System of primary education in Ukraine

education Ukraine schools universities

Source:Education for All 2000 Assessment:Ukraine National Report,
Ministry of Education of Ukraine,1990-1999,Kyiv - 1999

General remarks

Elementary school in Ukraine, as well as in other countries of the world, is doubtless the foundation of all school. Text of the Law on Education also testifies to it , in particular, the fourth item of Article 36, that emphasizes necessity of creation of an elementary school "regardless of the amount of students in the settlement".

"Article 35. Basic secondary education

1. Basic secondary education provides all-round development of a child as a personality, his gifts, abilities, talents, working education, vocational self-determination, formation of universal morals, acquiring of determined by public and national-cultural needs of knowledge about nature, human being,society and industry, ecological education, physical improvement.

2. The state guarantees to young people the right to receive completes basic secondary education and pays for it. The complete basic secondary education in Ukraine is compulsory and it can be received in different types of educational institutions.

3. Due to financial resources of enterprises, institutions and organizations, parents and other voluntary payments some additional educational courses beyond determined in state standards for the appropriate educational level can be introduced.

Article 36. Secondary educational institutions

1. The main type of secondary educational institutions is the secondary comprehensive school of three levels: the first (I)- elementary school, which provides primary general education, the second (II)- basic school, which provides general basic secondary education, the third (III)- upper school, which provides complete general secondary education.

2. Schools of each of three levels can function together or independently.
(For example:school of I level,school of I-II levels,school of I-III levels)

Schooling at a secondary comprehensive school begins from six - seven age.

Schools of the first level in a rural area are formed regardless of available enrolments of pupils. Opening of such schools, and also of independent classes in them is carried out according to the decision of local bodies of the state executive authority and bodies of local self-management. "

Traditionally the main task of an elementary school is providing of the most important compounds of children development and training them for the future schooling - skills of confident reading and writing, mastering principles of Arithmetic, formation of initial skills to use books and other sources of information, mastering basic ideas about an environment, initial mastering norms of universal morals, deepening of love to a native Land, mastering principles of hygiene and initial working skills.
Though an elementary school can be included into the structure of schools with several levels, in Ukraine there exist about three thousand autonomous small schools, which provide stable existence of those villages, where they are located. More detailed data on the amount of elementary schools in Ukraine are given in Tab.1.

During years of independence the total number of autonomous elementary schools, which were not included into the structure of complex institutions, has dropped from 3 164 up to 2 684. It was caused by a number of demographic and economic factors. At the same time the total number of schools of different types increased, that is why the number of pupils, which studied in the second change essentially decreased. Later on it is planned to carry out schooling of all pupils only in the first (morning) change.

Schooling in elementary schools, as well as in other general educational institutions of Ukraine, lasts from September 1 to May 25, and in the first grade - one week less. There are several breaks for vacations during academic year (data for 1998/99 academic years):

  • autumn - from November 1 to November 8;
  • winter - from December 25 to January 10;
  • spring - from March 21 to March 28 .

For pupils of the first grade each school establishes an additional fortnight vacation.
The legislation gives an opportunity to local educational governments to vary the structure of academic year according to concrete conditions of the educational institution or to the regional features, but the complete duration of academic year should last not less than 34 school weeks.
Training of children for the beginning of schooling is a general task of  families (parents), local authorities, principals and all the community. Pre-school educational courses enable children to receive preliminary knowledge about future schooling in elementary school.

