Education system

Belarus inherited a well-developed education system from the Soviet era and a relatively high educational level of the population. But in the 1990s state funding was reduced, the quality of education suffered, and more private education institutions appeared. At the same time, the education system continued to be highly centralized and under tight ideological control.

Today there are almost 10,000 educational institutions of all levels in Belarus, with about 445,000 educators providing training and education for more than 2 million children, pupils and students.

Based on a number of macroeconomic indicators – such as adult literacy rate (99.7%), coverage of basic, general secondary and vocational education of employed population (98%), admission of children to primary and secondary schools, number of university students – Belarus is on a par with developed European countries.

According to the 2009 UN Human Development Report, Belarus (0.961) has risen to 26th place in the education level index out of 182 countries in the world. At the same time, Belarus ranks 99th place in the rating of countries according to GDP per capita, being not only ten times lower than the world leader in this indicator, but lagging behind countries such as Panama or Botswana.

Belarus demonstrates an atypical case of economic inefficiency of human capital: an unusual combination of high levels of personnel education with a relatively low per capita income. Research by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank in Eastern Partnership countries shows a recent increase in the number of companies whose leaders claim that the lack of professional skills among employees with a high education level inhibits the development of production. In Belarus, the proportion of such enterprises has risen from 33 percent to 55 percent only in the last four years. And this gap is the largest in the Eastern Partnership countries.

Although the authorities constantly emphasize the priority of education, its development is impeded by insufficient public funding. Until 2011, Article 53 of the Education Law prescribed at least 10% of Belarus’ GDP to be allocated to education. However, the budget funding has never approached the level established by law. Moreover, in the last decade, the share of GDP allocated to education declined steadily: from 6.6% in 2002 to 5% in 2010.The 2011economic crisis  destroyed hopes of raising the level of state support for education. The new Education Code which came into effect in 2011 does not set any rate of education funding from the budget. The deficit of budget support is compensated by population’s growing expenses related to educational services. Each year, the share of household expenditures on education grows steadily. In 8 years they have increased by 73% (from 1.1% to 1.9% of total consumer spending). Two-thirds of Belarusian university students are compelled to pay for their education. While secondary education is formally free, students’ parents are expected to cover certain costs on a regular basis.