Education in Azmara

Education in Azmara
Department of Education and Research
Secretary of State for Education and ResearchJorśena Hanksdohter
National education budget (2019)
Budget€35 billion
General details
Primary languagesAzmaran
System typeNational
Literacy (2019)
Total99.9%
Male99.8%
Female99.9%
Enrollment
TotalNot available
Primary100%
Secondary100%

Education in Azmara is free and compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 18. It follows a two-stage model, featuring primary (ândeskul) and secondary (twiideskul) education. Under almost all cases, primary education takes eight years to complete and is attended between 6 and 14, while secondary education takes four years to complete and is attended between 14 and 18. Secondary education is often divided into two types: the gymnasium, which offers a more traditional academic curriculum focused around humanities, social sciences and sciences, and vocational schools (arbeiderskulen), which offer a more vocational curriculum focused on future careers. After secondary education, many students go on to tertiary education (þriideskulen), which is offered at a range of institutions with a range of different focuses.

School years begin on the second Monday of September and finish on the second-to-last Friday of July. The year is divided into four quarters, with each quarter consisting of ten weeks. There is a holiday of one to two weeks between each quarter, and in addition there is a week's holiday in the week of Christmas and an extended weekend off during Easter.

Most schools are operated by the state, with all primary schools and tertiary educational institutions being operated by the state and the establishment of a private primary or tertiary educational institution being illegal. However, private secondary schools exist and it is thought that 2% of secondary school students attend a private school, yet these are required to follow government regulations over educational curriculums and teaching standards. Homeschooling is only allowed in specific circumstances, largely when a student's individual educational needs cannot be addressed in traditional schooling or when the lifestyle of the parent or child requires it.

Background

The creation of a universal education system in Azmara is dated to 1852-8, where the first republican government passed laws guaranteeing every child between 6 and 14 in Azmara education, creating the folksskulen, a series of government-owned primary schools which taught children basic arithmetic, spelling, reading, natural sciences and civics, as well as some vocational education to prepare students for the workplace. The nature and funding of these schools was a matter of contention in the early days of the republic, as the ruling Forþgaaner faction supported a centralised, state-run, secular education system, while the Jorśite faction advocated for the creation of a universal education system through the creation of church schools, which would feature a Sotirian curriculum, be funded by both the Church of Azmara and the state and feature greater decentralisation. Ultimately, the Forþgaaner faction won out and created the folksskulen, which were largely free from religious instruction.

Aarne Aansgaarsun (1887-1961), the Education Secretary credited with introducing universal secondary education.

However, for a long period of time this was to be the only state-funded education; while in theory further education at a gymnasium, or tertiary education after that, was open to all, all of these schools would charge fees for entry and thus they were not open to the lower classes and further education was thus de facto restricted to the affluent sectors of Azmaran society. The Education Act of 1938 established universal secondary education, where at the end of primary education the student would be tested to see whether they qualified for a gymnasium or an arbeiderskul; the traditional gymnasiums were made open to all through this system and focused on academic studies such as the natural sciences, humanities and arts, while a new type of school in the arbeiderskul was created to provide education for those planning to enter the workforce by training students to enter skilled labour positions through offering specific job-focused qualifications.

In the 1970s, a new type of school, the gâlykskul, was created, combining both a gymnasium and arbeiderskul education and allowing for students to take a mixture of vocational and academic qualifications. The creations of these were intended to integrate students from different abilities and to address an imbalance in social backgrounds towards those of middle-class origins in the gymnasia and towards those of working-class backgrounds in the arbeiderskulen. While their intended purpose of replacing both schools across the nation from their proponents has not come to fruition as only 15% of secondary school students attend them, they have become the dominant form of schooling in the Province of Aalmsted. Other reforms taken in the 1970s include the Opportunities in Education Act 1978, which greatly expanded the provision of special education in Azmara by improving the quality of primary schools, gymnasia and arbeiderskulen aimed at students with speficic educational needs and disabilities and mandating measures for the inclusion of students with such conditions in mainstream schools.

Control of the education system in the modern day largely rests in the Department for Education and Research, yet individual provinces and districts have some influence on the curriculum and structure of schooling in their prefecture.

