The study of youth issues provides insight into what the society of the future will look like, which ideas and attitudes will determine social mechanisms in the years to come, which social issues will emerge and gain importance, and which problems will disappear. Youth studies not only provide insights into the future, but also aim to find solutions to today’s most pressing social problems. Children and youth are among the most active social groups, engaging in both socially desirable and socially harmful activities, while at the same time they’ are among the most vulnerable social groups in terms of their rights and status in society.
Youth in Lithuania today is a generation at a crossroads. The problem of “brain drain” has reached great proportions in Lithuania. Most talented young people are leaving the country, forming a growing Lithuanian diaspora in the West. At the same time, those who stay begin their journey into an inhospitable adulthood with youth unemployment that, although it has declined in recent years, is still among the highest in EU member states.
The difficult social problems that children and young people face in their life journey require certain measures on the part of the state and society to ensure a sustainable future for all. However, every child, every young person should be treated as a personality who needs personal attention and individual solutions for the problems that he or she cannot solve himself or herself at the moment. Careful and respectful help in overcoming the life problems of children and young people requires knowledge from different fields such as psychology, anthropology, educational science and an interdisciplinary study of social work. Thus, VILIAS recognises that social work is a discipline that is of great importance in today’s society, but also that it’ is dependent on knowledge from other fields of research.
The labour market in the information economy makes educational issues one of the most important issues in our society and positions education as one of the most respected academic disciplines. Lithuania’s more than two decades of experience with educational reforms already clearly show which new methods and solutions work in practise and which don’t. In fact, the country is one of the best educated in Europe: over 40 per cent of the population has a university degree. At the same time, it’ is a country where higher education often hinders rather than helps young people to find a good starting position in the labour market. A common understanding that the skills required by workers and the knowledge provided by higher education institutions should in some way match hasn’t emerged in all the years of education reform.
Education, research and development are and should be the background for technological and economic progress. Lithuania is making great efforts to strengthen its research and development potential. Considerable achievements have already been made in this field, with the advanced areas of biotechnology and the laser industry leading the way. However, innovation is lacking in other areas of technological and social research. Although Lithuania’s universities and research institutes produce sound theoretical knowledge in many research areas, the “valley of death” between universities and companies is rarely broken by understanding companies’ needs for research products and research ideas for business development. These important issues in educational research require interdisciplinary collaboration between economists, lawyers and researchers from other disciplines. VILIAS provides a good framework to initiate such interdisciplinary projects.