Primary school

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A primary school class in Japan Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.jpg
A primary school class in Japan
Elementary school in Visnove (Slovakia) ZS Visnove.JPG
Elementary school in Višňové (Slovakia)
Classroom with chairs on desks in the Netherlands Empty classroom.jpg
Classroom with chairs on desks in the Netherlands

A primary school (in Ireland, the United Kingdom, [1] Australia, [2] New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and South Africa), junior school (in Australia [3] [4] ), elementary school or grade school (in North America and the Philippines) is a school for primary education of children who are five to twelve years of age. Primary schooling proceeds pre-school and precedes secondary schooling.


The International Standard Classification of Education considers primary education as a single phase where programmes are typically designed to provide fundamental skills in reading, writing, and mathematics and to establish a solid foundation for learning. This is ISCED Level 1: Primary education or first stage of basic education. [5]

Levels of education

ISCED 2011 levels of education
0 Early childhood education (01 Early childhood educational development)Education designed to support early development in preparation for participation in school and society. Programmes designed for children below the age of 3.
Early childhood education (02 Pre-primary education)Education designed to support early development in preparation for participation in school and society. Programmes designed for children from age 3 to the start of primary education.
1 Primary education Programmes typically designed to provide students with fundamental skills in reading, writing and mathematics and to establish a solid foundation for learning.
2 Lower secondary education First stage of secondary education building on primary education, typically with a more subject-oriented curriculum.
3 Upper secondary education Second/final stage of secondary education preparing for tertiary education and/or providing skills relevant to employment. Usually with an increased range of subject options and streams.
4Post-secondary non-tertiary educationProgrammes providing learning experiences that build on secondary education and prepare for labour market entry and/or tertiary education. The content is broader than secondary but not as complex as tertiary education.
5Short-cycle tertiary education Short first tertiary programmes that are typically practically-based, occupationally-specific and prepare for labour market entry. These programmes may also provide a pathway to other tertiary programmes.
6 Bachelor's or equivalentProgrammes designed to provide intermediate academic and/or professional knowledge, skills and competencies leading to a first tertiary degree or equivalent qualification.
7 Master's or equivalentProgrammes designed to provide advanced academic and/or professional knowledge, skills and competencies leading to a second tertiary degree or equivalent qualification.
8 Doctorate or equivalentProgrammes designed primarily to lead to an advanced research qualification, usually concluding with the submission and defense of a substantive dissertation of publishable quality based on original research.

Comparison of cohorts

Within the English speaking world, there are three widely used systems to describe the age of the child. The first is the "equivalent ages", then countries that base their education systems on the "English model" use one of two methods to identify the year group, while countries that base their systems on the "American K–12 model" refer to their year groups as "grades". Canada also follows the American model, although its names for year groups are put the number after the grade: For instance, "Grade 1" in Canada, rather than "First Grade" in the United States. This terminology extends into the research literature. [6]

In Canada, education is a Provincial, not a Federal responsibility. For example, the province of Ontario also had a "Grade 13," designed to help students enter the workforce or post-secondary education, but this was phased out in the year 2003.

Equivalent ages4–55–66–77–88–99–1010–11
U.S. (grades)Pre-KK12345
IrelandJunior InfantsSenior Infants1st Class2nd Class3rd Class4th Class5th Class
England (forms)ReceptionInfantsTop infantsJunior 1Junior 2Junior 3Junior 4
England (year)R123456
England (keystage)EYFS/FSKS1KS1KS2KS2KS2KS2
JamaicaPre-KK-1Grade 1Grade 2Grade 3Grade 4Grade 5
ISCED level0111111 [6]
Indonesia [7] [ circular reference ]TK ATK BSD Kelas 1SD Kelas 2SD Kelas 3SD Kelas 4SD Kelas 5
Equivalent ages11–1212–1313–1414–1515–1616–1717–18
U.S. (grades)6789101112
Ireland6th Class1st Year2nd Year3rd Year4th Year5th Year6th Year
England (forms)FirstSecondThirdFourthFifthLower SixthUpper Sixth
England (year)78910111213
England (keystage)KS3KS3KS3KS4KS4KS5KS5
Jamaica (forms)FirstSecondThirdFourthFifthLower SixthUpper Sixth
Jamaica (grades)78910111213
ISCED level2223333 [6]
Indonesia [7] SD Kelas 6SMP Kelas 7SMP Kelas 8SMP Kelas 9SMA Kelas 10SMA Kelas 11SMA Kelas 12

Primary schools

A current classroom for 6-7-year olds in Switzerland Orbe - Chantemerle - salle de classe 1.jpg
A current classroom for 6–7-year olds in Switzerland
School rooms/classrooms of the private Catholic elementary school in Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz Grundschule Haus St Marien Neumarkt - Klassenzimmer 06.JPG
School rooms/classrooms of the private Catholic elementary school in Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz

In most parts of the world, primary education is the first stage of compulsory education, and is normally available without charge, but may also be offered by fee-paying independent schools. The term grade school is sometimes used in the US, although both this term and elementary school may refer to the first eight grades, in other words both primary education and lower secondary education. [8] [9] [10]

The term primary school is derived from the French école primaire, which was first used in an English text in 1802. [11] In the United Kingdom, "elementary education" was taught in "elementary schools" until 1944, when free elementary education was proposed for students over 11: there were to be primary elementary schools and secondary elementary schools; [lower-alpha 1] these became known as primary schools and secondary schools.