History

The Social Sciences Faculty Building of Wucing College, the country's second oldest university.

The oldest gymnasiums within the country were built in the 11th century in the Western March, with the self-proclaimed oldest school in the country being the Hohskul in Mideltuun, built in Mideltuun, the then-capital of the Western March. It served as a place to educate the children of noblemen and future members of the chancellory and civil servants, yet it has moved out of its original building to a more modern site on the edge of town.

University education began in Azmara in 1389 with the construction of Eśensted College, established at the site of the Eśensted Monastery in order to provide education in theology and liberal arts for priests and civil servants. Various splits and increased demand for university education led to the building of Wucing College and Sloh College in the market towns of Wucing and Sloh in 1450 and 1501, and the three have been called the "three ancient colleges" as a result.

For 362 years they were the only three universities in Azmara, until the University of Aalmsted was built in 1863 by the new republican government to open up higher education to the middle classes and provide for education in subjects such as the natural sciences. Another initial characteristic of the University of Aalmsted was that it was officially secular, however both Wucing College and Sloh College secularised in the years afterwards and to this day Eśensted remains the only non-secular university in the country, being officially affiliated with the Church of Azmara.

Higher education saw major growth over the 20th century as the post-war social democratic governments focused heavily on expanding higher education in science, maths and engineering, seeing them as crucially important and setting up many new institutions to cope with this, most notably the Groonbank Institute of Science and Technology in Westhaltuun, the University of Westmaark in Stajnensby and the Jorś-Hylager Technical College.

Levels

Azmara's education system is often divided into four tiers: pre-school, primary school, secondary school and tertiary education.

Age range Name (Estmerish) Name (Azmaran) School Mandatory
2-6 Pre-school Kinþengaarden Pre-school No
6-7 First Year Ândejer Primary school Yes
7-8 Second Year Twiidejer Yes
8-9 Third Year Þriidejer Yes
9-10 Fourth Year Foordejer Yes
10-11 Fifth Year Fyfdejer Yes
11-12 Sixth Year Sâhdejer Yes
12-13 Seventh Year Sâbandejer Yes
13-14 Eighth Year Aahdejer Yes
14-15 Ninth Year Nâwyndejer Secondary school Yes
15-16 Tenth Year Cendejer Yes
16-17 Eleventh Year Âlaafdejer Yes
17-18 Twelfth Year Twelefdejer Yes

Pre-school

Forest schooling, such as in this example in Ruisberg, Haadland, are particularly popular in Azmara.

Pre-school, or kinþengaarden (lit. "children garden") in Azmaran, refers to non-compulsory education between the ages of one to six before a child begins primary school. Like other schools, these are regulated by the Department for Education and Research, which sets guidelines on how best to guide the social, physical and emotional development of children at this stage, and on the treatment that children at this stage get. However, they are not administered by the central government like other schools at this stage; most are run by local government, yet some are run by the Church of Azmara and others are run by various community organisations. Despite this, the costs of attending a pre-school are largely covered by the government regardless of who it is run by; the government guarantees 35 hours a week of pre-school to all children of age.

Pre-schools usually consist of around 30 children per school year, yet this number ranges from district to district as less populated districts have lower numbers per school year, and all pre-schools are mixed gender. The exact techniques used by pre-schools range from local district to local district, yet each feature basic instruction in the Azmaran language and arithmetic. Many districts across the country employ the use of forest schooling, where pre-schooling takes place in natural environments. This model is especially widespread in the central cities, with lessons taking place in the various parks located across the cities. However, pre-schooling in designated buildings is also particularly prominent.

In areas of Haadland and Hytklif, IJssentaal and Hytklifer-speaking pre-schools are available and growing in popularity, in which conduct themselves primarily in these languages. However, the Azmaran language is still taught to students at these due to government regulations mandating its teaching at all pre-schools.

Primary school

Primary school, or ândeskul (lit. "first school") in Azmaran, is attended between the ages of six and fourteen and is mandatory to attend, with failure to enroll one's children in a primary school being punishable with the removal of custody.

