Education and Science, EU – Baltic States, Modern EU

International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Saturday, 18.09.2021, 09:59

Education policy in the Baltic States: facing modern challenges

Eugene Eteris, European Studies Faculty, RSU, BC International Editor, Copenhagen, 17.07.2019.Print version
In order to withstand enormous competitive pressures (both globally and European), the Baltic States have to re-direct their efforts towards human resources’ development and national education policies. National education system must create skills and expertise Baltic people need over the next 20-30 years.

Modern educational challenges are of a double nature: a) there is a need for a more liberal-comprehensive education system, and b) the states have to provide a broad-based education at an undergraduate level before students would enter some specialized studies.

New efforts and measures are needed for promoting a globalisation-type of higher education in the Baltic States, encouraging quality, open and distance learning, as well as broader ICT use at all levels of education and training. Education system must “tailor students” for society’s needs and prepare skills for jobs that not only exist today but which are most likely to change or completely disappear; most of the present education courses and programs in the Baltic States’ universities are outdated and counterproductive.

“Liberal education” and restructuring

Several institutions of higher studies in the world have implemented what is generally called a “liberal education” through an array of different disciplines that include the arts, humanities, mathematics and social sciences, suitably integrated with a deeper study of a special area of interest for students. Emergence of new general and ICT-technologies (following the outcomes of the 4th industrial revolution) has been changing the Baltic States labour market, the availability of work facilities and new skills. 

Besides, perspective workplaces will demand critical thinking, communication and problem solving capabilities, as well as creativity and multidisciplinary analysis; thus, the single-skill and single-discipline jobs are likely to become automated over time.

Most probable approach in restructuring higher education could be based on a three-tier composition: first-type institutions will focus on world-class research and high-quality teaching; second-type - on teaching across disciplines with an important contribution to research, and third-type institutions will be mainly colleges offering high-quality undergraduate education.

This suggestion shall cover primary, secondary and higher education structures providing access to  quality, affordable and accountable education with the necessary alignment with national socio-economic policies, European and global challenges and SDGs. 

The necessary changes and a wide-ranging restructuring of higher education in the Baltic States shall be aimed at promoting a “research culture” in higher education institutions; possibly, the national research foundations shall be established.

However, to streamline the process, a creation of national higher education regulatory authorities in the Baltic States would be a feasible solution. Such authorities would implement some new policy initiatives: promoting internationalisation of higher education, improving the quality of open and distance learning, enhancing inclusion in education and training as well as reducing regional gaps in training and education.  

A modern state shall take seriously the global challenges in preparing professionals in cutting-edge areas such as e-learning, artificial intelligence, digital technologies, 3-D printing, big data analysis, genome-studies, biotechnology, nanotechnology and neuroscience. These and other cutting-edge sciences must be woven into undergraduate education with the new and appropriate curricula and syllabus.   


Research in the higher education sector

New impetus for postgraduate and doctoral education, as well as a major push to improve the research environment in universities shall be elaborated. For example, the masters’ degree will also have a strong research component to strengthen the appropriate professional competence in the domain area to prepare students for feasible employment.   

The biggest issue in the present education system is the lack of a coherent direction for planning and implementation of research at the university level. Each member state shall have a National Research Councils, NRCs which will encompass the four broad areas of sciences: technology, social/natural sciences, arts and humanities. Besides strengthening the presently weak support that subjects such as the social sciences and the humanities receive, NRCs will also bring in cohesion among the various research endeavours of multidisciplinary character. The NRCs will also act as a liaison among researchers, ministries of government and industry, in order to ensure that the most relevant and socially-useful research reaches the people as soon as possible.

The process of strengthening the linkages among universities and their counterparts at the European and global levels shall be further supported and stimulated, e.g. through so-called “European Universities” project. An important mandate of the NRCs  will be to seed, grow and facilitate research at institutions where research is currently very limited.

Other proposals in education

 Undergraduate level: A restructuring of undergraduate programmes including reintroduction of four-year degrees alongside three-year programmes with “multiple exit and entry points”. The four-year programme will provide for “greater rigor” and allow students to conduct optional research.

 Postgraduate level: The master’s and doctoral levels to be strengthened with at least three routes into the masters degree – a one-year degree, a two-year degree and the integrated five-year degrees.

Teacher training: In a special emphasis on teacher training, the NEP notes that teacher education has been beleaguered with mediocrity as well as rampant corruption due to commercialisation. It recommends the closure of substandard and ‘dysfunctional’ teacher education institutions. Departments of education in universities, in addition to teaching, will need to be strengthened and developed as spaces for research and innovation in education.

 Professional education: Postgraduate education in the professional streams needs to be strengthened considerably, according to the NEP document. The curriculum must ensure that postgraduates acquire knowledge, skills, self-confidence and entrepreneurship training, to enable them to contribute to the national socio-economic development.

These and other proposals in education can stimulate modern skills’ upgrading and strengthen innovative processes in work force training in the years to come.



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