The Kyrgyz Republic, or Kyrgyzstan, was one of five Central Asian countries which suddenly received independence in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Historically a nomadic people, the Kyrgyz had no heritage as a sovereign nation. Geographically governed mainly by the clan or tribe, their nomadic heritage made national borders an arbitrary and, in many ways, unnecessary idea. Kyrgyzstan's diversity is a result of the Soviet delineation of borders between the Central Asian republics and their resettlement policies (especially regarding Germans and Koreans during the Stalin era). Thus, in addition to the issues facing any emerging nation, ethnic tensions can often complicate matters. This young country has faced and continues to face many challenges as it embraces its independence. Russian and Kyrgyz are the national languages, but Uzbek and English are also commonly spoken.
Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous country with few natural resources. little more than 7 percent of the country's land is arable, and petroleum and gas resources are scarce and difficult to develop. Agriculture, predominantly animal husbandry, and the mining of gold and rare metals are the country's major industries. Also significant is the production of hydroelectric energy; rivers emerging from the surrounding mountain ranges are excellent sources of hydroelectric energy that the country exports throughout the region and Europe. Though struggling economically throughout much of the 90s, Kyrgyzstan has seen modest economic growth in recent years.
Strategically located between Afghanistan and Russia, Kyrgyzstan has been scarred by the heroin trade. Originating in Afghanistan, the drug is shipped across Kyrgyzstan's territory on its way to Russia and the European market. The trade has brought corruption, addiction and HIV/AIDS to the country. In addition, cultural struggles have at times led to violence. The south of the country, closely linked to Uzbekistan, is more conservative than the Western-looking north. Also problematic have been the incursions of rebels and Islamic fundamentalist fighters who cross through southern Kyrgyzstan as they travel from Afghanistan and Tajikistan into Uzbekistan.
The country inherited its education system from the Soviet Union. Though they are attempting to to better integrate their system into the international educational market, remnants of the Soviet system still remain. Secondary education is free, but kindergarten and preschool, formerly well supported by the Soviet government, have atrophied under the independent government.
The Ministry of Education and Science currently oversees all levels of education in Kyrgystan.
Secondary education is compulsory until the ninth grade, at which point students receive a сведительство о неполном среднем образовании (Russian)/толук эмес орто билим туралуу кубөлук (Kyrgyz). Students who wish to go on to university must complete an additional two years and receive an attestat.
Students wishing to attend university can take the National Scholarship Test and compete for nationally funded scholarships; however, each university still conducts its own entrance examination.
First Cycle, Academic
Students who gain entrance to a university may earn a диплом бакалавра (Russian)/бакалавр диплому (Kyrgyz) after four years or a диплом специалиста (Russian)/адистик диплом (Kyrgyz) after five years.
First Cycle, Vocational/Technical
Though professional and vocational educational opportunities remain, enrollment in uchilishche, PTU's and SSUZ's is declining. As the number of universities has grown, students have flocked to them in pursuit of the opportunities afforded by a university degree. Further encouraging this trend, the national government has allowed universities to charge tuition to those students not funded by government scholarships. In this way universities are now willing to expand enrollments to increase the revenue from these tuition-paying students.
A диплом магистра (Russian)/магистр диплому (Kyrgyz) is awarded after two additional years following the "bachelor's" degree or one additional year after the "specialist's" degree.
The system retains the кандидат наук (Russian)/илимдин кандидаты (Kyrgyz) and the доктор наук (Russian)/илимдин доктору (Kyrgyz) of the Soviet System. A student must hold a "specialist's" degree or a "master's" degree before pursuing a candidate of sciences. A doctor of sciences is usually pursued well after completion of a candidate of sciences and only awarded after significant publication and contributions to the field. However, few people pursue a doctor of sciences degree due to the expense. Moreover, since one can become a lecturer at a university with a "specialist's" degree or a "master's" degree, there is seldom an incentive to pursue the doctor of sciences.