When a child arrives at one of these schools, they enter First Year (Ândejer), and start lessons in literacy, mathematics, natural sciences, physical education, arts and humanities. Of these, literacy and mathematics take up the vast majority of a child's time: government directives dictates that 30% of lesson time will be spent on either, while 15% is spent on natural sciences and humanities, and 5% on arts and physical education. A class will, at this stage, be taught by one teacher for the whole duration of the day, although in physical education and arts, specialist teachers will be brought in to assist the normal class teacher.

In certain districts of Haadland and Hytklif, there have been successful pushes in recent years to make literacy lessons bilingual, teaching students reading and writing skills in both Azmaran and IJssental or Hytklifer. Upon the official recognition of these languages in government in 2019, it is thought that their role in education in these provinces will be increased.

A playground at a primary school in Stajnensby.

In Fifth Year (Fyfdejer), at the age of 10, new subjects are introduced to a child's curriculum. From this point forward, 10% of a student's lessons are designated for learning a foreign language. Students are normally given a choice between learning Estmerish, Gaullican or Weranian, yet in some schools other languages such as Floren, Buckish, Hennish or Narodyn are on offer, and in some rural schools only one language is offered; rural schools in Nordberg and Sompland near the border with Werania or in Ostlaak near the border with Buckland will often only teach Weranian or Buckish.

From Sixth Year (Sâhdejer), additions to the curriculum in natural sciences and humanities are made. 20% of a student's lesson time in natural sciences is allocated to sex education, in which a comprehensive view of relationships, safe sex, consent and contraception is provided. Since 2007, this includes discussion of sexual orientation and same-sex relationships. Meanwhile, 25% of humanities is allocated to civic and religious education. In the former, students learn about the government, democracy, human rights and some basic sociology and economics, while in the latter, students learn about Sotirianity and other world religions, as well as some basic philosophy.

In their final year (Aahdejer), students will sit the Ândeskulwegaanenprufen (commonly abbreviated to ÂSWP), a series of exams in all areas of the curriculum in order to deem whether they are suitable for entry into a gymnasium or arbeiderskul, and in order to assess where the student's strengths and weaknesses lie.

These schools have a vast range of social activities: after-school clubs in sport, cooking, art, music and drama are seen in almost all schools at this level, and events in these areas organised by these clubs, such as inter-school sports matches and cooking competitions, and school concerts, art galleries and plays. Schools are also mandated to include counselling facilities and support groups for at-risk students to use, and there are numerous guidelines as to the integration of deaf or blind pupils and pupils with learning difficulties.

Secondary school

Pupils begin secondary education, which is also mandatory, after graduation from Eighth Year. At this stage, students are streamed based on future aspirations and academic performance. Students who gain optimal scores in their ÂSWP are eligible for enrolling in a gymnasium, which focuses on academic subjects with the aim of training students for professional careers. However, students that do not qualify for gymnasium enrolment, or those that do not wish to enroll, attend an arbeiderskul, which instructs them in more vocational studies with the aim of training them for skilled labour positions.

However, the model of gymnasia and vocational schools is not universal; comprehensive schools, which seek to integrate both academic and vocational education into one environment and allow students to mix both academic and vocational studies as they see fit, are also prevalent in some areas such as the capital of Aalmsted and the Haadland coast, where almost all schools are comprehensive.

Like in primary schools, after-school social clubs are maintained at secondary school, albeit teaching at a more advanced level, and they incorporate these activities into inter-school events. Counselling facilities and support groups continue to be provided, as do guidelines on the integration of deaf or blind students and students with learning difficulties.

Gymnasium

A classroom at East Sloh Gymnasium.

Gymnasiums focus on academic studies and are attended by approximately 40% of students across Azmara.

When students enter in the Ninth Year (Nâwyndejer) at the age of 15, they are taught a curriculum similar to a that in their final years of primary school, albeit one significantly more academically intensive, with time divided between literacy, mathematics, natural sciences, physical education, humanities, arts and languages. However, in natural sciences, humanities and arts, the various subjects which students can earn qualifications in in these areas are introduced to them in order to allow them to experience them before they make the choice in what to study.