Table 1. Elementary schools and other day-time educational institutions of 

School level 1996 1997
urban rural total urban rural total
Total number of public schools 6285 15047 21 332 6 331 14 926 21 257

From them: 
Schools of the I level
Schools of the I-II levels
Schools of the I-III levels

4 721

2 530
5 491
6 332

2 697
11 053

4 713

2 509
5 495
6 258

2 684
6 268
10 971

Public educational complexes

277 686 963 293 654 947

From them: 
Schools of the I level
Schools of the I-II levels
Schools of the I-III levels







Average number of pupils:

Elementary schools (I level)
Schools of the I-II levels
Schools of the I-III levels
For all types of schools 







Average number of pupils in a class:

in 1-(3)4 grades (primary school)
in 5-9 grades (general school)
in 10-11(12) grades
For all types of schools 







Number of private educational institutions

87 2 89 145 2 147

Indicators of primary education in Ukraine and indicators of UNESCO

The character of statistics in the sphere of pre-school education and formal basic education for all in Ukraine has changed during the years of independence (1991-1999) a little. As earlier, state bodies collect little data and they concern, as a rule, the amount of schools, classes, their enrolments and so on.
Lack of regular general censuses of the population (the last one was carried out in 1989) makes difficult in Ukraine to make correct estimations of all parameters, concerning both the sphere of education and demography.

The data on gender characteristics and ratios are not available as this problem is not urgent in Ukraine - there is no discrimination concerning access to education for each gender, that is why state and local authorities do not consider as necessary to spend time and finance for getting data on absolute and relative enrolments of boys and girls.

As a result of such approach, lack of funds and because of many traditions of statistics of the former Soviet Union there are very large differences between indicators (parameters) of formal basic education for all, being used in Ukraine, and indicators, which are recommended by UNESCO for national reports about development of education for all for the period from 1990 to 1999.

Let's clear up the situation about each of the key indicators.

Indicator 2 specifies rate of entrants into the first grade of elementary school, which have received preliminary training of about 200 hours and more.

The specificity of the system of education in Ukraine is an unconditional realization of the requirements of the Law on schooling of all children without any exceptions. There exist common schools and special ones for children with some diseases and for mentally and physically disabled children with teachers and other personnel, which received proper education .

Training of children for schooling became also compulsory. That is why state bodies do not collect data on the rate of those entrants into the first grade, who really have received such training - it is considered that such training is received by almost 100 per cent of entrants into the first grade.
All children in Ukraine pass a test on readiness for schooling before being accepted into the first grade. This test is carried out by groups of experts, which consist of the personnel of elementary schools and representatives of state and public organizations. Qualified personnel of pre-school institutions can carry out similar tasks.

The aim of such testing is to determine a level of development of a child and to direct him to the appropriate course of an elementary school. Average or high level of development and readiness of the child for schooling enables to direct him to a three-year course of an elementary school. Low level of development forces to recommend to parents to direct such a child to the four-year elementary school. The additional year of schooling of a child aims to correct lacks of his achievements and successful mastering the course of the elementary school.

In September of 1998 about 590 200 children, aged six, seven and (occasionally) eight entered the first grade of an elementary school. 429 500 children (or 72,8 per cent) appeared to be well prepared and were directed to the three-year courses of elementary school. The rest ones -27,2 per cent - with the worse preliminary grounding (or absolutely without it) were directed to four-year courses of elementary school. Hence, in 1998 the ratio 73:27 is the characteristic of quality of children training for schooling, but only part of it can be related to the activities of the pre-school education system and its programs of training.

The educational statistical data  incontestably testifies to gradual increase of rate of  those children, which appear to be well prepared for schooling in the first grade. Every year the rate of those with insufficient grounding and who were directed to the four-year courses is dropping: 1992 - 40 per cent; 1993 - 35,8 per cent; 1994 - 34.3 per cent; 1995 - 32 per cent; 1996 - 31.6 per cent; 1997 and 1998 - 27,2 per cent.

Indicator 3 shows the ratio of entrants into the first grade of elementary school as to all population in the age of access to higher education.

Unfortunately, to estimate this indicator in Ukraine is extremely difficult,because some children begin their schooling in the age of 5 or only of 8 years old, and the others (the absolute majority) - in the age of six or seven years old. This significant non-simultaneity does not give an opportunity for correct estimation of indicator 3.

Besides, this indicator is not urgent in Ukraine. The requirement of compulsory schooling of all children from the age of 7 is controlled. The requirement of maximal scope rate of the certain age group by the primary schooling is not put forward. The State Committee of Statistics and the Ministry of Education collect data on the absolute number of pupils of the first grade but not on their ratio as to all population in the age of six or seven years old.

