2019.10.18 09:00

Returning expatriate kids face challenges reintegrating into Lithuanian schools

As more expatriates are returning to Lithuania, often with their families, the country's schools are tasked with reintegrating students into the national education system. Despite additional funding, it can be a struggle.

Twin brothers Dominykas and Martynas started school this September. Having lived in the United Kingdom for a few years, they returned to Lithuania and enrolled in a school near their home in Šiauliai, northern Lithuania.

Having grown accustomed to an anglophone environment, the brothers say they like going to school in Lithuania and are doing well, but struggle with some words.

In all, there are three kids in their class that returned from abroad. The teacher admits that they require more attention and effort on his part. The students particularly struggle with Lithuanian.

“Pronouncing certain sounds is a challenge, but slowly they are getting the hang of it, their classmates and I are trying to help, correct the mistakes,” primary teacher Arvydas Valukonis says. “I'm simply talking with them more and coming up with tasks during breaks.”

Work at school is not enough, however, and parents need to help their children at home as well.

“The most difficult things are reading, writing, Lithuanian letters,” says Raigeda Ličkuvienė, whose daughter has also started school in Lithuania after spending time abroad. “Even though we did study Lithuanian, everything is very different here.”

Acknowledging that children who have returned from emigration may need special attention at school, the Lithuanian government has increased funding for their education, by 500 euros annually, as of this academic year.

However, there are restrictions. Only children who have spent more than three years abroad are eligible. Moreover, it does not apply to first-year primary school students, the assumption being that they do not have to catch up with their peers.

Medelynas pro-gymnasium in Šiauliai has 12 students who recently returned from abroad, but because of these restrictions, the school does not get any additional funding.

“Five kids from abroad started our school this year, three are first-year students. They idea is probably that they're only just beginning their education,” the school's headmistress Ingrida Mazrimienė says. “It doesn't matter how many years they have spent abroad and how well they can speak Lithuanian, they are not eligible for the extra funding.”

As more families come back, Lithuania is building a network of schools that can integrate returning children to the national education system. So far, the network consists of about two dozen institutions, most of them in the country's major cities.