and school leadership.

There is much profoundly valid research showing basic factors which, if present in lessons, make them effective.  This important professional research never reaches classrooms while the government systems shaping what schools do and what universities demand distract their interest. The desired models, however, require the opposite of what most school systems offer..….not least the way time is used.  I worry about under-privileged and disadvantaged children, an often failing cadre of disaffected pupils, but I worry more for those who think they have succeeded. A wise government will invest heavily in giving teachers the tools they need to do the job. Teaching is not  mysterious but it is more complex than even many professionals believe.

For example the most effective learning comes when teachers in their planning exploit what their pupils already know and can do. As a result they often ask them to make important decisions about their work and take responsibility for much of it. Real-world experience like discussion and co-operation play their part. Teaching becomes a sensitive matter of fine-tuning the whole programme, leading when required and at other times supporting the learning. Teachers must always show they are in charge and know the goals. They need to demonstrate they not only have the tools but know how and when and where to use them. Successful schools have leaders who inspire such professional insight and vision and lead the practice by their own example. Their schools are places where flexibility and spontaneity feature significantly in everyday organisation.

Effective Accountability

The observation model I developed in Sweden is similar to the one recently adopted in New Zealand to replace tests and inspections.  If we inform teachers better and help them to inform each other by observing in classrooms, where the real action is, we shall change and improve practice in some cases overnight. Observation is such a revelatory practice. Its truths often have meaning for more than the teachers, but for the school and even the State. To invest in such a system needs only an independent, external validation system- checking that schools use it, and are learning from it. It will be much cheaper than tests and inspections.

If Lithuania adopted these principles and priorities it will achieve the paradigm shift in educational practice the 21st. century urgently requires. Heavy, top-down, bureaucratic and expensive procedures will be minimised. In England we are wasting billions of pounds on smart new buildings despite two major pieces of respected academic research showing that long-term the quality of school and college buildings impacts little on performance. We want clean schools, in good repair, with adequate working space, ventilation and sound-proofing. We do not need architectural palaces. No-one can tell me exactly what education will look in even ten years time, let alone 2099.  It will be very much at a button and the two resources our children will still most need will be good parents and good teachers. Those are the targets for investment. Let Lithuania lead the world.

 

Mervyn Bedford

Mervyn Benford is a former teacher, head teacher, local authority inspector and adviser who later worked for eight years  as a national school inspector in England and Wales. The school he led won recognition under the 1986 Royal Society of Arts “Education for Capability” award. He has throughout his career contributed media articles and interviews on education and more recently worked on and off in Sweden for 14 years training teachers to observe lessons and give friendly but constructive feedback as a better method of accountability than testing and inspection. He observed over 2600 lessons in Sweden across the age group from 1 to 20. He works voluntarily for an organisation designed to promote the virtues of smaller schools. He has a deep interest in the independent Baltic States and in 2009 talked at an international seminar in Riga on school quality issues. In England, as a member of the National Education Trust, he is regarded as one of its “Leading Thinkers

Category : Education research & development

OPINIONS

Have your say. Send to:
editor@VilNews.com


By Dr. Boris Vytautas Bakunas,
Ph. D., Chicago

A wave of unity sweeps the international Lithuanian community on March 11th every year as Lithuanians celebrated the anniversary of the Lithuanian Parliament's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. However, the sense of national unity engendered by the celebration could be short-lived.

Human beings have a strong tendency to overgeneralize and succumb to stereotypical us-them distinctions that can shatter even the strongest bonds. We need only search the internet to find examples of divisive thinking at work:

- "50 years of Soviet rule has ruined an entire generation of Lithuanian.

- "Those who fled Lithuania during World II were cowards -- and now they come back, flaunt their wealth, and tell us 'true Lithuanians' how to live."

- "Lithuanians who work abroad have abandoned their homeland and should be deprived of their Lithuanian citizenship."

Could such stereotypical, emotionally-charged accusations be one of the main reasons why relations between Lithuania's diaspora groups and their countrymen back home have become strained?

Read more...
* * *


Text: Saulene Valskyte

In Lithuania Christmas Eve is a family event and the New Year's Eve a great party with friends!
Lithuanian say "Kaip sutiksi naujus metus, taip juos ir praleisi" (the way you'll meet the new year is the way you will spend it). So everyone is trying to spend New Year's Eve with friend and have as much fun as possible.