The choice of the schooling beginning depends first of all on parents' desire, their point of view about readiness of their child for schooling. If this readiness is confirmed in the pre-school institution or by a school teacher during testing of the child development level - the child enters the first grade.
The data on the rate of 6 and 7 years old children in the first grade are being collected not every year. For example, in 1998 among all 590 200 pupils of the first grade there were 175 580 - 29,75 per cent of children, aged 6. This parameter might be considered as typical. Every year there are from 25 per cent up to 30 per cent of all pupils of the first grade in the age of six years old, and 75-70 per cent - in the age of seven years old.

After implementation of the Law on General Secondary Education in Ukraine the official beginning of schooling in elementary school will become the age of six years old, but for some time there will be a transitive period when present-day practice of schooling beginning will be kept both in view of age and level of readiness of a child.

Indicator 4. Everything, what was said about indicator 3, is also correct for indicator 4.
Indicator 5 - the total number (including repeaters and pupils of "non-standard" age) of pupils of the primary educational system as percent to the appropriate age group (age of schooling in an elementary school, determined by the Law ).

Indicator 6 - "net" (without repeaters and pupils of "non-standard" age) enrolment of pupils of the primary educational system as percent to the appropriate age group (age of schooling in an elementary school, determined by the Law).

In 1998/99 school year there were only 17 476 repeaters - 0,79 per cent from the total pupil enrolments of elementary schools, equal to 2 200 98 pupils. It means, that only one child of 125 repeats any course of the elementary school. As an average enrolment of a class is about 20-30 pupils, one repeater is met in each fifth or sixth class.

From mentioned above it follows, that in Ukraine, taking into account a probable error of estimations and a very small number of repeaters in elementary schools, indicators 5 and 6 practically coincide. Taking it into account, the statistical services of Ukraine do not use total and "net" parameters of the children scope by primary education, being satisfied with the data on absolute number of enrolments.

Contents of education in elementary schools of Ukraine

Rather successful work of elementary schools of Ukraine is due to the qualified and skilled personnel, and also to the high-quality curricula and perfect methods of teaching.

Curricula for elementary schools are usually being determined and distributed by the Ministry of Education of Ukraine. Annual changes of curricula are insignificant and concern mostly some school subjects from the constant component of the curriculum and also new experimental subjects.

For example, in 1998/99 school year at schools with the Ukrainian language of teaching the curriculum, recommended by the Ministry of Education, had the structure, which we gave in Tab.2. This Table gives a good opportunity to see differences between three-year elementary school with more intensive training for children, and four-year courses of training in elementary school. As it was mentioned above, the new Law on General Secondary Education provides only four-year elementary school (school of the first level).
As earlier, in Ukraine the time and syllabuses of only compulsory subjects are determined centrally. The contents of options are selected by the educational institutions (elementary schools). 

Table 2. Sample curriculum of primary school with the Ukrainian language of teaching 



Weekly school hours

Three-year elementary school

Four-year elementary school


Total 1 2 4 Total

Compulsory subjects

1. Ukrainian 8,5 8 8 24,5 7,5 7,5 7 7 29
2. Mathematics 5 5 5 15 4 4 4 4 16
3. Environment 1 1,5 1,5 4 1 1 1,5 1,5 5
4. Music, art 2 2 2 6 2 2 2 2 8
5. Physical training 2 2 2 6 2 2 2 2 8
6.Working education 1 1 1 3 1 1 1 1 4
7. Health protection 0,5 0,5 0,5 1 0,5 0,5 0,5 0,5 2
Total 20 20 20 60 18 18 18 18 72

Variable part

Optional subjects, extra hours 12 19
Permissible amount of hours 22 23 23 68 21 22 23 23 87
Total 24 25 25 74 22 23 24 24 93

 Compulsory subjects, specified in Tab.2, can also be selected for additional lessons, and as for options,those subject can be languages of minorities, some foreign languages (English, German, French or others), arts and so on.

