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Macedonia, or in official circles, the Republic of Macedonia, is a country situated in the Central Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe, with a total geographic area of roughly 9,800 square miles. A completely landlocked country, Macedonia is bordered by Kosovo to the northwest, Serbia to the north, Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the south and Albania to the west. It constitutes approximately the northwestern half of the larger “region of Macedonia,” which also comprises parts of Greece and Bulgaria. Macedonia is a member of the United Nations, but because of a dispute with Greece over its name, it was only admitted under the provisional name, the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.” The country’s capital and largest city is Skopje.
As of the last official census, Macedonia had an estimated permanent population of roughly 2.1 million. Ethnic Macedonians represent the majority of this population, or 64 percent, followed by Albanians (25%), who are dominant in the northwestern portion of the country. Other ethnic groups residing in the country include Turks (4%), Roma (2.7%), Serbs (1.8%), Bosnians (1%), Armenians (0.5%) and others (1%).
Macedonian is the official language of the country and is used in all official government capacities, as well as in commerce and education. It is also the most widely-spoken language among the people. In municipalities in which over 20 percent of the population speaks a specific foreign language, that language is deemed co-official for that particular area. The majority of the population, or 65 percent, is Christian, most members of the Macedonian Orthodox Church. Most of the remaining people (33%) are practicing Muslims, making Macedonia the country with the fourth-highest proportion of Muslims in all of Europe.
Education in Macedonia
In Macedonia, the education system is overseen by the central government and is free for all students through secondary school. The education system is divided between four levels or stages: preschool, primary education, secondary education and higher education.
Like in most European countries, preschool education in Macedonia is an instructional phase that allows children to become accustomed to attending school, teaching them the socialization and cooperative skills they will need throughout their school careers. Pre-reading, as well as basic art and music education are also cornerstones of the Macedonian preschool level.
Primary schooling is the sole compulsory level of education in Macedonia, an eight-year program serving students between the ages of 6 and 14. The primary school curriculum is very broad, featuring subjects that include mathematics, basic technology, language and literature, history, geography, civics, the arts and sport. Children receive a promotion certificate after successfully completing their primary education, a requirement for entrance into the country’s secondary schools.
Both general academic education and vocational-technical training comprise the secondary level of schooling in Macedonia. The former is offered to students who plan to pursue a university-level degree, while the latter is provided for the more career-minded students who wish to enter the workforce, armed with a marketable skill, following graduation.
State-sponsored and private universities comprise the higher education system in Macedonia. Some of these are comprehensive universities, offering undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate degrees in a variety of selected majors; while other institutions, including one dedicated to the fields of Information Science and Technology, are much more specialized in nature.
Map of Macedonia