Understanding the educational systems of different countries
The concept of school is pretty much universal: Kids in most countries start going to school from a certain age until they reach adulthood. But not every country abides by the same system.
In the United States, kids start attending school when they are at the age of 5, and are required to complete 12 years of primary and secondary education prior to attending university or college. The first year of school is called kindergarten and is followed by a second year, which is considered the first year of primary school and usually goes up to Grade 6. Middle school, or junior high school, usually consists of 7th and 8th Grades (but sometimes also includes 9th Grade), and high school finishes with Grade 12. After high school comes college, for which students will need to take their SATs when they are in their third year of high school. “The SATs are the closest to intelligence and aptitude that can be achieved in one test,” comments Michigan resident and mother of two, Debbie Angle. “When considered with school performances and other aspects of a student’s academic life, it is the best way to assess a student.”
The educational system in Australia consists of a total of 13 years. Starting at the age of 5, children will attend primary school for seven years, followed by another five years of secondary school. The 11th and 12th grades are optional, though they are required in case they want to attend university. In these last two years students will steer their education towards their chosen profession, and then take a test called the Higher School Certificate in the 12th Grade.
The systems differ in European countries, however. In the British system, for instance, children begin attending school at the age of 5, when parents enroll them in primary school until they are 11 years old. They then attend secondary school until the age of 16, when they take a series of tests called the General Certificate of Secondary Education. After sitting their GCSEs, they can then leave school and find a job or continue their education for another two years, studying for an Advanced Level General Certificate of Education (A-Level), in which they specialize in two to four subjects. While working towards the A-levels, they can apply for university. “English students have to make their decision early on, but it is good to already focus on what way you want to go at a young age,” explains Paul Eldon, communications and public relations manager at Harrow International School Beijing.
In Germany, after attending primary school for four years from the age of 6, children are separated according to their levels of performance into one of three different types of secondary education. “The educational system is subdivided to provide special support for pupils in a way that is more practical, rather than just theoretically orientated,” explains 23-year-old pedagogy student Maud Kittler. Those who fall into the two lower types will finish after 10th Grade, while the highest school type – which is called Gymnasium and lasts an additional two years – provides students with a further certificate, after which they can then apply for university.
In China it is mandatory for every child to attend school for at least nine years. Children start at the age of 7 in primary school, which lasts six years, followed by another three years of middle school. After that they can decide if they want to continue their education; if so, they will need to pass a test, called “middle test” (zhong kao, 中考). Their score determines which school they will be able to attend. Should they wish to go even further in their education, they will then take a “high test” (gao kao, 高考), which will determine if they get into a university, as well as what subject they will study. “Before taking the entrance examination you have to decide what you want to study,” explains 20-year-old student Grace Li, who will be getting her Bachelor’s degree this year. “I remember it being the hardest test I had ever taken so far. They will test your knowledge in different subjects, each for about an hour. I studied very hard.” The length of time spent at university depends on your major, but the average duration of study is four years.