The 2010/2011 academic year began in Belarus on September 1 for a total of 950,000 schoolchildren, including 86,300 first graders.
School starters received books entitled, "Belarus is our Homeland. The gift of the President of the Republic of Belarus for first graders."
The number of all schoolchildren dropped by 33.400 this academic year; the number of first graders did not change significantly.
There are 3,531 general education institutions in the country, including 214 gymnasiums, 29 lyceums and three cadet schools. They fell in number by 59 compared with the previous year. Eighteen percent of students study through the medium of Belarusian and 77 percent through the medium of Russian.
An additional academic hour will be this year devoted to foreign languages. Students will now have three academic hours of foreign languages at general education schools and five at gymnasiums.
While speaking at a teachers’ conference in Minsk on August 20, Education Minister Alyaksandr Radzkow emphasized the need to pay more attention to foreign language instruction and physical fitness in schoolchildren. "The need to study foreign languages is the need of the economy," Mr. Radzkow said. "We are oriented toward export. To sell a product, you have to make it properly, package it nicely and find a buyer. Knowledge of languages is needed for this."
Besides, the education ministry considers introducing an optional class at schools of general education to teach students the basics of Orthodox Christianity.
New Belarusian language spelling and punctuation rules took effect on September 1.
Passed by the parliament and signed by Alyaksandr Lukashenka in 2008, the law governing the Belarusian language spelling and punctuation aims to end the variety of spellings that existed since the mid-1990s. Most of the changes introduced by the law deal with the use of capital letters and the letter "ў" and ending rules for loan words, as well as reduce the number of exceptions to spelling rules.