Analysis of the elementary schools' curricula of the advanced countries and their comparison with Ukrainian ones testifies to their similarity. As well as in other countries, in elementary schools of Ukraine among subjects there dominate native language, Mathematics, Physical Culture with elements of health care, various kinds of arts, fundamentals of manual work. In many countries an important element of the elementary school curricula is religious education. More often, than earlier, the first foreign language is being included into curriculum of elementary school (from the third or fourth grade).

In Ukraine the church is separated from the state, that is why the school, controlled by state bodies, is a secular institution. From the time of declaration of independence of Ukraine atheism is not considered any more as a state priority in education of pupils.
In private schools subject " religious education " is taught quite often, and in public schools this subject can be taught at parents' request, but only in after-lesson time. For the time being neither state nor local budget are not used for financing of religious education, but the tendency of increased attention to religion is rather appreciable and in the future the subject "Religious Education" might be of wider use in elementary schools of Ukraine.

The creation in 1991-1999 of a new generation of textbooks and other didactic materials for elementary schools have been a significant achievement of Ukrainian policymakers, educators and scientists. It is very important that for each subject there exist a number of different textbooks by various authors. (In the Soviet Union only one textbook for each subject was used).

Publication and distribution of the main educational literature for schools are financed from the state and local budgets. Textbooks are sent to school libraries, each pupil receives them before the beginning of academic year, and after its termination he returns them back. Parents pay only for additional and auxiliary didactic literature.

Significant success and changes took place in elementary school in Ukraine during 1991-1999 in the sphere of language changes, de-ideologizing and so on, but it does not mean, that this educational level has no any shortcomings and prospects for the further development. For example, they concern teaching of foreign languages in elementary school.

Some other shortcomings, which attract attention in other countries, are not urgent for schools of Ukraine, for example, the problems of repeaters and inequality in access to education of boys and girls. As mentioned above, repeaters' rate is less than 1 per cent of all pupils of elementary school.

Similarly, monitoring and assessment of achievement of pupils are not sharp problems for primary and basic schools as well. Though quality of assessment of pupils, certainly, is not perfect, but lack of selection in the Ukrainian elementary school in accordance with pupils' abilities or other characteristics simplifies assessment of pupils. It helps to avoid different stresses for pupils. At the same time most teachers of Ukraine consider rational and tolerant assessment as useful way of certain intensification of pupils' work on their own, formation of skills of difficulties overcoming and so on. That is why in Ukraine the idea of complete refusal from assessment and marks is not popular both in elementary and in basic schools.

European and Ukrainian standards of primary education

Up-to-date increased public requirements to the quality and duration of education for all raise new problems of elementary schools worldwide. Each country solves them in its own way that causes significant differences between basic characteristics of primary education in different countries. An example of such characteristic can be duration of schooling in elementary school.

Ukraine like other ex-socialist countries of Europe and six countries from other regions has the smallest in the world duration of primary education - 3 or 4 years. Among other 184 countries of the world 20 countries teach pupils in elementary school for 5 years, 83 - 6; 23 - 7; 19 - 8, 15 - 9 and two of them -for 10 years.
If to compare weekly amount of school hours, it will appear, that the average world level of schooling is 24,8 hours a week, and in Ukraine and other ex-socialist countries it is only 20,8 hours.

Researches in many countries testify, that under the conditions of good teaching total quantity of didactic material, mastered by a pupil, is practically directly proportional to time of his being in a class. Work of a teacher is valuable for each pupil, but it is important particularly for children from families with poor field of information.

An average world intensity of training in an elementary school is close to 880 hours annually, that is equivalent to 180 school days. This rather high parameter may be explained by the fact that governments of many countries consider an elementary school as a level of high priority in the system of continuous education.

Duration of schooling in elementary schools in Ukraine, taking into account official and other holidays, is 32,4 weeks, that is about 160- 165 working days a year. The amount of lessons (academic hours) varies from 760 (the first grade) up to 810 lessons.