By the end of the year, students are made to choose the subjects they wish to take qualifications in. Students uniformly take qualifications in seven subjects. However, there are restrictions on which subjects they are allowed to study:

  • All students must take Azmaran Studies and Mathematics.
  • Students must take one humanities subject: choices normally offered are History, Geography, Sociology, Economics, Philosophy, Political Science and Anthropology.
  • Students must take one natural sciences subject: choices normally offered are Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Psychology and Computer Science, yet specific qualifications in fields such as Astronomy, Biochemistry, Botany, Environmental Science and Zoology are offered at some schools.
  • Students must also take a language: many continue the language they learnt at primary school, yet there is the option to take on a new language ab initio.

The two other subjects are up to the student's own discretion; they are able to choose any of the languages, natural sciences or humanities to fill this, or they may take further Mathematics education or an arts subject such as Art, Music or Drama.

In their final year (Twelefdejer), students take exams in all seven of these subjects, and write an extended essay on a topic of their choice. Each of these eight components is graded on a scale of 0 to 8, in which at least a 4 in each component is needed to graduate from gymnasium and obtain the Gymnasiumwegaanenprufen. Lessons on critical thinking and physical education are also necessary, but no exams are taken in these subjects.

The Gymnasiumwegaanenprufen qualification, often abbreviated to GWP, is accepted by most employers and tertiary educational institutions, and a good result both overall and in relevant courses is needed for admission to most tertiary educational institutions.

Vocational schools

The curriculum at arbeiderskulen (vocational schools) largely mirrors that of those of a gymnasium, yet the teaching of the subjects is more focused on their application to the workplace. They are the most common form of secondary school in Azmara; approximately 45% of the country's secondary level students attend one.

Like in their gymnasium counterparts, vocational schools feature a Ninth Year curriculum similar to that of their curriculum in the later years of primary school, albeit with increasing variation in natural sciences, humanities and arts. However, the main difference is that natural sciences is taught focusing on the application of scientific knowledge and principles to the workplace, as is humanities to a lesser extent.

The Arbeiderskulenwegaanenprufen (ARWP) consists of seven components and mirrors the GWP in the subjects it covers, with notable key differences. Azmaran Studies and Mathematics are both mandatory components of the ARWP and, like in the GWP, taking a course in a humanities subject and a language are mandatory components. However, the mandatory natural science component is replaced by a mandatory applied science component. This will focus more on the application of the science in question to the workplace, and can be taken in Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, Computer Science or Environmental Science.

For the other two components of the ARWP, students are able to take a wide range of vocational courses which offer direct training for a specific job: examples include Media Studies, Business Management, Textiles, Electronics, Culinary Science and Hair and Beauty. However, a student can also take a second humanities, applied science or language subject, or they may take an arts subject.

The assessment of an ARWP is rather varied: while Azmaran Studies, Mathematics, Humanities and Languages are all assessed through exams at the end of Twelfth Year, while Arts and Applied Sciences are assessed through a mix of exams and coursework and vocational courses are almost entirely assessed through coursework. In each subject the candidate will receive a score between 0 and 8, and if a candidate gets at least a 4 in each subject then they will receive the ARWP.

From this, many students will go on to apprenticeships within an occupation they wish to enter, yet a large minority of students will apply to tertiary educational institutions, mainly to those which focus more on vocational degrees, as some of the more traditional institutions do not accept applicants with an ARWP.

Comprehensive schools

Aleksaander Mâþijassun was instrumental in establishing the first comprehensive schools in Azmara.

The first comprehensive schools were established in the early 1970's under the government of Aleksaander Mâþijassun, with the intention of countering a perceived class-based discrimination within the education system as statistics showing over-representation of middle-class students at gymnasiums and working-class students at vocational schools were released in 1970. Their purpose was to combine the two types of school into one school which would allow students to do both academic and vocational qualifications and order to mix students of different abilities, strengths and interests.

However, despite the intentions of some behind the introduction of comprehensive schools, they were largely unsuccessful at usurping the dichotomy between gymnasiums and private schools and only 15% of students attend these. However, they were successful at usurping the dichotomy in Aalmsted to the extent where the vast majority of schools in the City and Province of Aalmsted are comprehensive schools, and other areas of the country such as the Fief of Wiljâm-Hylager are similarly dominated by comprehensive schools.

