Belarus National Overview

Updated in June 2018 by Maria Tarasenko, Leading Specialist at the Department for International Relations, The Belarusian State Academy of Music.

Overview of Higher Music Education System

The Education Institution “Belarusian State Academy of Music” (hereinafter – Academy) is the only Higher Music Education Institution in the Republic of Belarus of university type. Founded in 1932, during its historical development the Academy (until 1992 – A.V. Lunacharsky Belarusian State Conservatoire) has become the authoritative centres of professional music education, performing arts, composing and musical art. In 2000 the Academy was assigned a status of the leading Higher Education Institution of the National Education System in the field of musical art. Graduates of the Academy are actively involved in various performing and pedagogical activities not only in Belarus, but also in countries of the far and near abroad. The quality of the educational process at the Academy is ensured by the teaching staff. More than 70% of the Academy staff have academic degrees and academic titles.

The principles and structure of the current system of professional music education in Belarus were developed on the basis of the traditions of Russian music education of the 19th–early 20th centuries, which became the Soviet Union in the 1920s.
Currently, in the Republic of Belarus there exists a three-level system of music education:

  • the elementary level includes institutions of further education for children and youth: Children’s Art Schools (duration – 5, 7 years);
  • the secondary level – institutions of vocational secondary education – as a rule, Music Colleges, Colleges of Art (duration – 3 years 10 months);
  • the highest level – Higher education institutions – Academy (duration – as a rule, 5 years).
Education at the Academy represents a completed three-level pyramid of training of qualified specialists in the field of musical art. Academy graduates receive a state-recognized degree. The activities of the Academy are controlled by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Belarus.

The Academy provides training of specialists for the cultural field in accordance with educational programmes of Higher Education of the 1st, 2nd cycles: postgraduate education (postgraduate training programme, doctoral programme), further education for adults (advanced professional training for high-level personnel and specialists, retraining of high-level personnel and specialists, training courses, preparatory department). The Academy consists of five Departments (Piano, Composition, Musicology Department, Orchestra Department, Vocal and Choral Department, Folk Instruments Department, Training and Retraining Department), eighteen Divisions, Opera Studio, Department for Traditional Musical Cultures, and others.

The governance structure of the Belarusian State Academy of Music consists of the Rector, First Vice-Rector, Vice-Rector for Scientific Work, Vice-Rector for Educational Work, Vice-Rector for Administrative Work, Director of the Mogilev Branch, Dean of the Piano, Composition and Musicology Department, Dean of the Orchestra Department,
Dean of the Vocal-Choral Department, Dean of the Folk Instruments Department, Dean of the Vocational Training and Retraining Department. Rector of the Academy is nominated by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Belarus.