Taking into account 45-minute duration of lessons, we come to a conclusion, that astronomical duration of academic year in the Ukrainian elementary school is about 600 hours. Three-year course has about 1900 astronomical hours, four-year one - about 2300 - 2400 hours.

In Ukraine these generalized parameters are a little bit lower than those in elementary schools of European and some other countries. The average astronomical duration of children schooling in elementary schools of developed countries is about 700-800 hours a year, and in many cases it can be about 1000 hours.

Hence, the average duration of academic year in the Ukrainian elementary school is lower in comparison with the world standards. Policymakers of the educational system of Ukraine have paid much more attention to this problem after declaration of independence of the state, when the state politics of gradual rapprochement with the European countries and cooperation with European Union have been developed. The task of entry into the European educational space became one of the education development priorities.

The Ministry of education of Ukraine has taken active part in creation of the Draft Law on general secondary education. This Law is passed , and will come into force from 2001. According to the Article 15 of the "Law on General Secondary Education", schooling in elementary school will last for four-years,and the amount of school hours in the first and second grades will be 700, in the third and fourth - 790 a year. According to the Article 16 duration of academic year in elementary school will be 175 school days or more, and a lesson in the first grade will last 35 minutes, and in the second, third and fourth grades - 40 minutes.

Table 3. Main quantitative characteristics of educational process in a new elementary school of  Ukraine  (after 2001)

Grade School days School hours (minutes) Annual school hours  School year 
(astronomical hours)
The first 175 30 700 350
The second 175 40 700 467
The third 175 40 790 527
The fourth 175 40 790 527
Total 700    2980 1871

New Ukrainian elementary school will be closer to the up-to-date European samples. The "Law on General Secondary Education" provides increasing of academic year by 2-3 weeks owing to schooling in June and appropriate increasing of astronomical duration of schooling.

Enrolment evolution of elementary schools in Ukraine

Indicator 2 UNESCO

The data on indicator 2 in Ukraine are not available. The main reason is an insignificance of such parameter from the point of view of the chiefs of the Ukrainian educational system and statistical services. As it was mentioned above, monitoring of the real level of children' psychophysical development for a choice of either "long" or "short" course of elementary school is being 
considered as more important.

From the beginning of the 80s and nowadays in Ukraine 3-6 years old children have good opportunities to receive suitable training in pre-school institutions. Such training (but a little bit shorter) can be received also in elementary and other types of schools. Hence, practically all children (if their parents wish) can be trained for schooling due to special programs, duration of which considerably exceeds 200 hours. An insignificant (much less than 1 per cent) part of 3-6 year olds, living in very small settlements with neither pre-schools, nor schools might be an exception. But this fact would be a violation of the Article 14 of the Law on Education, prescribing to local governments to make possible transportation of all children of pre-school age to the educational institutions of the closest settlements, if parents wish their children to receive pre-school training.

Indicator 3 UNESCO

Correct and annual data on indicator 3 in Ukraine are also not available for several reasons, some of them are mentioned above. According to the Conventions on Human Rights and Child Protection, the educational legislation of Ukraine does not demand to direct children to the first grade of elementary school only because " they achieve the official school age of 7 years ". Child protection and creation of mostly favorable conditions for his development and schooling become a reality only on the condition that the child will have an opportunity to enter the first grade, when he is ready for schooling, and, hence, has a wish to study and is capable to do it rather successfully.

This principle is in the basis of the educational laws of Ukraine, resolutions of the Cabinet of Ministers and regulations of the Ministry of Education. Parents have the right to appeal to educational institutions for testing their children development in order to come to the motivated decision about time of beginning of their child schooling. In practice it results that the majority (over two thirds) of children enters elementary school in the age of seven years old, their smaller part - of six years. In exclusive cases (according to the recommendations of commissions and the appropriate sanction of local bodies of educational authorities) a child may enter elementary school in the age of incomplete 6 or after 8.