In some parts of the United States, "primary school" refers to a school covering kindergarten through to second grade or third grade (K through 2 or 3); the "elementary school" includes grade three through five or grades four to six.[ citation needed ] In Canada, "elementary school" almost everywhere refers to Grades 1 through 6; with Kindergarten being referred to as "preschool."[ citation needed ]

Elementary schools

Though often used as a synonym, "elementary school" has specific meanings in different locations.

Theoretical framework of primary school design

School building design does not happen in isolation. The building (or school campus) needs to accommodate:

Each country will have a different education system and priorities. [21] Schools need to accommodate students, staff, storage, mechanical and electrical systems, storage, support staff, ancillary staff and administration. The number of rooms required can be determined from the predicted roll of the school and the area needed.

According to standards used in the United Kingdom, a general classroom for 30 reception class or infant (Keystage 1) students needs to be 62 m2, or 55 m2 for juniors (Keystage 2). [22] Examples are given on how this can be configured for a 210 place primary with attached 26 place nursery [23] and two-storey 420 place (two form entry) primary school with attached 26 place nursery. [24]

Building design specifications

The first taxpayer-funded public school in the United States was in Dedham First school.jpg
The first taxpayer-funded public school in the United States was in Dedham
An old primary school in the rural village of Lepsama, Finland Lepsaman koulu 05.jpg
An old primary school in the rural village of Lepsämä, Finland
SJK (C) Chi Hwa Eco-Nature Primary School in Sandakan, Malaysia Sandakan Sabah SJKC-Chi-Hwa-06.jpg
SJK (C) Chi Hwa Eco-Nature Primary School in Sandakan, Malaysia
A classroom library in the US ClassroomLibrary.jpg
A classroom library in the US

The building providing the education has to fulfill the needs of: The students, the teachers, the non-teaching support staff, the administrators and the community. It has to meet general government building guidelines, health requirements, minimal functional requirements for classrooms, toilets and showers, electricity and services, preparation and storage of textbooks and basic teaching aids. [25] An optimum school will meet the minimum conditions and will have:

Government accountants having read the advice then publish minimum guidelines on schools. These enable environmental modelling and establishing building costs. Future design plans are audited to ensure that these standards are met but not exceeded. Government ministries continue to press for the 'minimum' space and cost standards to be reduced.

The UK government published this downwardly revised space formula for primary schools in 2014. It said the floor area should be 350 m2 + 4.1 m2/pupil place. The external finishes were to be downgraded to meet a build cost of £1113/m2. [26]

Governance and funding

There are three main ways of funding a school: it can funded by the state through general taxation, it can be funded by a pressure group such as the mosque or the church, it can be funded by a charity or it can be funded by contributions from the parents or a combination of these methods. Day to day oversight of the school can through a board of governors, the pressure group, or the owner.[ citation needed ]

The United Kingdom allowed most elementary education to be delivered in church schools whereas in France this was illegal as there is strict separation of church and state.


This can be through informal assessment by the staff and governors such as in Finland, or by a state run testing regime such as Ofsted in the United Kingdom. [27]

See also


  1. Secondary elementary school: A term already used by London County Council from 1921 to describe some 11–14 schools, [12] and term still in use in Florida, Ohio and Brazil.

Related Research Articles

Secondary education or post-primary education covers two phases on the International Standard Classification of Education scale. Level 2 or lower secondary education is considered the second and final phase of basic education, and level 3 (upper) secondary education is the stage before tertiary education. Every country aims to provide basic education, but the systems and terminology remain unique to them. Secondary education typically takes place after six years of primary education and is followed by higher education, vocational education or employment. In most countries secondary education is compulsory, at least until the age of 16. Children typically enter the lower secondary phase around age 12. Compulsory education sometimes extends to age 19.

Tertiary education Advanced level of education, usually for adults

Tertiary education, also referred to as third-level, third-stage or post-secondary education, is the educational level following the completion of secondary education. The World Bank, for example, defines tertiary education as including universities as well as trade schools and colleges. Higher education is taken to include undergraduate and postgraduate education, while vocational education beyond secondary education is known as further education in the United Kingdom, or included under the category of continuing education in the United States.

Kindergarten Preschool educational approach

Kindergarten is a preschool educational approach based on playing, singing, practical activities such as drawing, and social interaction as part of the transition from home to school. Such institutions were originally made in the late 18th century in Bavaria and Alsace to serve children whose parents both worked outside home. The term was coined by the German Friedrich Fröbel, whose approach globally influenced early-years education. Today, the term is used in many countries to describe a variety of educational institutions and learning spaces for children ranging from 2 to 6 years of age, based on a variety of teaching methods.

