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Kazakhstan, or in official circles, the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a large transcontinental country located in both Central Asia and Europe.  With a total geographic area of over 1 million square miles, the country is the largest landlocked country in the world by area, the ninth-largest in the world and more expansive than all of Western Europe.  Kazakhstan shares borders with Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan, and its terrain, which ranges from flatlands to steppes to snow-capped mountains to deserts, extends west to east from the Caspian Sea to the Altay Mountains and north to south from the plains of Western Siberia to the oases and deserts of Central Asia.  The capital city of Kazakhstan is Astana and its largest city by population is Almaty, which served as the nation’s capital up until 1998.
 
Kazakhstan has an estimated population of 16.4 million, of which 54 percent live in urban cities and 46 percent dwell in the more rural areas of the country.  The population is fairly diverse, with native Kazakhs representing roughly 63 percent of the population.  They are followed, in order of plurality, by ethnic Russians (24%), Uzbeks (3%), Ukrainians (2%), Tatars (1.5%), Belarusians and Uyghurs (1.5%), and Azrebaijanis, Poles, Lithuanians and Germans, each accounting for approximately 0.5% of the population.  Two languages are recognized in Kazakhstan:  Kazakh, which is spoken by 64 percent of the population and has the status of the “state” language; and Russian, spoken by much of the remainder and declared the “official” language—the language used when conducting official state business.  English, which is taught as a second language in most Kazakh schools, is also gaining popularity.  Kazakhstan is a secular state, and the religious breakdown of its people, in order of the number of practitioners, is Islam (70%), Christianity (27%) and Buddhist (0.1%).  Nearly 3 percent of the country’s residents either do not believe in God or have no religious affiliation whatsoever.
 
Education in Kazakhstan
 
Education in Kazakhstan is overseen by the national government under the direction of the Ministry of Education.  Education is universal in the country, and is compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 16. The education system is divided between four general phases:  primary education, basic general education, senior level education and tertiary or higher education.  Preschool is also offered for one year—the year directly preceding a student’s entry into primary education, although this level is not compulsory.
 
Primary education in Kazakhstan spans four years, also known as forms 1-4.  In these schools a variety of subject matter is typically introduced, but for the most part, the focus at this level is on reading, writing and basic arithmetic, especially in the initial three forms.  Form 4 serves as a type of transitional grade, as students are prepared to enter schools in the next phase. 
 
Basic general education spans 5 years and consists of forms 5-9.  Here the curriculum becomes very diverse, featuring subjects such as mathematics, science, technology, language arts, history, geography, social studies and physical education.
 
Depending on the institution, the senior level education phase can span 2 or 3 years, forms 10-11 or 10-12.  This level is divided into continued general education and professional education and is the first phase in which students have a choice regarding their education.  Continued general education, a purely academic track, will help prepare students for university admission, while the instruction in the professional education track seeks to train and prepare students in one of many career fields, with the goal of entering the workforce following successful completion of the program.
 
Higher education in Kazakhstan, which is open to all students who successfully complete the general education phase, thus earning a diploma for their efforts, is provided by universities, academies, institutes and conservatories.  Eligible students can earn undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate degrees in almost every major academic field, including advanced degrees in areas such as medical and veterinary science, dentistry, engineering and the law.
 
The adult literacy rate in Kazakhstan is an impressive 99.5 percent.

Map of Kazakhstan

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