In the data of Ukrainian statistical services we find only total enrolments of pupils of the first grade, regardless of their age. They change every year, but after 1993 we deal with the constant reduction of the entrants' enrolment. The reason is not a quickly growing number of drops out, but the constant reduction of the newborns' number in Ukraine. The demographic data prove that in the next years this tendency will be kept. All children will receive the primary education, but their number will become less and less. Better demographic situation might be in the next century.

Indicator 4 UNESCO

The correct and annual data on indicator 4 in Ukraine are not available first of  all owing to the large age interval (from 5 till 8 years) of beginning schooling in the first grade.

Indicators 5 and 6 UNESCO

Indicators of this kind are not used in Ukraine, and a very low rate of repeaters makes them identical in Ukraine.

Politics of state bodies, which find both understanding, and support of the population, consists in the individual approach to each child. Every child has the right to enter elementary school and to receive compulsory education determined by the Law - general secondary education, duration of which is 10-11 years. Therefore all efforts of local bodies of administrative educational authorities are concentrated on keeping every child in the field of vision. It means following his development, determination of the level of his readiness for regular schooling and recommendation to the parents of appropriate educational institution (sometimes they are schools for children with special needs).

This approach is a priority one for all levels of administrative and educational authorities in Ukraine.

The most important quantitative indicators in Ukraine are correct data on the amount of available educational institutions and classrooms, enrolments of teachers and pupils, but not the rate of schooling scope of some age group of the population. Absolute parameters dominate in all statistical directories, which are accessible to the population every year due to the appropriate bodies (State Committee of Statistics, the Ministry of Education and others).

The Ukrainian analogues of indicators 5 and 6 UNESCO

In Ukraine the statistical services collect the data on absolute enrolments of the 1-st, 2-d and other grades both in every school up to the all territory of the country. The analysis of the evolution of these data for several years is carried out very seldom, and comparison with the demographic data for all Ukraine is even more rare.

Generalized data of scope of different age groups' children by regular education in permanent educational institutions (percentage of pupils from a total population of the appropriate age group). It follows from this data, that the rate of children scope by the basic education in 5-9 grades in all oblasts of Ukraine is much higher, than by the primary one (from the first up to the fourth grades). The reason of it, as it was mentioned above, consists in incomplete scope by schooling of children in the age from six up to seven. In elementary school there were only those of them, who in the age of six at the moment of the beginning of school year (the first of September) were ready for schooling.

There are great differences in children scope by primary education not only between some oblasts (Khmel'nyts'kyi - 95,1 per cent, Chernivtsi - 77.7 per cent), but also within the same oblast. The examples are Kyiv and Kyiv oblast, and also Sevastopol and Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

In Kyiv there is a low level of scope - only 70,4 per cent of the 6-9 years old age group. Within the other territory of the oblast, at the first glance, the parameter of scope of this age group is much better - about 81,3 per cent. Data , according distribution of children of school age by various courses of elementary school - three-year and four-year ones - explain this phenomena. In Kyiv practically all children were directed to the short (three-year) courses. Most children, aged 6, were in pre-schools or at home with their parents and did not study at schools. As a result, they have lowered the parameter of children scope in the age of 6-9 by primary education.

Within Kyiv oblast the most part of the population lives in villages and small settlements. The children development rate is lower and parents more often, than in Kyiv, consider a long course of elementary school as more expedient for their children. That's why the oblast parameter of scope of 6-9 year olds' age group by primary education is higher, than in Kyiv. The same situation is in Sevastopol and within Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

Other examples of such situation: in Khmel'nyts'kyi many parents choose a four-year course of elementary school for their children, therefore parameter of children scope by primary education is high. In Chernivtsi oblast most parents choose a three-year course, that's why the parameter of 6-9 year old' age group is smaller, than in Khmel'nyts'kyi oblast.

Hence, lack in the Ukrainian statistics of the data on the age structure of each grade of school makes impossible to estimate all indicators of primary education, which are recommended by UNESCO to use in the given National Report.

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