Comprehensive schools function similarly to gymnasiums and vocational schools in that the Ninth Year features a curriculum similar to primary school, albeit where new subjects that qualifications can be taken in are introduced. After this, subjects are chosen to take qualifications in, and like in other schools qualifications in Azmaran Studies, Mathematics, a humanities subject, a science subject and a language are mandatory.

However, both the applied science modules and the natural science qualifications offered at vocational schools and gymnasiums respectively can be taken, and there are two other subject slots that can be taken by secondary subjects in humanities, science, languages, or in arts and vocational subjects, or in further mathematics. The mandatory extended essay module present in gymnasiums is also offered as an optional extra qualification.

The qualification attained when leaving a comprehensive school is rather varied; while it is normally referred to as a Skulwegaanenprufen (SWP), a Gymnasiumwegaanenprufen can be attained from a comprehensive school if the student takes the extended essay module, natural science over applied science and does not take any vocational courses.

For the SWP, each subject is graded between 0 and 8 if the extended essay is not taken and between 0 and 7 if the extended essay is taken, with a 4 being a passing mark if the extended essay is not taken and a 3 being a passing mark if the extended essay is taken.

The SWP can be used to apply to both universities and apprenticeships, however some of the top universities will not accept students with the qualification.

Tertiary education

Tertiary education is, unlike primary and secondary education, not mandatory, yet most Azmarans enroll in tertiary education after finishing secondary education, and it is provided free of charge to all resident in Azmara and maintenance grants are available to those from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, there is a great range in how tertiary education is taught and structured depending on the institution; institutions range from those that provide vocational education through apprenticeships with courses taught largely by employers and experts in the workplace, to solely academic institutions specialising in subjects such as natural sciences and engineering or in liberal arts.

Work colleges

The most popular form of tertiary educational institution are those which provide vocational education through apprenticeships, known as arbeiderkolegen (work colleges) in Azmaran, which exist in most major towns and cities across the country and work with major industries within the local area to provide courses which train students in those workplaces to work in those jobs. Traditionally, this was done with manufacturing industries and other industries requiring the use of skileld labour, yet the use of these skills has rapidly extended to the services sector within the past few decades.

Despite most teaching happening in the workplace, there are often lectures on the more theoretical aspects of the vocation in question at the campus of the work college, and most courses will have at least one of these lectures a week. The campuses are also normally home to the administrative functions of the work college, yet also provide accommodation for students that do not live in the local area. Courses normally last for two to three years and, when a student has completed their course, it is common for them to enter work in the field that they trained for, often at the company they did their apprenticeship after.

Universities and colleges

There also exist several institutions across Azmara dedicated to the further study of academic subjects. Officially, these institutions are called universities (uniwersitâten) in official government doccuments, but many of them are officially styled as colleges. Many of these have much more restrictive entry requirements than work colleges, as while the former generally require passes on the ARWP, GSWP or GWP and specialisations in relevant fields, many universities require relatively high entry grades on these qualifications to enter, and some universities considered more prestigious will not accept students that have not done a GWP.

A standard undergraduate university course unrolled in at the age of 18 normally takes three years to complete and is known as the bachelor's degree (lisens). This is by far the most common university course, and many variations in the degree exist; while a degree in the liberal arts is known as a Bachelor of Arts (LMW, Lisens âb Maanwisenśip), a degree in the natural sciences is known as a Bachelor of Science (LNW, Lisens âb Naturaalwisenśip). A bachelor's is required to undertake further academic degrees, such as a master's degree (maister), which takes one year to complete, or a doctorate (doktorât), which takes three years to complete.

The Engineering Department of the Groonbank Institute for Science and Technology.

While Azmara has many universities with specific specialisations, the country's university system is dominated by the League of Eight (Aahtbund), which consists of eight universities deemed the most prestigious in Azmara. Its members include the medieval liberal arts colleges at Sloh, Wucing and Eśensted, multi-disciplinary institutions such as the 19th-century University of Aalmsted, which consistently ranks as one of Euclea's top universities, and the newer Westmaark University, the 20th-century natural sciences and engineering-focused Groonbank Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) and Jorś-Hylager Technical College, and the Nordberg Institute of Art which focuses on creative arts. These universities gain the highest amount of government research funding, and degrees from the constituent universities are looked upon more highly than other universities.