Lithuanian New Year's traditions are very similar to those in other countries, and actually were similar since many years ago. Also, the traditional Lithuanian New Years Eve party was very similar to other big celebrations throughout the year.

The New Year's Eve table is quite similar to the Christmas Eve table, but without straws under the tablecloth, and now including meat dishes. A tradition that definitely hasn't changes is that everybody is trying not to fell asleep before midnight. It was said that if you oversleep the midnight point you will be lazy all the upcoming year. People were also trying to get up early on the first day of the new year, because waking up late also meant a very lazy and unfortunate year.

During the New Year celebration people were dancing, singing, playing games and doing magic to guess the future. People didn't drink much of alcohol, especially was that the case for women.

Here are some advices from elders:
- During the New Year, be very nice and listen to relatives - what you are during New Year Eve, you will be throughout the year.

- During to the New Year Eve, try not to fall, because if this happens, next year you will be unhappy.

- If in the start of the New Year, the first news are good - then the year will be successful. If not - the year will be problematic.

New year predictions
* If during New Year eve it's snowing - then it will be bad weather all year round. If the day is fine - one can expect good harvest.
* If New Year's night is cold and starry - look forward to a good summer!
* If the during New Year Eve trees are covered with frost - then it will be a good year. If it is wet weather on New Year's Eve, one can expect a year where many will die and dangerous epidemics occur.
* If the first day of the new year is snowy - the upcoming year will see many young people die. If the night is snowy - mostly old people will die.
* If the New Year time is cold - then Easter will be warm.
* If during New Year there are a lot of birds in your homestead - then all year around there will be many guests and the year will be fun.

Read more...
* * *

* * *
VilNews
Christmas greetings
from Vilnius


* * *
Ukraine won the historic
and epic battle for the
future
By Leonidas Donskis
Kaunas
Philosopher, political theorist, historian of
ideas, social analyst, and political
commentator

Immediately after Russia stepped in Syria, we understood that it is time to sum up the convoluted and long story about Ukraine and the EU - a story of pride and prejudice which has a chance to become a story of a new vision regained after self-inflicted blindness.

Ukraine was and continues to be perceived by the EU political class as a sort of grey zone with its immense potential and possibilities for the future, yet deeply embedded and trapped in No Man's Land with all of its troubled past, post-Soviet traumas, ambiguities, insecurities, corruption, social divisions, and despair. Why worry for what has yet to emerge as a new actor of world history in terms of nation-building, European identity, and deeper commitments to transparency and free market economy?

Right? Wrong. No matter how troubled Ukraine's economic and political reality could be, the country has already passed the point of no return. Even if Vladimir Putin retains his leverage of power to blackmail Ukraine and the West in terms of Ukraine's zero chances to accede to NATO due to the problems of territorial integrity, occupation and annexation of Crimea, and mayhem or a frozen conflict in the Donbas region, Ukraine will never return to Russia's zone of influence. It could be deprived of the chances to join NATO or the EU in the coming years or decades, yet there are no forces on earth to make present Ukraine part of the Eurasia project fostered by Putin.

Read more...
* * *
Watch this video if you
want to learn about the
new, scary propaganda
war between Russia,
The West and the
Baltic States!


* * *
90% of all Lithuanians
believe their government
is corrupt
Lithuania is perceived to be the country with the most widespread government corruption, according to an international survey involving almost 40 countries.

Read more...
* * *
Lithuanian medical
students say no to
bribes for doctors

On International Anticorruption Day, the Special Investigation Service shifted their attention to medical institutions, where citizens encounter bribery most often. Doctors blame citizens for giving bribes while patients complain that, without bribes, they won't receive proper medical attention. Campaigners against corruption say that bribery would disappear if medical institutions themselves were to take resolute actions against corruption and made an effort to take care of their patients.

Read more...
* * *
Doing business in Lithuania

By Grant Arthur Gochin
California - USA

Lithuania emerged from the yoke of the Soviet Union a mere 25 years ago. Since then, Lithuania has attempted to model upon other European nations, joining NATO, Schengen, and the EU. But, has the Soviet Union left Lithuania?

During Soviet times, government was administered for the people in control, not for the local population, court decisions were decreed, they were not the administration of justice, and academia was the domain of ideologues. 25 years of freedom and openness should have put those bad experiences behind Lithuania, but that is not so.

