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Schooling systems throughout the world.

  1. Oct 17, 2005 #1


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    I'd like to start a thread (hey, I just did :shy:) on (secondary and higher) schooling systems throughout the world: at what age are you supposed to attend what kind of school and what options are there, and how is it decided ?
    Maybe this has already been discussed here, I didn't see it, so in that case appologies. But if not, I thought it could be interesting to find out what are the different pathways in different countries. The aim is NOT for this to become a yelling contest about "our system is better than yours" of course, but just to learn about how things are done in other countries.
    I'll start by describing the system I went through, in Belgium, when I was young.
    Secondary school starts at the age of 11/12 years and lasted for 6 years. There are 3 pathways: professional, technical and general. Although it was politically not correct to say so, these were also 3 levels: professional was worse than technological, and this was worse than general.
    I don't know much about the technological and professional pathways.
    The general system was divided in 2 systems, each with several options:
    "modern", which I did, was: Math (I did this), Science, Languages, Economy
    "classical", which had 3 pathways: Latin-Math, Latin-Science, and Greek-Latin
    The higher education system was divided in 2 systems:
    - "short" education (2 or 3 years)
    - "long" education (4 or 5 years, or 7 for medecine)
    This one was subdivided in university and non-university, the "prestigeous" one being the university pathway, which was only accessible for people who went through the general high school programme, but doesn't have any other conditions, except certain admission exams for certain branches (medicine and engineering).
    Up to the end of highschool (18 years), essentially the system is free (in public and publicly sponsored private). For universities or other schools, you have to pay an amount of money when you enroll each year, of the order of 500-1000 Euro.
    But this entire system has completely changed now, as one wants to get in tune with the Bologna agreement (harmonisation of higher education in Europe).
    The system in France goes as follows:
    Secondary school starts at the age of 10/11 years and is divided in 2 parts:
    4 years "college", which is common for everybody, followed by 3 years of "lycee". There are only differences on the level of "lycee", divided in 3 pathways: professional, technological and general, which is ended by an exam on national level, called the "baccalaureat".
    There are several options in each direction ; there are two main options in the general system, which are "S" (scientifically oriented) and "L" (literary oriented), to be filled in with several options.
    If you have a technological or general baccalaureat, you have the right to go to the university of your choice, OR to apply for the very selective "ecoles preparatoires", where you are accepted or not.
    The university pathway is: 2 years "deug", 1 year "licence" and 1-2 years of "masters".
    The "ecole preparatoire" is 2 years of very intensive preparation for the entrance exams of one of France's elite schools, like Ecole Normale, Polytechnique, Mines ...
    If you succeed in one of those exams, you're in, otherwise you can join university at the licence level (where you are usually way ahead of those who went directly to university).
    Medecine is special: there is the first "common" year where you are allowed to attend if you have your "baccalaureat", after which there is an admission exam (with a restricted number of places). You can only fail once on this exam.
    Apart from this, there are also schools who take you (or not) after secondary studies to do shorter studies, such as BTS (technician) or IUT (something between a technician and an engineer).

    All schooling in the public sector is free ; in the prestigious schools, students even get a salary. This is NOT the case however in private schools, which can be rather expensive (such as business schools).
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2005
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  3. Oct 17, 2005 #2
    Well i went through school in Iceland, although i'm in university in denmark, the system here is very similar (as it is all over scandinavia).

    Basicly there is one big school from 6-16 (10 grades). Some schools only have 1-7, and then they kids move to a school that has 7-10 grades (although i don't think any school ONLY has 7-10). That is the extent of the manditory school system, and it is finished with standardized testing.

    After finishing this school, you can choose to go into what is equivilant to highschool. That takes 4 years and while it has SOME specialization, it is pretty standardized. You can choose a naturescience path, language path or a social science path, i think there are some elective courses in there, but it's pretty standardized from what i've gathered (this is a new system that was not in place when i graduated).

    So basicly when you're done with highschool (which happens on your 20th year assuming you did everything on normal time) you go to university. Anyone can get into university as long as they fulfil the requirements (for example to get into physics you need to have graduated highschool from the naturescience path). Also in scandinavia (or the nordic countries) you can get into all other universities, and it's all "free" (paid by tax money). Like me, i'm from Iceland but i decided to go to Denmark and study here, i don't pay tuitions (and i wouldn't in Iceland either). Furthermore i get paid about 700$ a month by the danish government to go to school, and get a loan from the government for an additional 300$ a month (i only get this because my parents used to live and pay tax in denmark for 5 years), this is a goverment scholarship given to everyone that goes to university.
  4. Oct 17, 2005 #3


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    In the USA the pattern is usually like this:

    Ages 6-14 are in grades 1-8, which are usually divided between 5 or 6 years of elementary school followed by 2 or 3 years of middle school or junior high school.

    High school is usually four years, grades 9-12, ages 15-18. Many high schools have separate "tracks" for students who are going on to college or going straight into work, but the boundaries aren't very rigid. The curriculum is pretty similar from one school to another, but policies are set by local school districts, so there is some variation.