Total number of institutions
Total number of music students
  • 1st cycle – 955 students;
  • 2nd cycle – 79 Master’s Degree students
Funding The Academy is financed by the State.
The Academy curricula of the 1st and 2nd cycles are divided into:
  1. The standard curricula in specialties (directions of specialties) (hereinafter – the standard curricula);
  2. The curricula of the Education Establishment in specialties (directions of specialties, specializations) (hereinafter – the curricula).
The standard curricula are developed on the basis of the educational standard of Higher education. These curricula determine a list of academic disciplines of the state component which are required for study, their order and volume, number of academic hours allotted to the component of the Higher Education Establishment and specialization, sequence and time limits of study of the academic disciplines, types and duration of traineeship, and the curricula define mandatory and maximal academic workload per week per student, types of classes, forms and terms of attestation. The standard curricula are approved by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Belarus in coordination with the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Belarus. The curricula are developed on the basis of the standard curricula and approved by the Rector of the Academy.
Academic disciplines in the curriculum of the educational programme of Higher education of the 1st cycle are combined into the cycles of social and humanitarian disciplines, general scientific and general professional disciplines, special disciplines, optional disciplines, additional types of training. The ratio of studying the cycle of special disciplines and other cycles is approximately 1 to 2 (1:2) (in accordance with the number of class hours). Type of academic disciplines study is mainly individual.
Academic disciplines in the curriculum of the educational programme of Higher education of the 2nd cycle are combined into the cycles of disciplines of PhD examinations and credits, disciplines of specific training. Greater importance is given to the research work of Master’s Degree students, which includes preparation of Master’s thesis materials, participation in conferences, etc. The ratio of hours for research and disciplines cycles is about 3 to 5 (3:5).
The Academy carries out the study of the academic direction of musical art. Under the educational programme of Higher education of the 1st cycle that provides a qualification of a specialist with Higher education, the Academy realizes training in 13 specialties and 28 directions of specialties:
  • Composition;
  • Conducting (directions: opera-symphony, academic choir);
  • Piano;
  • String Bow Instruments (directions: violin, viola, cello, double-bass);
  • Harp;
  • Wind Instruments (directions: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone, French horn, tuba, trombone, trumpet, baritone);
  • Percussion;
  • Plucked-String Percussion Folk Instruments (directions: classical guitar, dulcimer, balalaika, domra, mandoline);
  • Bayan-accordion;
  • Singing (academic);
  • Theatre Directing (musical theatre);
  • Choreographic Art (directions: history and theory, directing, pedagogics, classical dance);
  • Art Criticism (musicology).
2-cycle system
1st cycle duration is predominantly 5 years. Graduates receive a Diploma of Higher education.
According to the educational programme of Higher education of the 2nd cycle that builds the knowledge and skills of scientific-pedagogical and scientific-research work and provides a Master’s Degree, the Academy implements training in the specialty “Musical Art”. Training duration is 1 year. Upon completion of the training a Master’s Degree is issued.
After completion of the educational programme of Higher education of the 1st cycle graduates receive 2 qualifications: artistic and pedagogical ones.
2nd cycle: Upon completion of the 1 year training a Master’s Degree is issued.
Entry requirements 1st cycle
Admission of applicants (1st cycle) is carried out for full-time education. Applicants take three entry exams: in the Belarusian or Russian language (optionally) in the form of testing; in the history of Belarus or world history of modern times (optionally) in the form of testing; “creativity”, which consists of the following stages: programme performance, solfeggio, harmony.
Entry requirements 2nd cycle
Admission of applicants (2nd cycle) is carried out for full-time education at the expense of the Republican budget or on a fee-paying basis. The Master’s course is available for candidates who have received Higher education of the 1st cycle and who have an inclination for research, scientific publications, participate in scientific practical conferences and seminars, as well as those who have creative achievements.
Entry examinations to the Master’s course are held in the following academic disciplines:
  1. In the form of a live audition (viewing):
    1. “Solo programme performance” – for candidates who have received Higher education of the 1st cycle in performing specialties (directions of specialties) of the education direction “Musical art”; “Essay” for those with Higher education of the 1st cycle in the specialty “Composition”; “Conducting” – for those who have received Higher education of the 1st cycle in the specialty “Conducting”;
  2. In the form of an oral exam (ticket-based):
    1. “Music history and theory” – for candidates who have received Higher education of the 1st cycle in the specialty direction “Art Criticism (musicology)”
    2. Report presentation in the specialty – orally.
% of students who continue with 2nd cycle Admission to the Master’s course for receiving education at the expense of the Republican budget is carried out in accordance with the estimated figures of the admission in the amount of 7% of the graduates of the current year.
3rd cycle
At present, the Academy has a system of postgraduate education, which includes two stages: postgraduate training programme and a doctoral programme. These stages consists of training of highly qualified academic specialists in the specialties 17.00.02 Musical art and 13.00.08 Theory and methodology of vocational education with awarding of the academic qualification “Academic specialist”. The main form of examination is completion of a scientific research, which, if in the form of a thesis should be defended and leads to a Degree of Candidate or Doctor of Sciences.
Credit point system
Since 2013 the educational system of the Republic of Belarus makes use of the credit point system and is currently working on the ECTS system. For an academic year 60 credits are awarded, for 5 years, respectively, 300. The calculation of academic discipline complexity in credits is produced by dividing its complexity in academic hours by 36-40 with rounding up to 0.5 or up to an integer value according to the rules of rounding.
