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Kyrgyzstan, officially known as the Kyrgyz Republic, is a mid-size country located in Central Asia, with a total geographic area of just over 77,000 square miles. A mountainous and landlocked country, Kyrgyzstan is bordered to the north by Kazakhstan, to the west by Uzbekistan, to the southwest by Tajikistan and to the east by China. Kyrgyzstan is a democratic parliamentary republic and an active member of the Turkic Council, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Community and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek.
Kyrgyzstan has a population estimated at 5.2 million, only a third of which live in urban areas in this mostly rural country. The nation’s largest ethnic group is the Kyrgyz, a Turkic people comprising nearly 70 percent of the total population. Other ethnic groups in Kyrgyzstan, in order of plurality, include the Uzbeks in the south of the country (14.5%) and the Russians in the north (9%), along with smaller groups such as the Tatars (2.1%), Uyghur (1.1%), Tajiks (1.1%), Kazakhs (0.7%) and Ukrainians (0.5%) that are spread throughout the country.
Except for Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan is the only former member of the old Soviet Republic to retain Russian as an official language. Kyrgyz, a Turkic language that is spoken colloquially among the majority of non-Russian inhabitants, is also considered official in the country. Both languages are used in the course of government, commerce and public communications, and are used together in the education sector. Islam, which is practiced by over 80 percent of the Kyrgyz people, is the predominant religion of the country, with the remainder practicing Russian Orthodox Christianity (17%) and a variety of other religions (3%).
Education in Kyrgyzstan
The education system in Kyrgyzstan is overseen by the national government and education is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 7 and 15. The system itself is divided between three levels: primary education, secondary education and tertiary or higher education.
Primary education targets children between the ages of 7 and 11, spanning four years, or grades one through four. Much like other primary schools in the Central Asian region, the instruction in the initial three grades of primary school focuses almost exclusively on reading and writing skills, along with some basic arithmetic. Grade four serves as a transitional phase between primary and secondary school, in which teachers introduce students to a broader curriculum, with subjects that include mathematics, social and civic studies, language arts, science, art, music and physical education.
Secondary education is provided for students ages 11-18, and includes many of the same subjects named above, albeit more advanced with every passing grade level. Secondary schools span from Grade 5 through Grade 12, although students are only mandated to attend through grade nine. Completion of grades 10-12, although optional under the Kyrgyzstan system, is required for all students who wish to continue their education at the university level.
There are currently 55 universities and higher education institutions in Kyrgyzstan. At the university level, eligible students are free to pursue undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate degrees in most major academic disciplines. Higher education consists of both public and private institutions, including specialized schools offering advanced degrees in fields such as medical and veterinary science and practice, dentistry, law and engineering.