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Located in Southeastern Europe, Albania is a picturesque country on the shores of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas.  Since the fall of the communist regime in 1992, it has been a sovereign nation and a member of both the United Nations and NATO and a potential candidate for membership into the European Union.  As of the 2011 census, the population of Albania was just over 2.8 million, of which some 400,000 live in the country’s capital and largest city, Tirana.  Since its liberation, Albania has had a parliamentary democracy and its economy, which can be best described as transitional, has undergone many free-market reforms which have ultimately lead to increased foreign investment in areas such as energy and transportation infrastructure.

Unlike many European countries, which tend to have a very diverse population, Albania is, for the most part, ethnically homogenous.  An estimated ninety-five percent of the nation’s population is Albanian, with Greeks accounting for the largest minority group at about 3 percent.  The national language of the country is Albanian, and as for religion, most of the population—nearly 80 percent—are Muslims, with Orthodox Christians and Catholics representing the two largest minority groups.

Albania has a rich history and a beautiful culture that is renowned for its folk music, literature and ancient architecture.  Interesting sights and attractions abound in this lush country and include the National Museum of Albania, a fairly modern structure featuring exhibits dating back to the Illyrian times and up to the fall of Communism in the early 1990s; the 10th Century Church of the Virgin Mary and the Et’hem Mosque in Tirana; and Qemal Stafa Stadium, where the Albanian national football team plays its games in front of thousands of cheering fans.  In 2011, Albania was chosen by the travel publication Lonely Planet as the No. 1 country to visit in the world.

Education in Albania

Prior to the rise of communism in the 1940s, the illiteracy rate in Albania was well over 80 percent, but today the country boasts one of the highest literacy rates in the world—approximately 99 percent.  This is due in large part to the country’s excellent system of education, a system in which all students are required to attend school from grades one through nine.  Additionally, the majority of Albanian students will continue their studies in the country’s secondary schools, even though this level it is not compulsory.

Most of Albania’s 5,000 schools are public and are financed and overseen by the government, but in recent years, many private schools have also opened at various levels.  The school year is divided between two semesters, beginning in early September and culminating in late June.

Although only the primary level of education is mandatory in Albania, the pre-university educational system is comprised of three levels: 
  • Preschool education (çerdhe or kopësht).  Preschool is open to children ages 3-5, with a curriculum centered on preparing children for primary school, both academically and socially.  Here children are taught pre-reading skills, art and music, but the main goal is to get them accustomed to interacting appropriately with teachers and peers.
  • Primary Education (9-vjeçare).  Primary education in Albania now spans 9 years (8 years prior to 2008), starting with first grade (typically 6 year old students) and culminating with ninth grade, in which graduating students are usually 15 years of age.  Schools teach a wide curriculum that includes mathematics, science and the humanities—a curriculum that gets progressively advanced with each grade.  Students who wish to pursue a secondary school education must pass an exit examination following the ninth grade.
  • Secondary Education.  Secondary education in Albania is unique in that it offers students two distinct educational track options.  Regular secondary (e mesme or gjimnaz), is a 3-year purely academic track designed to prepare students for university admission.  Students who plan to attend one of the country’s universities must first take and pass an exit examination prior to applying for admission. The Vocational or Technical track (teknike) combines basic general education with focused instruction in certain career fields.  Students who complete this track (usually 2-3 years depending on the discipline) are awarded a certificate and can pursue immediate employment after graduation.
Tertiary education in Albania consists of 3-year Bachelor Degree programs in a wide variety of academic fields and the more advanced Master’s Degree programs, which generally span 2-3 years depending on the subject matter.  Those who earn a Master of Arts or Master of Science Degree can apply for admission into one of many Doctorate level programs (doctorate), although admission into these research-heavy programs is very selective and generally awarded exclusively to the most successful students.  This 3-cycle system of education was borne from the bologna process—a process aimed at standardizing the credit and degree structure at universities throughout Europe, with the goal of facilitating student transfer.

Map of Albania

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