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Slovakia, also known as the Slovak Republic, is a mid-size country in Central Europe, with a total geographic area of roughly 19,000 square miles. Completely landlocked, the country shares borders to the west with Austria and the Czech Republic, to the north with Poland, to the east with Ukraine and to the south with Hungary. Slovakia has a highly developed economy and is a member of the European Union, NATO, the United Nations and OECD among others. The capital and largest city in Slovakia is Bratislava, while the second-largest is Kosice.
As of the last census taken in 2011, Slovakia had an estimated population of 5.4 million—a population that is fairly homogenous from an ethnic standpoint, with native Slovakians accounting for roughly 85 percent of the population. Hungarians are the largest ethnic minority in the country at 9.5%, followed by the Roma (1.7%) and others (2.5%). Prior to World War II, there were also some 135,000 Jews inhabiting the country.
The official language of Slovakia is Slovak, a member of the Slavic language family that is common in the Central European region. Hungarian is also widely spoken in the southern portions of the country, while Rusyn is spoken in parts of the northeast. These minority languages and others are granted co-official status in municipalities in which the size of the minority is at least 20 percent of the overall total, which in Slovakia is considered the legal threshold. Religious freedom is guaranteed to all Slovakians by the country’s constitution, and while there is no national religion per se, over 60 percent of the population practices Roman Catholicism. The various Protestant faiths, which are practiced by roughly 6 percent of the population, represent the largest religious minority, followed by Greek Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity.
Education in Slovakia
Education in Slovakia is overseen and regulated by the national Ministry of Education and school is free and compulsory for ten years for children between the ages of 6 and 16. The education system is divided between three main levels: primary education, secondary education and higher education.
Children in Slovakia begin their primary education in the year of their sixth birthday and will remain at this level for 9 years, usually culminating at age 15. Primary education is further subdivided into two levels: first primary education stage (four years, for children age 6-10) and second primary education stage (five years, for children 10-15), with many new subjects added in the second phase. Subjects taught at this level include Slovak language and literature, foreign language, mathematics, geography, biology, chemistry, history, religion or ethics, physical education, music, drawing and technical education.
Following primary school, all Slovakian students must take a national examination, on which their score will determine the type of secondary education they will take. Basically, there are two types or tracks of secondary education: gymnasium, a purely academic program that helps to prepare students for university enrollment; and vocational-technical education, in which students receive training and instruction in one of many Slovakian career fields. Students who graduate from the 3-4 year vocational-technical track can either join the workforce or pursue further education and training at a post-secondary institution.
Higher education in Slovakia is provided by three types of universities and colleges: public, state and private. Public schools of higher education are the basic rule. These schools are established by the Slovakian legal system, and most institutions of higher education are of this type and are financed largely by the government. State institutions, which are also funded by the government, include police and military academies, as well as medical schools, while private schools are funded by non-governmental entities and are still quite rare in the country.