Internationalization The Belarusian State Academy of Music carries out International cooperation with partner Institutions on the basis of existing Agreements on bilateral cooperation (total – 55 Agreements). In the 2015-2016 academic year, the Academy participated in the Erasmus+ European academic mobility programme, together with the Jazeps Vitols Latvian Academy of Music and will continue to do so in 2016-2017 with a new stage. Furthermore, in the academic year 2016-2017 the academic mobility project with the Franz Liszt University of Music (Weimar, Germany) is scheduled to be carried out. On the basis of the existing Agreements on cooperation and under the auspices of Diplomatic Missions of the Republic of Belarus in foreign countries the Academy of Music regularly realizes large creative projects. For instance, in May 2016 the Student Choir of the Academy conducted a concert tour around the European Partner Institutions and performed on stages of the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre (Vilnius, Lithuania), Fryderyk Chopin University of Music (Warsaw, Poland) and Franz Liszt Academy of Music (Budapest, Hungary).
Quality assurance
Quality Management System (QMS) in Belarus is represented by the following Normative Legal Acts:
  • BY TC 4 “Quality Management” (which is the Technical Committee for Standardization of the Republic of Belarus Regulation);
  • ISO 9000:2015 “Quality management systems – Fundamentals and vocabulary” (an international standard).
  • ISO 9001:2008 “Quality management systems – Requirements” (an international standard which was revised by ISO 9001:2015 but still has power in Belarusian Higher education establishments).
  • ISO 9001:2015 “Quality management systems – Requirements” (an international standard).
  • ISO 10001:2007 “Quality management – Customer satisfaction – Guidelines for codes of conduct for organizations” (an international standard).
  • ISO 10002:2014 “Quality management – Customer satisfaction – Guidelines for complaints handling in organizations” (an international standard).
  • ISO 19011:2011 “Guidelines for auditing management systems” (an international standard).
A full list of international and national standards devoted to the Quality Assurance and Quality Management system is located on the Belarusian State Institute for Standardization and Certification (BelGISS) website.
The Quality Management System in Belarus has a rather short history as the first work on QMS creation and certification started in the mid-nineties. At the very beginning this system was applied only in industrial enterprises. Later on, the process of QMS creation and application was also involved in Belarusian education system. In Belarusian Higher Education institutions QMS creation and functioning are regulated by the Ministry of Education Decree No. 1000 “Development of Quality Management System of Education in Higher education establishments in the Republic of Belarus in accordance with State Belarusian and international standards requirements”. QMS introduction in educational institutions that are engaged in training and retraining of personnel is regulated by the Ministry of Education Decree No. 90 dated February 12, 2010.
The Belarusian State Institute for Standardization and Certification (BelGISS) is considered to be the main body that is responsible for Higher Education institutions accreditation and certification. It holds external audits at the Higher education institutions during a period of one year and three years. Every year this organization supervises the main processes of educational institutions. These kind of annual audits have a consultative role. Every three years BelGISS holds the most important audits to make Higher Education institutions confirm their quality assurance certificates.
Besides, QMS in Higher education field is represented by internal audits that are held by Higher Education institutions themselves. During those audits a highly qualified group of experts in management assurance check the main documents and quality enhancement of all institutional structural units and processes (educational, HR, infrastructural, artistic, etc.). The results of both external and internal audits lay the basis for annual institutional self-evaluation report in QMS.
In Belarus, a high demand for graduates of the Academy in the labor market exists. Every year the Academy receives applications for specialists in HME. In 2017 it received applications 1.5 times more than the number of trained young professionals. All the 158 graduates of state-financed education have been designated in organizations of the Republic of Belarus in accordance with the obtained specialty (% of the total number of graduates):
  • Composition – 4%,
  • Conducting (including directions) – 11%,
  • Piano – 17%,
  • String Bow Instruments (including directions) – 15%,
  • Wind Instruments (including directions) – 13%,
  • Percussion – 3%,
  • Plucked-String Percussion Folk Instruments (including directions) – 10%,
  • Bayan-accordion – 8%,
  • Singing (academic) – 6%,
  • Choreographic Art (including directions) – 5%
  • Art Criticism (musicology) – 2%,
  • Musical Art – 6%
Graduates of the Academy, as a rule, are designated in education institutions (about 58%), concert (theatrical entertainment) organizations (41%) and other organisations (1%).
Academic Year
The academic year runs from September 1 to June 30 and is divided into 2 semesters: September – January, February – June. Between the semesters there is a 2-week vacation.
Overview of the Pre-College Music Education System
The current national system of professional music education has inherited the structure, content and methodological principles of the Soviet-type system. Belarus is successfully operating a 3-level system of training musicians, which is presented in two main versions.
In the first version, a young musician aspiring a professional career follows this way: Children’s Art School (former Music School, age bracket 6–15 years) – Music College (age bracket, as a rule, 15–19 years) – Academy of Music (age bracket, as a rule, 19–24 years). Each link of this chain is represented by education establishments, which have their autonomous goals and educational context. Now, Belarus has over 400 music schools and 20 music colleges.
The second version implies training – prior to the Academy – only at one establishment – the Specialized School under the Academy, known as the “Gymnasium-College”, where young musicians are trained from an early age (currently, they are trained for 12 years; during the Soviet era – the term was 10 years). The most talented children of Belarus are invited to study there. The complex “Gymnasium-College” ensures a continuous training process, since all the stages of training retain a clear focus on the highest standards of musical performance. Now, Belarus has 3 such establishments – two in Minsk and one in Mogilev (a city of Belarus).
Graduates of vocational secondary music education establishments receive professional music education and qualification “Teacher” owing to which they may work in establishments of further education for children and youth. A form of study in all the above-mentioned establishments is mainly individual.