Today, it is a matter of expectation that court pronouncements will be governed by ideological dictates. Few, if any Lithuanians expect real justice to be effected. For foreign companies, doing business in Lithuania is almost impossible in a situation where business people do not expect rule of law, so, surely Government would be a refuge of competence?

Lithuanian Government has not emerged from Soviet styles. In an attempt to devolve power, Lithuania has created a myriad of fiefdoms of power, each speaking in the name of the Government, each its own centralized power base of ideology.

Read more...
* * *
Greetings from Wales!
By Anita Šovaitė-Woronycz
Chepstow, Wales

Think of a nation in northern Europe whose population is around the 3 million mark a land of song, of rivers, lakes, forests, rolling green hills, beautiful coastline a land where mushrooms grow ready for the picking, a land with a passion for preserving its ancient language and culture.

Doesn't that sound suspiciously like Lithuania? Ah, but I didn't mention the mountains of Snowdonia, which would give the game away.

I'm talking about Wales, that part of the UK which Lithuanians used to call "Valija", but later named "Velsas" (why?). Wales, the nation which has welcomed two Lithuanian heads of state to its shores - firstly Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, who has paid several visits and, more recently, President Dalia Grybauskaitė who attended the 2014 NATO summit which was held in Newport, South Wales.
MADE IN WALES -
ENGLISH VERSION OF THE
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF
VYTAUTAS LANDSBERGIS.

Read more...
* * *
IS IT POSSIBLE TO
COMMENT ON OUR
ARTICLES? :-)
Read Cassandra's article HERE

Read Rugile's article HERE

Did you know there is a comment field right after every article we publish? If you read the two above posts, you will see that they both have received many comments. Also YOU are welcome with your comments. To all our articles!
* * *

Greetings from Toronto
By Antanas Sileika,
Toronto, Canada

Toronto was a major postwar settlement centre for Lithuanian Displaced Persons, and to this day there are two Catholic parishes and one Lutheran one, as well as a Lithuanian House, retirement home, and nursing home. A new wave of immigrants has showed interest in sports.

Although Lithuanian activities have thinned over the decades as that postwar generation died out, the Lithuanian Martyrs' parish hall is crowded with many, many hundreds of visitors who come to the Lithuanian cemetery for All Souls' Day. Similarly, the Franciscan parish has standing room only for Christmas Eve mass.

Although I am firmly embedded in the literary culture of Canada, my themes are usually Lithuanian, and I'll be in Kaunas and Vilnius in mid-November 2015 to give talks about the Lithuanian translations of my novels and short stories, which I write in English.

If you have the Lithuanian language, come by to one of the talks listed in the links below. And if you don't, you can read more about my work at
www.anatanassileika.com

http://www.vdu.lt/lt/rasytojas-antanas-sileika-pristatys-savo-kuryba/
https://leu.lt/lt/lf/lf_naujienos/kvieciame-i-rasytojo-59hc.html
* * *

As long as VilNews exists,
there is hope for the future
Professor Irena Veisaite, Chairwoman of our Honorary Council, asked us to convey her heartfelt greetings to the other Council Members and to all readers of VilNews.

"My love and best wishes to all. As long as VilNews exists, there is hope for the future,"" she writes.

Irena Veisaite means very much for our publication, and we do hereby thank her for the support and wise commitment she always shows.

You can read our interview with her
HERE.
* * *
EU-Russia:
Facing a new reality

By Vygaudas Ušackas
EU Ambassador to the Russian Federation

Dear readers of VilNews,

It's great to see this online resource for people interested in Baltic affairs. I congratulate the editors. From my position as EU Ambassador to Russia, allow me to share some observations.

For a number of years, the EU and Russia had assumed the existence of a strategic partnership, based on the convergence of values, economic integration and increasingly open markets and a modernisation agenda for society.

Our agenda was positive and ambitious. We looked at Russia as a country ready to converge with "European values", a country likely to embrace both the basic principles of democratic government and a liberal concept of the world order. It was believed this would bring our relations to a new level, covering the whole spectrum of the EU's strategic relationship with Russia.

