The Republic of Belarus has a well-developed education system. Education starts with nurseries and kindergartens, which children attend from the earliest age till they are about five or six years old. Kindergartens allow parents to go to work instead of babysitting, and provide kids with a range of activities like drawing, reading, etc. Kindergartens are state-owned and free, or private, for which parents pay.
The primary and secondary level institutions are usually combined within one school. The academic year begins on September 1 and continues through the end of May, and they have an examination session in the ninth and eleventh grades. There are four vacations during the school year: a week in November, two weeks in early January, a week at the end of March, and two and a half or three months in the summer. Students go to school five or six days a week. The daily number of classes varies from four in primary school to six in the senior grades. Lessons last 40 or 45 minutes, with shorts breaks between classes.
Almost all the schools are coeducational. On the primary level, children are divided into classes of twenty-five to thirty students, who study as a permanent group until the end of secondary school. The program opens with a relatively simple curriculum, with new subjects added every year. In the eleventh grade, there can be as many as 17 or even 20 subjects. The grades used for evaluation are numerical: five is excellent, four is good, three is satisfactory, and two is failure. Students who fail in two or more subjects are required to repeat the year's program. All students who successfully complete 11 years of study receive the Certificate of General Secondary Education. Those who get excellent marks for all the semesters of the tenth and eleventh grade, as well as the final exams, are awarded a gold medal. The medals give their owners privileges when they apply for entry to higher educational institutions.
The majority of Belarusian children begin their study at six or seven years of age. The primary level encompasses the first three or four grades of the general education school. It is focused on the acquisition of basic skills, including reading, writing, simple mathematics, social studies and health. Other subjects are labor, music, and physical education. Great attention is given to the development of the child's individuality, personal hygiene, and a healthy way of living. Students also engage in extracurricularactivities: school concerts and holiday parties, trips, excursions to museums, theaters, and libraries.
Secondary education in Belarus is divided into three categories of schools: general education, vocational education, and specialty schools. General education secondary schools offer students comprehensive instruction in various academic subjects: the Belarusian and Russian languages, literature, mathematics, sciences, Belarusian and world history, foundations of modern civilization, art, music, labor, and physical education. A foreign language (predominantly English, German, or French) is introduced in the fifth grade. Vocational schools focus on various careers that are important to the Belarusian economy and provide students with the knowledge and skills they will need to enter the workforce upon graduation. Finally, specialty secondary schools are designed to provide the republic with qualified staff in a number of advanced or technical career fields. The curriculum at these establishments, which include technical schools, art colleges and linguistic institutions, is updated annually to ensure the programs are addressing the demands and challenges of the current labor market.
The next stage is the system of higher learning. University education is prestigious and accessible in the country. There are both state-owned and private establishments of higher learning in Belarus. At the country’s universities, academic degrees are offered at the undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate levels in a wide array of fields. Universities offer full-time, part-time and also correspondence courses. The curricula in the establishments of higher learning are designed mainly for five years. Full-time students, who do well, receive scholarships. University graduates of all types of universities receive a state diploma. Advanced academic training is available through post-graduate and doctoral courses run at institutions of higher learning. There is a network of institutions in Belarus providing refresher courses and advanced training.
Belarusian education is popular among foreign students. Fifty-one institutions provide paid education services to foreign citizens. The courses are run in Belarusian and Russian. The costs are set by the education institutions themselves with respect to each profession in accordancewith international practice in the field.