What’s missing in the Belarusian education system
May 25, 2023

What’s missing in the Belarusian education system

A common theme in discussions of any aspect of education is the importance of soft skills. The main reason for the priority of skills over knowledge lies in the speed of the development of the world: if a student receives only specific knowledge, and not the ability to apply it in practice, then by graduation he or she will not be needed in the labour market, and this knowledge will cease to be relevant. Therefore, the educational system should be built on the development of skills and their practical application.

The Belarusian education system in many aspects does not respond to the demands of modern life. It is likely that a graduate of a Belarusian school or university will be the most interesting person in the room. He or she might be able to recite Yesenin’s poems, discuss the abolition of serfdom in Belarus or the application of Ohm’s law, but will struggle in the labour market. Why is this the case? To answer this question, we need to look at the Belarusian education system, which differs significantly from those of other European countries.

Logically we should start with school education. The Belarusian school system is divided into elementary education (ages 6-10), basic secondary education (10-15), and secondary education (15-18), though the last is a formal distinction since secondary education has become compulsory since 2022. Children are taught in classes of 25-30, and are educated from grades 1 all the way through to 11 at the same school and in the same, fixed group of classmates across every subject. Moreover, the curriculum is strictly regimented: each school group has a very clear schedule, and classes do not mix. Thus, the environment that develops in the first grade remains static for the whole 11-year period. On the one hand, this creates very close, almost familial relationships within the class, but on the other hand, such a system does not allow for full development of social skills, and soft skills that are so needed in modern society. Belarusian schoolchildren get used to the comfort of familiar surroundings and are not exposed to new experiences or differing points of view.

The subjects are as fixed as the study groups. Belarusian schoolchildren have very few opportunities to specialise their education depending on their future profession. Recently, there has been a development of specialised classes in secondary school. However, this offers the possibility of further study in existing subjects like mathematics, physics or biology in grades 10 and 11, but not of branching out into additional subjects [1]. For example, a Belarusian student who wants to become a doctor cannot additionally study organic chemistry, there is simply no such additional subject. He or she can only opt for more chemistry classes. Moreover, if not enough students opt for a particular specialisation, then the option falls off the table. 

As for university education, the group formation scheme is the same: a student is fixed in a study group and studies with this group for all 4 years. The exception is lectures for the whole course, where a large number of students come together to listen to the material, but seminars always take place with the same group. The educational basis is a programme approved by the Ministry of Education. A very limited number of elective courses is available. Moreover, elective courses are binary mandatory options. That is, if none of the two or three options corresponds to the narrow academic specialisation of the student, two cannot be abandoned [2].

There is one more feature of Belarusian higher education: almost all Belarusian universities are state-owned, and a significant proportion of study places at universities is financed from the state budget. Almost all applicants strive to get into these subsidised places, because not all families can afford tuition fees, and the system of loans for education is not developed. Upon completion of education, a graduate of a subsidised education is obliged to work for two years in a place determined by the state. The lack of competition in the employment of young professionals therefore leads to a lack of incentives for universities to better prepare students, or students to develop their skills [3].

An essential opportunity for the personal and professional growth of Belarusian students was the opportunity to study as an exchange student under the Erasmus programme. However, as of 2021, all these programmes have been closed.

The educational process in Belarus would benefit, firstly, from the weakening of centralisation, the transfer to the level of schools, colleges, universities of the initiative in transforming programmes in accordance with the needs of reality. After all, the process of making changes to the programme is rather cumbersome: first, the programme is prepared by the department, then it is approved by the faculty, then by the university administration, and only after this it is introduced into the educational process. By reducing the number of approving authorities, we would be able to update curricula in a timely manner.

  Centralisation and uniformity are not always a bad thing. At the level of grades 1-9, this is quite appropriate. However, at grades 10-11, when the student already understands where his or her strengths lie, and aims for higher education, it would be better to take the high school out of the secondary school education system, that is, to be a physically different place with a variety of specialties, more trained teachers, and the opportunity to study more specialised areas.

In addition, the salary of a teacher is less than the average salary in the country. This fact does not speak in favour of the choice of teaching as a future profession for a talented student. This also affects the quality of education [4].

Thus, for all its merits, the Belarusian education system has a major drawback – the lack of dynamism, mobility and democracy. Traditions have to be in education, but not drown out the innovations which are necessary for progress. The full inclusion of Belarus in the Bologna system, the development of specialised education in high school and the increase in the prestige of the teaching profession are some of the keys to improving the Belarusian education system.


  1. https://adu.by/wp-content/uploads/2014/umodos/imp/imp-profilnoe-obuchenije-15-16.docx
  2. https://www.bsmu.by/page/6/531/#:~:text=Курс%20по%20выбору%20студента%20–%20форма,логически%20взаимосвязанных%20дисциплин%20учебного%20плана.
  3. https://adukar.com/by/news/abiturientu/raspredelenie-vypusknikov
  4. https://myfin.by/stati/view/skolko-zarabatyvaut-belorusskie-vraci-i-ucitela 

by T. S.

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