Belarus has a well-regarded education system, including universities and further education institutions that attract numerous foreign students.
Pre-school education is not compulsory in Belarus but around 70% of children do attend nursery or kindergarten before they start school.
School education in Belarus
Most children in Belarus start school at the age of 6. All pupils must follow the basic education curriculum up to the age of 15, and the vast majority of pupils stay at school until they finish their high school education at 18.
At the age of 15, pupils that have successfully completed basic education can attend college or professional technical institutions where they can focus on completing their high school education and work toward a professional certificate.
There are two official languages within the education system in Belarus, Russian and Belarusian.
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. Successful completion of secondary school is the main route into higher education.
Completion of 11 years of school or a professional certificate allows students to enter higher educational establishments or enter professional technical institutions as well; the length of the schooling depends on what the student has chosen.
Gymnasiums and lyceums education
In addition to the traditional general education secondary schools, the 1990s saw the development of new types of institutions—gymnasiums and lyceums. Gymnasiums provide comprehensive humanitarian education, often centered on the study of foreign languages. They are expected to have a highly qualified teaching staff, use innovative textbooks, and to have modern methods of teaching. Lyceums offer professionally oriented education and are usually affiliated with higher education or research institutions.
Due to the social and economic problems of the 1990s, the number of orphans and children left without proper parental care has significantly increased. In 1998 there were 27 ordinary and 22 family-type children’s homes, 31 general secondary boarding schools, and 25 sanatorium-type institutions under the supervision of the Ministry of Education. The disturbing statistics of the same period showed that 10.9 percent of Belarusian children had problems with their psychic and physical development. These 21,500 students were accommodated at 80 boarding schools for mentally and physically handicapped children, 27 rehabilitation centers, and 707 special schools. There were 417 secondary school classes for students with learning disabilities. Two thousand children with health problems were tutored by visiting teachers at home.
The Belarusian system of vocational training functions on two levels. The first level encompasses vocational-technical schools (PTU) and apprenticeship programs for blue-collar jobs. Applicants may be accepted by PTU after 11 years of general secondary school and in this case, take a year-long course to acquire a professional skill. Students with basic general education (nine grades) study three years to get both professional training and complete secondary education. The curriculum of PTU is distributed between theoretical (73 percent) and practical courses (27 percent). It includes general secondary, general professional, and special subjects, as well as electives and individual consultations.
The higher education system in Belarus
Belarus has one of the highest student-to-population ratios in Europe. The higher education system in Belarus is seen as prestigious due to its high quality and affordability. There are four main types of higher education establishments to choose from, which can be either private or state operated:
- classical university;
- profile university or academy;
Most courses run for 4-6 years. Aspiring students can choose one of several forms of learning. They can study during the day or evening, in-class or by distance education.
Grants are available for full-time students and scholarships are awarded to very gifted students.
All higher education establishments are governed by the Ministry of Education in Belarus.
How do foreign students apply to study at universities in Belarus?
Once you have decided to continue your education at a university in Belarus, you will need to contact the university in order to receive an invitation to apply to study there. To do this you will need to provide the following documents:
- completed application form;
- copy of your certificate of education showing your subjects and grades;
- copy of your passport and birth certificate;
- copy of your medical certificate.
Once you have chosen your university and your course, you will need to apply for a student visa.
Innovations in the system of vocational training are primarily defined by new trends in society. Educators have to review the inventory of professions with regard to the market demand; change the content of education by diversifying the curricula; give the students an opportunity to express their individuality and creativity; and introduce new subjects in response to the changing times. Schools must work in close contact with prospective employers, enterprises, and businesses.