Read more...
* * *

The likelihood of Putin
invading Lithuania
By Mikhail Iossel
Professor of English at Concordia University, Canada
Founding Director at Summer Literary Seminars

The likelihood of Putin's invading Lithuania or fomenting a Donbass-style counterfeit pro-Russian uprising there, at this point, in my strong opinion, is no higher than that of his attacking Portugal, say, or Ecuador. Regardless of whether he might or might not, in principle, be interested in the insane idea of expanding Russia's geographic boundaries to those of the former USSR (and I for one do not believe that has ever been his goal), he knows this would be entirely unfeasible, both in near- and long-term historical perspective, for a variety of reasons. It is not going to happen. There will be no restoration of the Soviet Union as a geopolitical entity.

Read more...
* * *

Are all Lithuanian energy
problems now resolved?
By Dr. Stasys Backaitis,
P.E., CSMP, SAE Fellow Member of Central and Eastern European Coalition, Washington, D.C., USA

Lithuania's Energy Timeline - from total dependence to independence

Lithuania as a country does not have significant energy resources. Energy consuming infrastructure after WWII was small and totally supported by energy imports from Russia.

First nuclear reactor begins power generation at Ignalina in 1983, the second reactor in 1987. Iganlina generates enough electricity to cover Lithuania's needs and about 50%.for export. As, prerequisite for membership in EU, Ignalina ceases all nuclear power generation in 2009

The Klaipėda Sea terminal begins Russia's oil export operations in 1959 and imports in 1994.

Mazeikiu Nafta (current ORLEAN Lietuva) begins operation of oil refinery in 1980.

Read more...
* * *

Have Lithuanian ties across
the Baltic Sea become
stronger in recent years?
By Eitvydas Bajarunas
Ambassador to Sweden

My answer to affirmative "yes". Yes, Lithuanian ties across the Baltic Sea become as never before solid in recent years. For me the biggest achievement of Lithuania in the Baltic Sea region during recent years is boosting Baltic and Nordic ties. And not because of mere accident - Nordic direction was Lithuania's strategic choice.

The two decades that have passed since regaining Lithuania's independence can be described as a "building boom". From the wreckage of a captive Soviet republic, a generation of Lithuanians have built a modern European state, and are now helping construct a Nordic-Baltic community replete with institutions intended to promote political coordination and foster a trans-Baltic regional identity. Indeed, a "Nordic-Baltic community" - I will explain later in my text the meaning of this catch-phrase.

Since the restoration of Lithuania's independence 25 years ago, we have continuously felt a strong support from Nordic countries. Nordics in particular were among the countries supporting Lithuania's and Baltic States' striving towards independence. Take example of Iceland, country which recognized Lithuania in February of 1991, well in advance of other countries. Yet another example - Swedish Ambassador was the first ambassador accredited to Lithuania in 1991. The other countries followed suit. When we restored our statehood, Nordic Countries became champions in promoting Baltic integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. To large degree thanks Nordic Countries, massive transformations occurred in Lithuania since then, Lithuania became fully-fledged member of the EU and NATO, and we joined the Eurozone on 1 January 2015.

Read more...
* * *

It's the economy, stupid *
By Valdas (Val) Samonis,
PhD, CPC

n his article, Val Samonis takes a comparative policy look at the Lithuanian economy during the period 2000-2015. He argues that the LT policy response (a radical and classical austerity) was wrong and unenlightened because it coincided with strong and continuing deflationary forces in the EU and the global economy which forces were predictable, given the right policy guidance. Also, he makes a point that LT austerity, and the resulting sharp drop in GDP and employment in LT, stimulated emigration of young people (and the related worsening of other demographics) which processes took huge dimensions thereby undercutting even the future enlightened efforts to get out of the middle-income growth trap by LT. Consequently, the country is now on the trajectory (development path) similar to that of a dog that chases its own tail. A strong effort by new generation of policymakers is badly needed to jolt the country out of that wrong trajectory and to offer the chance of escaping the middle-income growth trap via innovations.

Read more...
* * *

Have you heard about the
South African "Pencil Test"?
By Karina Simonson

If you are not South African, then, probably, you haven't. It is a test performed in South Africa during the apartheid regime and was used, together with the other ways, to determine racial identity, distinguishing whites from coloureds and blacks. That repressive test was very close to Nazi implemented ways to separate Jews from Aryans. Could you now imagine a Lithuanian mother, performing it on her own child?

But that is exactly what happened to me when I came back from South Africa. I will tell you how.

Read more...
* * *
Click HERE to read previous opinion letters >



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