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Georgia, or officially, the Republic of Georgia, is an independent country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, with a total geographic area of roughly 27,000 square miles. The country is situated at the intersection of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, and shares borders with the Black Sea in the west, Russia in the north, Azerbaijan in the southeast, and Turkey and Armenia in the south. Once a member state of the Soviet Union, Georgia was granted independence on Christmas Day, 1991, and since that time, the country has been a unitary, semi-presidential republic with a representative democracy. The capital and largest city in Georgia is Tbilisi.
Georgia has an estimated population of approximately 4.7 million, and its people, much like most native Caucasian people, do not fit into any of the main ethnic groups of Europe or Asia. As of the last census, 84 percent of the people in Georgia were ethnic Georgians. Minority groups in the country include small numbers of Abkhazians, Armenians, Azeris, Turks, Poles, Russians, Bulgarians, Belarusians, Estonians, Germans, Greeks, Moldovans and Ossetians. Georgia also has one of the oldest and largest Jewish communities in the region. While many languages can be heard throughout Georgia, Georgian is the only official language of the country, a unique language to the region because its roots are not Indo-European, Turkic or Semitic, but rather Kartvelian in nature. In present day Georgia, religious freedom is granted to all citizens; a freedom they did not enjoy when under Soviet rule. According to census data, nearly 84 percent of the population practices Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Religious minorities in the country, in order of their prevalence, include Muslims (10%), Armenian Apostolic (4%) and Roman Catholic (1%).
Education in Georgia
Education in Georgia is overseen by the national government (Ministry of Education) and is free and compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 14. The system is divided into 4 separate stages: elementary education, for children aged 6-12; basic education, for students aged 12-15; secondary education, for students ages 15-18; and higher education.
Elementary and basic schooling are both compulsory, offering students a well-rounded education through a broad academic curriculum. In the early grades, reading, writing, grammar and basic arithmetic make up most of the curriculum. However, once students reach the third grade, typically at age 8 or 9, additional subjects, including general science, history, geography, art and music are added.
Secondary education in Georgia, while not mandatory, is well-attended, largely due to the many choices students have at this level regarding the type of education provided. Students may choose to attend either a general secondary school—a three-year academic program that helps prepare them for university admission—or a vocational secondary school—a two-year program in which students receive education and training in a career field of their choice. Students who successfully complete the vocational education track are awarded a certificate and can use the skills they’ve acquired to enter the workforce. General secondary school graduates are granted a diploma, which is required for university consideration.
Students wanting to enroll in one of the many Georgian universities must first take and pass the Unified National Examination—a government-administered entrance examination that measures a student’s academic proficiency in a number of core subject areas. Much like in other European countries, the higher education system in Georgia was recently restructured—a decision that was quite controversial when it began in 2004. Borne out of a series of educational reforms and outlined by the Bologna Process, the new structure now features a standardized credit (120 credits per academic year) and degree system: Bachelor Degree (3 Years), Master’s Degree (2 Years) and Doctorate or PhD (3 years). By clearly defining the academic year and making each program the same length, the primary goal of this new structure is to facilitate student transfer, not only within the Georgian higher education system, but in universities throughout the European Union.