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The Czech Republic is a completely landlocked country in Central Europe, with a total land area of just over 30,000 square miles.  The country is bordered to the east by Slovakia, to the south by Austria, to the north by Poland and to the west by Germany.  A developed country according to the World Bank, the Czech Republic is the first former member of Comecon to achieve this status, and is ranked very high in human development—the highest in all of Central and Eastern Europe.  The country has a pluralist, multi-party parliamentary representative democracy, and is a member of the European Union, NATO and the Council of Europe.  The Czech Republic has consistently been ranked as one of the most peaceful and healthiest counties in Europe, and the most democratic state of the region.  Its capital and largest city, with a population of well over 1 million, is Prague.
According to the 2011 census, the Czech Republic has a total permanent population of 10.5 million.  The majority of the country’s residents are native Czechs (67%), followed by Moravians (4.9%), Slovaks (1.5%), Poles (0.5%) and Germans and Silesians (0.2%).  Almost 25% of the population did not enter an ethnicity in the 2011 census, but the government estimates there are nearly 250,000 Romani people and close to 500,000 foreign residents who also call the Czech Republic home.  Czech is the official language of the country, and is used by the majority of residents and for all official matters of the state, including government and education.  The Czech Republic can be characterized as one of the least religious countries in Europe, with nearly 40 percent of the population self-identifying as agnostic, irreligious or atheist.  10 percent are adherents of the Roman Catholic faith, while another 3 percent follow one of the Protestant religions.  Like ethnicity, a substantial number of Czechs left the “religious affiliation” field blank on their census ballot.
Education in the Czech Republic
Education in the Czech Republic is overseen and governed by the national government and is highly valued by the Czech people.  School is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 15, although parents do have to pay for textbooks and school materials for their children, as well as lunch if eaten in the school cafeteria. The Czech school system is divided between 4 distinct levels:  preschool, primary school, secondary school and higher education.
Preschool is for children between the ages of 2 and 5, however, only the last year, which helps prepare students to enter primary school, is paid by the state.  Compulsory education begins with primary or elementary school (the only level of mandatory education) and serves children between the ages of 6 and 15.  Courses are offered in a broad curriculum, consisting of mathematics, science, technology, Czech history and language, foreign language, geography, music, art and physical education.  Records show that enrollment rates for primary schools in the Czech Republic are nearly 90 percent.
Secondary education consists of 2 years, representing the 10th and the 11th grade, and is carried out at high schools and vocational training colleges.  High schools offer a purely academic track that helps prepare students for university admission upon graduation.  Instructors at vocational training colleges, on the other hand, while they do teach some basic academic courses, tend to on the knowledge and skills needed to enter the workforce in one of many careers important to the Czech economy.
Higher education in the Czech Republic consists of public, private and state universities, with the latter offering courses leading to military and police careers.  Public and private universities offer undergraduate (Bachelor), graduate (Master’s) and post-graduate (PhD) degrees in almost every major academic field.  Study at public universities is free for all eligible students, and while the Czech government pays for students’ health insurance throughout each level of their schooling, beginning with primary school, upper-level students continuing their education past the age of 26 are required to procure their own insurance.

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