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Estonia, also known as the Republic of Estonia, is a fairly small country in Northern Europe, located in the Baltic region of the continent and measuring 17,000 square miles in total land area.  The country is bordered to the east by the Russian Federation and Lake Peipsi, to the south by Latvia, to west by the Baltic Sea and to the north by the Gulf of Finland.  Across the Baltic Sea you will find Sweden to the west and Finland to the north.  Estonia has a temperate seasonal climate, and its people are known as Finnic, referring to the Baltic Finns.  Twice occupied by the Soviets, Estonia claimed and was granted its independence in August of 1991. Tallinn is the capital and largest city in the country—a country known as a parliamentary republic, divided into 15 counties.
 
Estonia has a population of roughly 1.3 million, and from an ethnic standpoint can best be described as “fairly diverse.”  Ethnic Estonians account for nearly 70 percent of the total population. They are followed, in order of population, by Russians, at 25 percent; Ukrainians, at 2 percent, Belarusians, at 1.1 % and Finns, who make up nearly 1 percent.  Despite the heterogeneity of the country, someone visiting for the first time may not pick up on it, as the non-Estonian population is concentrated into just two counties.  In all of the remaining 13 counties, native Estonians make up at least 80 percent of the population.
 
The national or official language of Estonia is Estonian, while Swedish is recognized as a regional language.  Unlike most other languages in Europe, Estonian does not belong to the Indo-European family of languages, but rather the Finnic branch of the Uralic languages.  After Estonian, Russian is the next most common language, and is spoken primarily by people aged 40-70, as the result of years of Russian occupation.  After China, Estonia is the least religious country in the world.  Although the country’s constitution guarantees the freedom of religion, over 75 percent of the population self-identifies as “irreligious,” and only 16 percent of the population professes a belief in God.  The largest and most popular religious faith in the country is Evangelical Lutheranism, practiced by 14 percent of the population, followed by Orthodox Christianity, and Roman Catholicism.
 
Education in Estonia
 
Education in Estonia is overseen by the national government and is highly valued in the country.  The educational system is divided into four levels:  preschool, basic education, secondary education and higher education.  In total, there are 589 schools in the country, including state, municipal and public schools, as well as private learning institutions.
 
Basic and secondary education in Estonia is compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 15.  Basic education is taught at primary schools, and consists of a broad range of subjects, including Estonian language arts, science, mathematics, history, geography, music, art, and sport.  At the secondary school level, students can choose between two types of institutions:  gymnasiums and vocational schools.  Gymnasium instruction consists of advanced, college preparatory material, and helps to prepare students for university admission.  According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, the performance levels of students studying at Estonian gymnasiums are among the best in the world.  Vocational schools offer a mix of basic academic and vocational education.  The goal of these schools is to prepare students vocationally and technically to participate in the workforce following graduation.
 
Like in most countries in Europe, higher education institutions in Estonia offer academic and professional programs in three separate levels:  bachelor’s studies, master’s studies and doctorate or PhD studies.  Certain programs integrate the bachelor and master’s level, including basic medical studies, dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, and engineering,
 
The adult literacy rate in Estonia is 99 percent, among the best the world.

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