Additional Information

Music and Arts in General Education
Music has a significant role in school life. Public institutions of secondary education (hereinafter – secondary schools) from the 1st to 4th grade a subject “Music” of 1 academic hour (45 minutes) per week is taught on content-based valuation (without grading). The purpose of the subject is formation of pupils’ musical culture as part of their common spiritual culture. Among the main objectives – education of the love of music, art taste, development of musical abilities. In a number of secondary schools extracurricular music-oriented classes are organized, in which (at the request of pupils’ legal representatives) throughout the study (9 or 11) pupils can be taught:
  • solfeggio, music literature, music theory, choral or orchestral class (ensemble) in groups;
  • solo singing, playing an instrument (as a rule, piano, violin, bayan (accordion), flute, dulcimer, etc. (depending on the music teaching staff)) individually.
Many choral and orchestral groups of secondary schools have a title “Par excellence”, are Laureates and Diploma Holders of international, republican, city competitions and festivals.
Students entering Higher Music Education
Applicants who have received vocational secondary music (or choreographic) education and general secondary education have a right to enter the Academy.
Special Facilities for Talented Students at Pre-College Level
The system of professional art education of the Republic of Belarus includes Children’s Art Schools, where teaching is conducted in musical specialties, as well as Music Colleges and Colleges of Art, which are Institutions of vocational secondary education.
Students of these Education Establishments are constantly involved in various musical performance competitions, festivals, youth orchestras (such as the Belarusian-Russian Youth Orchestra, Youth Orchestra “I, Culture Orchestra” and others. Many competitions, educational and creative programmes and projects that involve participation of young musicians are financed from the state budget and by the Special Fund of the President of the Republic of Belarus for Support of the Talented Youth.

Overview of Music Teacher Education System

Along with an artistic qualification the Academy graduates receive a pedagogical qualification and may work at vocational secondary education establishments and establishments of further education for children and youth. The duration of study under the educational programme of Higher education of the 1st cycle, specialties (directions of specialties), peculiarities of the curriculum structure, employment, credit point system have been mentioned above.