The Municipal Life Quality Index (LQI) published on the website Lietuvofinansai.lt managed by the Ministry of Finance, was created as a comprehensive tool that allows to compare the social and economic differences of any of the 60 municipalities in Lithuania. As indicated by the creators of the index, quality of life indicators allow statistical evaluation of various aspects, thereby supplementing the traditionally used measure of the country’s economic and social development – the gross domestic product indicator.
Based on data from 2013-2020, LQI includes a total of 41 indicators in six areas reflecting the quality of life:
- material living conditions;
- population entrepreneurship and business competitiveness;
- health services;
- educational services;
- demography, civic and public involvement;
- quality and safety of public infrastructure and living environment.
The quality of life in this index is associated both with the ability to secure a sufficient level of material well-being, and with satisfaction with one’s health, the availability of education and social services, participation in cultural life, and a favorable living environment (decreasing pollution and increasing public safety). Using the LQI, it is possible to see the general and individual assessment of each municipality and indicators, compare it with other municipalities and see the changes during the reporting period (2013-2020).
In the general LQI of 2020, Kaunas City Municipality takes the second place (index value of 0.72), yielding only to the capital (index value of 0.87). Klaipėda City Municipality was in the third place (0.69), Neringa Municipality in the fourth (0,69) and Kaunas District Municipality in the fifth place (0.68).
In 2020, in the sub-indexes that make up the LQI Kaunas took the first place in the category of health services (second and third places went to Šiauliai and Klaipėda municipalities) and in the category of education services (second and third places were taken by Kėdainiai and Pakruojis district municipalities). Kaunas was also in the top four when assessing material living conditions (3rd place) and population entrepreneurship and business competitiveness (4th place).
Among the best municipalities in terms of overall quality of life in 2020, Kaunas was also the second based on the highest average wage after taxes: 935 euros (in Vilnius – 1,035 euros).
The city of Kaunas ranks first in the index in the category of health services, which evaluates indicators such as the number of practicing health care specialists per 10,000 people, the number of palliative, nursing and supportive care beds per 1000 people, the number of hospital beds per 10,000 people, the number of deaths from communicable diseases per 100,000 people, the number of participants in sports competitions and wellness events per 1,000 people, and the number of inpatients per 1,000 people.
The city of Kaunas also took first place in the education services sub-index, which is made up of 8 indicators that reflect the differences in education services between municipalities: the number of children participating in pre-school education between 1-6 years old; school age children, who do not study due to social, psychological and other reasons per 1000 school age people; a number of qualified teachers; number of university and college students per 1,000 people; a number of schoolchildren transported to school by yellow buses in the municipality. The number of students, who received from 86 to 100 points in Lithuanian and mathematics matriculation exams, were singled out as two separate indicators.
Delighted with the excellent evaluations, Ona Gucevičienė, head of the Education Department of the Kaunas City Municipality, says that this is primarily the result of consistent work.
“The index of education services is evaluated over a long period of time, which is an excellent indicator that the applied measures and a responsible approach to quality education bear fruit. It should be mentioned that the results of Kaunas students in both the basic education achievement test and the state matriculation exams, are among the best in the country each year. We carefully assess the current situation; therefore, we analyze the achievements of students on a city and country level by subjects, schools and other aspects, we cooperate with the heads of schools and provide insights and recommendations,” O. Gucevičienė says.
There are quite a few components that ensure the quality of education and at the same time a high rate of educational services, but several main aspects can be singled out.
– As business investments expand in the city, favorable educational conditions are created for foreigners who are coming to live here and for Lithuanians returning from emigration. Bilingual (English and Lithuanian) education is implemented, as well as international baccalaureate programs.
– In order to improve the conditions for the development of the student’s individual abilities, there are 7 unique schools in the Kaunas city municipality, where education is based on a special pedagogical system or its individual elements, as well as 1 specialized school: the engineering lyceum of the Kaunas University of Technology.
– In order to ensure the quality of education, the aim is to constantly update, modernize and improve the educational environment in educational institutions. Special attention is paid to STEAM education. Based on the data collected at the end of 2021, 29 percent of Kaunas gymnasiums had natural science laboratories installed and this number is increasing every year.
– Non-formal education is also important for good quality education, so the students of the city of Kaunas have the opportunity to choose from various STEAM, sports, arts, public engagement, ethnic culture and other programs and participate in them not only during the school year, but also during the summer vacation.
– A unique project has been carried out in the Baltic States since 2017. It is an Interdisciplinary Program for Exceptionally Gifted Students, during which exceptionally gifted students in grades 3-11 have the opportunity to get to know university activities and try themselves out in various fields. The program is implemented by Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Lithuanian Sports University, Mykolas Romeris University, Vilnius University, Vilnius Academy of Arts, National Kaunas Drama Theatre, and Kaunas State Musical Theatre.
– The aim is to ensure equal quality education services not only for school-aged children, but also for children of preschool age. In response to the population change, an effective network of preschool institutions is ensured, and at the same time the availability of preschool education is increased.
Meanwhile, looking into the future, the aim is not only to maintain high quality indicators of educational services, but also to increase them. Therefore, today the main priorities in the field of education in the city of Kaunas are the strengthening of the competences of educational institution managers, pedagogues, educational support specialists in various fields, provision of social services and reduction of social exclusion, as well as ensuring the quality of education.