    The free public school system ends here. Beyond this point, one has to pay.

    One way in which the USA is different from most other countries is that in addition to the state universities (operated by the individual states, not by the federal government), there are many privately operated colleges and universities. Many of them were founded by churches and still have some kind of religious affiliation, but the amount of control by the church varies all the way from zero (historical affiliation only) up to rigid control over curriculum (no evolution in biology classes!) and student lifestyles. In size, these private institutions can range from small colleges like the one where I teach (700-1500 students) up to large and prestigious universities such as Stanford, Harvard, and Princeton.

    Each college and university sets its own policies regarding admissions, curriculum, qualifications of faculty, etc. Usually in each state, some kind of governing board sets common policies for the state universities in that state. There are regional "accrediting associations" which review colleges and universities every ten years and certify whether they meet various standards in curriculum, faculty and general operating procedures. If a school is not accredited by one of these associations, it can still operate, but many people will be very suspicious of attending it!

    Usually, a bachelor's degree program has a mixture of "general education" courses distributed among a variety of fields (humanities, arts, natural sciences, social sciencies) and courses in a specific "major field" (physics, psychology, history, English, etc.). "Liberal arts" colleges, such as where I teach, usually require a larger proportion of general education courses, at the expense of major-field courses. At such schools, students usually take mostly general education courses during their first year or two, then shift over to taking mostly major-field courses. Professional degree programs such as engineering have a smaller proportion of general education courses.

    (added) Oops, I see I neglected to mention the time span for bachelor's degree studies. It's normally four years, from ages 19 to 22. A significant number of students take five years or even more, for various reasons.

    After the bachelor's degree comes graduate school for students who want to continue further towards a master's degree, which usually takes about two years, or a Ph.D., which usually takes another 3-5 years, i.e. 5-7 years altogether, in physics.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2005
  5. Oct 17, 2005 #4


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    Heres something I posted in a thread about this before:

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2017
  6. Oct 17, 2005 #5
    In addition to the detailed information Rho provided on the curriculum structure, I'll add that we have comprehensive/state schools for the common man, and private (confusing called public sometimes) schools for the well-to-do (£3,000-10,000 a term maybe?)

    Also in some places Grammar schools still exist, which are kind of free, pass-an-exam-to-get-in schools, which for some reason the government is abolishing I believe. Search google for Grammar schools if you want to know more :smile:
  7. Oct 17, 2005 #6
    Hmm, well, I live in Kuwait..
    Here we have many kinds of schools, ranging from the traditional Arabic school system, to Indian/British/Pakistani, and the IB system, as well as American schools.
    I'll brief each of the ones I know of out, because our British schools (Or atleast, the one I've been to) is very different from how rho described it. :|

    Arabic schools
    We have two systems, moqarrat and thanawiya 'amma...
    Thanawiya 'amma:
    All I can say about it is the level of math focuses on algebra concepts as well as co-ordinate geometry in 9th grade...
    In tenth grade it gets more into detail into functions and logarithms. (I'm not sure if they cover trig...)
    From 11th grade to 12th grade, you choose either a scientific or literary path where your classes will be set as according to your choice. (i.e. harder maths for scientific and more science, or more history and less math for literary)
    The math for scientific ranges from pre-Calculus topics all the way up to Calculus. (Not sure how far they go, but they get pretty involved I hear)
    Literary path involves more statistical math I think..

    I can't say anything about moqarrat, but I hear it's exactly like our American schools.

    Here in Kuwait, these three school systems are pretty much the same..
    The only catch is... we don't have SATS exams.
    However, the path from Year 9 onwards is as follows: (You would assumably be 14 years of age in Year 9)
    Year 9 - Start of IGCSE (Essentially international GCSEs) commences... and you can choose to take your exams at the end of this year IF you have covered a complete syllabus.
    Year 10 - Usually you'd be done with your IGCSEs by the end of the year and do your exams.
    Year 11 - (OPTIONAL) Do IGCSE retakes if you don't like your scores; start AS levels and do the exams at the end of the year.
    Year 12 - (OPTIONAL) Start A2 levels, retake AS levels, and do A2 level exams at the end of the year.

    In my school, this is how it works...
    You have to cover a specific number of credits.
    Our graduation requirements are:
    4 Math courses - The course sequence is: Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1 (Solving equations, modelling word problems), Geometry, Algebra 2 (Solving more equations, complex numbers, logarithms, functions), Pre-Calculus (Algebra 2 with Trigonometry for the last month), (AP) Statistics (May be taken instead of Pre-Calculus), AP Calculus (Self explanatory)
    Depending on which course you started with, you are expected to complete the next 3 in the sequence.

    4 English courses - English for each school year...

    3 History courses - World History 1, World History 2, US History

    1 Social Science course - Geography, Economics, Psychology or Sociology

    2 PE courses - Health and then Physical Education..

    5 Language courses - For Arabic students, 4 would be Arabic and one would be French or Spanish; also religion is included and is compulsary for muslim students.