K–12, from kindergarten to 12th grade, is an American English expression that indicates the range of years of publicly supported primary and secondary education found in the United States, which is similar to publicly supported school grades before college in several other countries, such as Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, China, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Iran, the Philippines, South Korea, and Turkey.

Education in England is overseen by the United Kingdom's Department for Education. Local government authorities are responsible for implementing policy for public education and state-funded schools at a local level.

Education in the United Kingdom is a devolved matter with each of the countries of the United Kingdom having separate systems under separate governments: the UK Government is responsible for England; whilst the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive are responsible for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, respectively.

Education in Scotland is overseen by the Scottish Government and its executive agency Education Scotland. Education in Scotland has a history of universal provision of public education, and the Scottish education system is distinctly different from those in the other countries of the United Kingdom. The Scotland Act 1998 gives the Scottish Parliament legislative control over all education matters, and the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 is the principal legislation governing education in Scotland. Traditionally, the Scottish system at secondary school level has emphasised breadth across a range of subjects, while the English, Welsh and Northern Irish systems have emphasised greater depth of education over a smaller range of subjects.

This article provides an overview of education in Wales from early childhood to university and adult skills. Largely state funded and free-at-the-point-of-use at a primary and secondary level, education is compulsory for children in Wales aged five to sixteen years old. It differs to some extent in structure and content to other parts of the United Kingdom, in the later case particularly in relation to the teaching of the Welsh language.

Education in Northern Ireland differs from education systems elsewhere in the United Kingdom, although it is relatively similar to Wales, and the Republic of Ireland in sharing in the development of the national school system and serving a similar society with a relatively rural population. A child's age on 1 July determines the point of entry into the relevant stage of education in the region, compared to 1 September in England and Wales. Northern Ireland's results at GCSE and A-Level are consistently higher than those in England and Wales; Scotland uses a different examination system.

Secondary education in the United States Last seven years of statutory formal education before higher level education

Secondary education in the United States is the last seven years of statutory formal education grade 6 through grade 12. It occurs in two phases. The first is the ISCED lower secondary phase, a middle school or junior high school for students grade 6 through grade 8. The second is the ISCED upper secondary phase, a high school or senior high school for students grade 9 through grade 12. There is some debate over the optimum age of transfer, and variation in some states.

State schools or public schools are generally primary or secondary schools that educate all children without charge. They are funded in whole or in part by taxation. State funded schools exist in virtually every country of the world, though there are significant variations in their structure and educational programmes. State education generally encompasses primary and secondary education.

Secondary school Institution and/or building where secondary education is provided

A secondary school describes an institution that provides secondary education and also usually includes the building where this takes place. Some secondary schools provide both lower secondary education and upper secondary education, i.e., both levels 2 and 3 of the ISCED scale, but these can also be provided in separate schools.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the part of the United States Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES) that collects, analyzes, and publishes statistics on education and public school district finance information in the United States. It also conducts international comparisons of education statistics and provides leadership in developing and promoting the use of standardized terminology and definitions for the collection of those statistics. NCES is a principal agency of the U.S. Federal Statistical System.

Educational stages are subdivisions of formal learning, typically covering early childhood education, primary education, secondary education and tertiary education. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognizes nine levels of education in its International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) system. UNESCO's International Bureau of Education maintains a database of country-specific education systems and their stages.

Education in Guyana Overview of education in Guyana

Education in Guyana is provided largely by the government of Guyana, through the Ministry of Education and its arms in the ten different regions of the country. Guyana's education system is a legacy from its time as British Guiana, and is similar to that of the other anglophone member states of the Caribbean Community, which are affiliated to the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC). School curricula, funding, standards and other policies are set by the central government and implemented through the Ministry of Education and related agencies. The Education System is divided into eleven districts, ten of which correspond to the national administrative and geographical regions of the country, while the capital, Georgetown, is treated as a separate education district. With 8.3% of its GDP spent on education, Guyana sits with Cuba, Iceland, Denmark and Botswana as among the few countries with top spending on education.

Primary education First stage of formal education

Primary education or elementary education is typically the first stage of formal education, coming after preschool/kindergarten and before secondary school. Primary education takes place in primary schools, elementary schools, or first schools and middle schools, depending on the location.

Elementary schools in the United States Primary education in the United States

An elementary school is a primary school which is the main point of delivery of primary education in the United States, for children between the ages of 5–11 and coming between pre-kindergarten and secondary education.

In March 2020, schools, nurseries and colleges in the United Kingdom were shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. By 20 March, all schools in the UK had closed for all in-person teaching, except for children of key workers and children considered vulnerable. With children at home, teaching took place online. The emergence of a new variant of COVID-19 in December 2020 led to cancellation of face-to-face teaching across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales the following month.


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