Special education

Measures for the inclusion of, or the alternative provision of education to children with special educational needs are mandatory and standardised across Azmara. The initial legislation covering this was the Opportunites in Education Act 1978, yet most recently the Opportunities in Education Act of 2019 improved and overhauled the system in many ways.

A school catering to students with special educational needs in Maancester, Groonbank.

Both acts, while allowing the establishment of special schools to cater to students with specific needs, such as deaf schools that teach in sign language, recommend the use of inclusion where possible. To this end, the government funds the provision of support for students with specific needs, such as accessible buildings for students with mobility impairments, the use of induction loops to cater to students with hearing impairments and specific support in the classroom and examinations for students with conditions such as dyslexia, ADHD or autism spectrum disorder.

The acts also mandate that provision for students with specific needs is made at tertiary education, and also mandates the creation of university courses to train specialist teachers for the provision of special education at both special and mainstream schools.

Criticism

The Azmaran education system has, despite receiving praise from some sources, received a great deal of criticism from many elements in Azmaran society and internationally for perceived shortcomings in particular areas.

Elitism in secondary education

One notable criticism levelled against the Azmaran education system is that it is fundamentally elitist and benefits children of middle-class backgrounds more than it does those of working-class backgrounds.

One major part of criticism in this area is that middle-class children are over-represented in both gymnasiums and universities. Admissions statistics in 2018 revealed that 58% of students in gymnasiums came from families with household incomes above the median for the nation, which was met with large backlash from many public figures, including Education Secretary Jorśena Hanksdohter, who said that the findings were "atrocious". Furthermore, a longitudinal study published in 2017 by academics from the University of Westmaark followed 341 children from the City of Nysted, Sompland Province, and found that of the 138 children they deemed to come from "middle-class" backgrounds, with parents working in white collar jobs, 54% were accepted into gymnasiums, while of the 203 children they deemed to come from "working-class" backgrounds, with parents working in blue collar jobs or unemployed, only 37% were accepted into gymnasiums. The reason for this gap in acceptance has been attributed to the greater availability of resources and tutors for the ÂSWP to middle-class parents contributing to better grades for their students.

Gaps between middle-class and working-class children in attainment extend to grades achieved in qualifications such as the GWP and ARWP. The same longitudinal study from 2017 saw that of the 148 children in the study that sat the GWP, the 75 children from middle-class backgrounds achieved an average score of 47.1, while the 73 children from working-class backgrounds achieved an average score of 37.3. The drop in attainment seen here represents a loss of at least one average grade across each component, and was particularly apparent in humanities and language subjects, where on average middle-class students beat their working-class peers by 2.02 grades. While the gap was less apparent on the ARWP, where the 62 middle-class students achieved an average score of 43.3 and their 127 working-class peers achieved an average score of 38.1, this still reflects an average decrease of around three-quarters of a grade per subject.

University admissions

The admissions processes of the League of Eight universities have been heavily criticised for their perceived elitist nature. In admissions for the 2019/20 academic year, five of the eight universities (Aalmsted, Sloh, Eśensted, Wucing, GIST) only accepted home students who had done a GWP and did not accept students with a GSWP or ARWP, while both Jorś-Hylager Technical College and Westmaark University limited many of their courses to students who had sat a GWP. While the universities in question defended these policies by saying that they were implemented in order for students to have an academic education before they began, yet this logic was criticised by many who said it implied that the GSWP and ARWP were "inferior qualifications".

Furthermore, of the students admitted to the League of Eight in this year, significantly higher proportions were from well-off backgrounds than the national average: 66% of freshmen at Sloh College came from a household with above-median household income, while 14% of the institution's students had attended private secondary schools compared to just 2% of the nation as a whole, and the institution was therefore criticised heavily for its student body being unrepresentative of the nation as a whole, with Prime Minister Eryk Jorśsun, himself a graduate of the college, being heavily critical of the gap in a speech. However, the problem was not unique to Sloh: all three of the ancient liberal arts colleges took over 60% of their freshmen from well-off households and over 10% from private schools, and Aalmsted University saw a similar, if slightly less extreme, over-representation in its student body, with 59% of its students coming from well-off households and 8% of its students coming from private schools.