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Moldova, officially known as the Republic of Moldova, is a mid-sized country in Eastern Europe, with a total geographic land area of just over 13,000 square miles. The country is completely landlocked, situated between Romania to the west and Ukraine to the north, east and south. Moldova was once a member state of the now-defunct Soviet Union and was formerly known as the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic. However, much like other Eastern-bloc countries, Moldova declared its independence in 1991, and its new constitution was formally adopted in the summer of 1994. The country is now a parliamentary republic, with a president that serves as head of state and a prime minister as head of the government. Moldova is a member of the United Nations and the Council of Europe among other organizations, and has aspirations to join the European Union, for which it has already applied and developed a three-year action plan. The capital and largest city in Moldova is Chişinău.
According to the latest available census data, Moldova has a permanent population of 3.5 million, with ethnic Moldovans, who account for nearly 70 percent of the population, by far the largest ethnic group in the country. Other ethnic groups living in the country, albeit in smaller numbers, include Ukrainians (11%), Russians (9.4%), Gagauz (3.9%), Bulgarians (2%), Romanians (1.9%), Jews and Poles and Romani (0.1%), and others or undeclared (1.46%).
The official language in Moldova is Moldovan, a regional version of the Romanian language that is used for all official business of the government, commerce and education. It is also the most widely spoken language among the Moldovan people. Other languages that are recognized regionally in the country include Russian, Gagauz and Ukrainian. Orthodox Christians comprise over 93 percent of the population—a population that is served by two main churches in Moldova: the Moldovan Orthodox Church, autonomous and subordinated to the Romanian Orthodox Church, and the Orthodox Church of Bessarabia, autonomous and subordinated to the Russian Orthodox Church. Both of these churches consider themselves the national church of Moldova. Other religions practiced in the country include Protestantism (1%) and Roman Catholicism (0.5%).
Education in Moldova
Education in Moldova is overseen by the Ministry of Education at all levels and is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 17. Generally, the education system is divided between four levels: primary education, lower secondary education or middle school, upper secondary and tertiary education.
Primary schooling in Moldova spans 5 years, beginning at age six in first grade and culminating at age 11 with the end of grade five. At this level students are provided instruction in the basics: reading, writing and arithmetic, while other courses in science, social studies, language, history, geography, physical education and the arts are added gradually throughout the later grades.
Secondary education in Moldova commences with middle school or gymnasium, a three-year academic program that features many of the same subjects above only at a more advanced level. Following successful completion of each of the middle school grades, 6-8, students proceed to upper secondary level where they essentially have three options with regard to the type of school they will attend and the education they will receive. The “lyceum” type of upper secondary school offers an advanced university preparatory curriculum, eventually leading to the Diploma de Bacalaureat—the diploma required for all students who wish to pursue tertiary education at the nation’s universities. The technical-vocational type of secondary school provides instruction and training in career fields important to the Moldovan economy, and typically serves the more career-minded students whose desire it is to join the workforce upon graduation. The final type of upper secondary school is called the “Scoala Medie de Cultură Generala,” or general school. Here students receive both basic academic instruction and vocational training, culminating with the diploma called: “Atestat de Studii Medii de Cultură Generala.”
Higher education in Moldova is provided by two types of institutions: colleges and universities. Colleges offer higher technical/vocational training in a wide variety of occupational fields, with programs that usually span two to three years. Students who complete either the vocational or general school are eligible to enroll in these programs, some of which lead to qualifications at the undergraduate level as well. Moldovan universities, whether public or private, offer undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate degrees in most major academic fields. The most popular degree programs among Moldovan university students are economics, law and social sciences, together representing over half of all the degrees earned. Other popular programs include engineering, architecture, education and what the Moldovan Ministry of Education calls “professional formation fields.”