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Monaco, officially known as the Principality of Monaco, is a very small sovereign city-state, with a total geographic area of just 0.75 square miles. The country is located on the French Riviera in Western Europe and is surrounded by France on three sides, with the other side bordering the Mediterranean Ocean. Monaco is governed under a form of constitutional monarchy, with a Prince from the House of Grimaldi serving as head of state, the family that, except for a few brief interruptions, has ruled the country since 1927. Monaco is the state capital of the country and Larvotto/Bas Moulins is the most populated ward. The most populated quarter, on the other hand, is the famed city of Monte Carlo.
As of the latest census, Monaco’s population was just under 36,000, and because of its tiny area it is officially the most densely-populated country in the world. Ethnically, the population is very diverse and a bit unusual in that the native people of Monaco, known as the Monegasques, are actually a minority in the country, accounting for only 21.6 percent of the total population. The French are the largest ethnic group in the country, comprising nearly 28.5 percent of the population, followed by the Monegasques (21.6%), Italians (18.7%), British (7.5%), Belgians (2.8%), Germans (2.5%), Swiss (2.5%) and Americans (1.2%).
While the official language of Monaco is French, a language that is used in government administration, media, commerce, courts and in the education sector, there are many other languages that can be heard throughout the country. The American, British and Irish residents, for example, speak English, while the sizeable Italian contingent speaks their native language. Monegasque is the traditional national language, but its use is dwindling and is now spoken by only a very small minority of the population. The Monacan Constitution guarantees freedom of religion to all residents, but Roman Catholicism is considered the official religion of the country and is practiced by the majority of the population. Other religious affiliations include, Jewish, Anglican and other Protestant faiths.
Education in Monaco is overseen by the national government and is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 16. The education system is divided between four distinct levels: nursery school, primary education, secondary education and tertiary or higher education.
There are seven state–operated nursery schools in Monaco that serve children between the ages of three and five. The curriculum includes instruction in basic pre-reading, pre-writing, count, music, and arts and crafts. This level of education is extremely important and well-attended as it teaches children valuable skills in terms of learning to work and play cooperatively and helps them become accustomed to a structured educational environment.
Primary schools in Monaco, of which there are several that are state-run, provide eight years of education for students between the ages of 6 and 14. Here the curriculum is very broad, initially focusing on reading and writing education, along with basic arithmetic. These subjects are gradually supplemented by courses in mathematics, social studies, language arts, science, history, geography, practical arts, physical education and music.
There is one general secondary school in Monaco offering academic courses that help prepare students for university admission. Two lycees make up the remainder of secondary institutions in the country, one providing general and technological training and the other offering vocational and hotel training (the hotel/tourist industry is Monaco’s largest).
Higher education in Monaco is provided by one national university, where students can earn undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate degrees in a select number of academic areas. Those pursuing specialized degrees, in fields such as medicine and dentistry, usually do so at higher education institutions in neighboring countries, particularly France and Italy.