Education, Health, and Welfare
In Belarus education is compulsory for ten years, from ages seven to seventeen. Primary school, generally starting at age seven and lasting for five years, is followed by an additional five years of secondary school. These schools fall into three categories: general, teacher training, and vocational. Institutions of higher education include three universities, four polytechnical institutes, and a number of colleges specializing in agricultural or technical sciences.
In early 1992, some 60 percent of eligible children attended preschool institutions in Belarus. During the 1993-94 school year, Belarus had 1.5 million children in 5,187 primary and secondary schools, 175,400 students in thirty-three institutions of higher education, and 129,200 students in 148 technical colleges. The literacy rate was 100 percent, and the population was fairly well educated.
During the communist era, education was mainly conducted in the Russian language; by 1987 there were no Belorussian-language schools in any of the republic's urban areas. When Belarusian was adopted as the country's official language in 1990, children were to be taught in Belarusian as early as primary school; Russian language, history, and literature were to be replaced with Belarusian language, history, and literature. However, Russian remains the main language of instruction in both secondary schools and institutions of higher education.
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