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Bosnia and Herzegovina, sometimes known as simply Bosnia, is a small country in Southeastern Europe, with a total land area of just less than 20,000 square miles.  Almost completely landlocked except for 12 miles of coastline on the Adriatic Sea, Bosnia and Herzegovina shares borders with Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro.  The region was once part of the six entities that formed the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but gained its independence in the 1990s following the Yugoslav Wars.  The capital and largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina is Sarajevo.

According to the latest available figures, Bosnia and Herzegovina has a permanent population of approximately 4 million and is very ethnically and linguistically diverse.  The country is home to three primary ethnic groups:  Bosnians (also known as Bosniaks), Serbs and Croats, as well as a few much smaller minority groups that collectively account for a mere .8 percent of the total population.   According to data from the CIA World Fact Book, the breakdown of the three largest ethnic groups in the country is roughly Bosniaks, at 48 percent, Serbs, at 37 percent, and Croats, at just over 14 percent.  Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian all share the distinction as the official language in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the religious breakdown has a strong correlation to the country’s ethnic identity, with Muslims constituting 40% of the population, followed by Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholicism.  Through the years, major ideological and political differences between the three groups have led to years of instability in the country.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a rich history and culture—a culture with strong Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian influences.  The country has produced scores of influential authors, poets and playwrights, including Ivo Andric, a Nobel Prize winner.  Magazines in the country, such as Novi Plamen and Most, cover the country’s cultural and literary themes, and the National Theater, which opened to acclaim in Sarajevo in 1919, has hosted many famous dramatic performances and operas.

Bosnian and Herzegovinian music includes varieties such as Ganga, Rera and other traditional Slavic music, but recently, at least for the youth of the country, Pop and Rock have become the preferred styles.  Traditional dances include folk favorites such as the sevdalinka and kolo, and the country’s sports teams play a major role in entertainment, especially in sports such as football (soccer), table football and winter sports.  In February of 1984, the Winter Olympic Games were held in Sarajevo, the most significant sporting and cultural event in the country’s history.

Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The education system in Bosnia and Herzegovina is overseen by the Minister of Education, and schooling is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 7 and 14—the eight years that comprise primary education.  Education in the country is broken down into three levels:  primary school, secondary levels and university education.

In primary school, students are first instructed to the basics—reading, counting, writing, play, etc.  In about the third year of primary school, students begin to receive instruction in a broad range of general education subjects, including mathematics, science, languages, history, geography, social studies, music, art and sport, with studies that get progressively more advanced with each new grade level.

Secondary education in Bosnia and Herzegovina is also free, and while this level is non-compulsory, an estimated 70-80 percent of students do opt to continue their studies.  At this level students can choose between studying at one of the country’s many Gimnazijas or Technical/Vocational, schools.  Gimnazija is essentially a general secondary school, which offers a largely academic curriculum leading to the nationally-recognized Matura, a general secondary diploma that is required for university admission.  Technical/Vocational schools on the other hand, offer three and four-year programs, in which the majority of studies are focused on career education and technical skills (students also receive a basic academic education).  Graduates of these schools earn a diploma/certificate of proficiency, which qualifies them to work in the career in which they had focused their studies.

In terms of higher education, when you take into consideration that Bosnia and Herzegovina has only been independent for a very short time (since 1992), the progress the country has made is actually quite remarkable.  The country currently boasts 8 large and comprehensive universities, 90 smaller institutions of higher learning called “faculties” and several art academies.  There are also some 25 private institutions operating within the country, all of which have been approved and accredited by the Bosnian and Herzegovinian government.

After only 5 years of independence, the legislature in Bosnia and Herzegovina passed the Higher Education Law of 1997.  This law introduced major reforms to the educational system at universities and faculties, most notably a restructuring of the credit and degree system.  As outlined by the Bologna Process, Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with most other European countries, introduced a standardized system of credits (60 credits per academic year) and a three-tiered degree structure, with suggestions as to how long it should take to earn the various degrees being offered.  The new system, which is now the standard at all European Union universities, includes a three-year Bachelor Degree program, an additional two-year Master’s Degree program and a three to five-year Doctorate Degree (depending on the field of study).  Among other advantages, this system is designed to help facilitate student transfer in universities throughout Europe.

Map of Bosnia and Herzegovina

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