The educational system of Belarus combines the structure inherited from the Soviet Union with a new content developed as an independent state. Preprimary education, which includes nursery schools and kindergartens, is optional. Primary education (three or four years of instruction), basic secondary education (five years of instruction), and upper secondary education (two years of instruction) usually coexist within one school. Initial or secondary vocational education requires from one to four years of training. Higher education is represented by institutes, academies, and universities.
In 1998-1999, Belarus had 4,500 preschool facilities; 4,783 general education schools; 249 vocational schools; 151 specialized secondary; and 57 higher educational institutions. The total number of students exceeded 2,100,000. The number of teachers employed in the educational sphere approached 200,000. There were more than 100 advanced training and retraining institutions.
In 1990, when Belarus was still part of the Soviet Union, the law "On Languages in Belarus" proclaimed Belarusian the state language of the republic and stipulated the right to use Russian as the medium of international communication. After the declaration of independence in 1991, language became a political issue. The Belarusian government authorized a state program aimed at the development of Belarusian and other languages in the territory of the republic. The Constitution of 1994 (amended in 1996) gave equal status to the Belarusian and Russian languages. Article 6 of the Law on Education states that the choice of the language of instruction is voluntary. The study of Belarusian, Russian, and one foreign language is obligatory. The decision of administrative organs, as well as the request of citizens can initiate the establishment of programs with full or partial instruction in the language of a national minority.
In the 1990s, more than 3,500 schools (66.7 percent) were using Belarusian as the language of instruction. There were 140 schools with intensive study of Belarusian. In 1,600 schools the teaching was done in Russian, and 140 schools (mostly in the Grodno region) introduced Polish into their curricula.
Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceBelarus - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education