    3 Science courses - Physical Science, Biology and then either Chemstry, Physics or Environmental Science

    1 Computer Science course - Introduction to Personal Computing, and then you can, if you like, go onto Visual Basic or AP Computer Science

    With whatever room you have left you can take AP classes or take electives such as Art.

    That's all I know about our systems. :D
  8. Oct 17, 2005 #7
    Well, this is what the Irish system is like... It's not very complicated, but not amazingly good

    So from ages 4-12, you're in elementary school..
    Then from ages 13-17/18 (there's a recreational year that you can opt not to do) is highschool. You have two major state exams, one when you're 15, which doesn't decide a whole lot, just shows you what you're capable of, and what subjects you should pick for the senior cycle. So then when you're 17/18, you do your final state exam, and the results of that determine your entry into whatever college. You sit exams for 7 subjects, and take the results of 6.. 100 points max for each subject, and so the highest number of points you can get in 600. I believe the only course requirement with points that high is medicine.

    As for colleges, there are about 6 very good universities, a couple of quite good ones, and then a lot of IT's. There isn't too much emphasis placed on science in Ireland, and there is a shortage of science teachers which is becoming a problem. There are science courses in all colleges, but since they want more people to opt to them, the points are becoming lower, so the courses are becoming more introductory based, eg to do industrial chemistry, you don't need to have done chemistry before, even if they do advise you do, since it can be difficult to pick it up.
  9. Oct 17, 2005 #8


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    Quebec (Different school system than the rest of Canada)

    6 Years old, Elementary School, free
    Grades 1 through 6, provincial examinations after grade 6.

    12 years old, High School, free
    Grades 1 through 5, provincial examinations after grade 4.

    17 years old, CEGEP, free
    4 semesters of 15 weeks for students who intend on continuing to University
    6 semesters of 15 weeks for technical.

    19 years old, enter university.
    Students can enter in any path they want (ie, normal, law, teaching, medicine, etc.) without doing anything prior (ie, no prelaw, no premed, etc.)
    Most BSc take 3 years (as opposed to the 4 for the rest of Canada / US), since CEGEP tacks on an extra year that students in the rest of Canada / US dont have).
    Med School takes 4-5 years (until residency), depending on the university.
  10. Oct 17, 2005 #9
    The stuff that rho posted is similar to the way it is in the Caribbean because at 16 you usually take the GCSE or CSEC (caribbean version) exams and then you can enter university or you can do a further two years of advanced work for an associates degree and take the A'Level or CAPE exams. In those two years you would be doing the equivalent of calc I, calcII, physics I, physics II, etc.
  11. Oct 17, 2005 #10


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    Exequor, where in the Caribbean? (you speak like it's the same for every country there.)
  12. Oct 18, 2005 #11
    Sorry about that Cyclovenom. I was speaking about countries that use the CXC/Cambridge system. Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada, Trinidad, etc.
  13. Oct 23, 2005 #12
    I live in Australia, and we have a different system for almost each state here...

    most of them follow similar basic structures though...

    age 5 - 12 primary school, years reception to year 7

    age 12 - 17 secondary (high) school, years 8 to 12

    in secondary school the last two years are spent doing subjects more specific to your post school inentions (eg. university or tafe etc.)

    our universtiy system is essentially the same as almost anywhere...

    undergraduate degree, then a choice of many post graduate courses...
  14. Oct 23, 2005 #13


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    I can expand on this a bit. The "tracks" vary. Generally, your college(university)-bound student will take the general range of courses that we all know universities require, with the honors students taking a slightly more advanced level of courses (they are the ones who will have completed AP-level courses by the end of high school, which are meant to be taught at a freshman college level; there are AP exams in numerous subjects...two levels of calculus, each of the three sciences, English, World History, Art History, etc., and if a student obtains a high enough score on the AP exam, the college they attend may give them credit for the college level class, which means a few students can enter with advanced standing in college because they have enough credits through AP exams to count as sophomores rather than freshmen). The non-honors college-track students don't take quite such demanding courses, but nonetheless cover the breadth of the prerequisites they'll need for college. The last track of students, which has various names depending on schools, are basically those who are not college-bound. Instead of some of the upper level general education type classes, they'll take wood or auto shop classes, or typing, or shorthand...basically preparing them with the practical skills of entering a trade upon graduation.

    There is also an alternative to the traditional high school, which is called vocational and technical school (vo-tech). This focuses entirely on learning a trade and only on the most minimal basic skills as required by the state (minimal English proficiency and math that probably only goes up to about Algebra I). Sometimes these students spend half the day in the traditional high school for the basic courses and the other half day at the vo-tech learning a trade. It depends on how the district is set up. These students will graduate licensed to practice a trade and will have had requirements for things like co-op experiences in their trade. So, rather than just learn a little about tinkering with the car engine, they'll graduate as a licensed mechanic, or hairdresser, fully ready to enter the trade without further training. Students who end up in this path are usually those who have performed fairly miserably in their classes up through middle/junior high school, and who have little chance of catching up in high school, so the idea is it is better to have them learn a trade through which they can earn a living rather than have them repeating 8th grade until they're old enough to just drop out without a diploma.
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