Primary education

Primary education
A large elementary school in Magome, Japan
Children and teacher in a primary school classroom in Laos
An elementary school in California

Primary education is the first stage of compulsory education. It is preceded by pre-school or nursery education and is followed by secondary education. In North America, this stage of education is usually known as elementary education and is generally followed by middle school.

In most countries, it is compulsory for children to receive primary education, though in many jurisdictions it is permissible for parents to provide it. The transition to secondary school or high school is somewhat arbitrary, but it generally occurs at about eleven or twelve years of age. Some educational systems have separate middle schools with the transition to the final stage of education taking place at around the age of fourteen.

The major goals of primary education are achieving basic literacy and numeracy amongst all pupils, as well as establishing foundations in science, mathematics, geography, history and other social sciences. The relative priority of various areas, and the methods used to teach them, are an area of considerable political debate.

Typically, primary education is provided in schools, where the child will stay in steadily advancing classes until they complete it and move on to high school/secondary school. Children are usually placed in classes with one teacher who will be primarily responsible for their education and welfare for that year. This teacher may be assisted to varying degrees by specialist teachers in certain subject area often music or physical education. The continuity with a single teacher and the opportunity to build up a close relationship with the class is a notable feature of the primary education system.

Traditionally, various forms of corporal punishment have been an integral part of early education. Recently this practice has come under scrutiny, and in many cases been outlawed, especially in Western countries.



Main article Education in Albania


Main article Education in Australia
  • Kindergarten/Pre-School (ACT, NSW): 4-5 year olds
  • Preparatory/Reception/Kindergarten (VIC, QLD, SA, NSW and ACT): 5-6 year olds
  • Year 1: 6-7 year olds
  • Year 2: 7-8 year olds
  • Year 3: 8-9 year olds
  • Year 4: 9-10 year olds
  • Year 5: 10-11 year olds
  • Year 6: 11-12 year olds
  • Year 7: 12-13 year olds (WA, SA, QLD)


Main article Education in Brazil
  • Year 1: 6 year olds (former pre-school)
  • Year 2: 7 year olds
  • Year 3: 8 year olds
  • Year 4: 9 year olds
  • Year 5: 10 year olds
  • Year 6: 11 year olds
  • Year 7: 12 year olds
  • Year 8: 13 year olds
  • Year 9: 14 year olds


Main article Education in Burma


Main article Education in Canada
  • Primary (Kindergarten) (Ages 4–5) students in the Prairie Provinces are not required by statute to attend kindergarten.
  • Grade 1 (Ages 5–7)
  • Grade 2 (Ages 6–8)
  • Grade 3 (Ages 7–9)
  • Grade 4 (Ages 8–10)
  • Grade 5 (Ages 9–11)
  • Grade 6 (Ages 10–12)
  • Grade 7 (Ages 11-13)
  • Grade 8 (Ages 12-14)
  • Grade 9 (Ages 13-15)
  • Grade 10 (Ages 14-16)
  • Grade 11 (Ages 15-17)
  • Grade 12 (Ages 16-18)


In Denmark, 9 years of primary school (Folkeskole) are compulsory.

Kindergarten (optional): 5–7 years

  • 1st grade: 6–9 years
  • 2nd grade: 7–10 years
  • 3rd grade: 8-11 years
  • 4th grade: 9–12 years
  • 5th grade: 10–13 years
  • 6th grade: 11–14 years
  • 7th grade: 12–15 years
  • 8th grade: 13–16 years
  • 9th grade: 14–17 years

10th grade (optional): 15–18 years


9 years of primary school (Peruskoulu) are compulsory.

  • Kindergarten (optional): 6–7 years
  • 1st grade: 7–8 years
  • 2nd grade: 8–9 years
  • 3rd grade: 9–10 years
  • 4th grade: 10–11 years
  • 5th grade: 11–12 years
  • 6th grade: 12–13 years
  • 7th grade: 13–14 years
  • 8th grade: 14–15 years
  • 9th grade: 15–16 years
  • 10th grade (optional): 16–17 years


Main article Education in France
  • Nursery:Petite Section (3 years old)
  • Reception:Moyenne Section (4 years old)
  • Year 1:Grande Section (5 years old)
  • Year 2:CP (cours préparatoire)(6 years old)
  • Year 3:CE1 (cours élémentaire 1)(7 years old)
  • Year 4:CE2 (cours élémentaire 2)(8 years old)
  • Year 5:CM1 (cours moyen 1)(9 years old)
  • Year 6:CM2 (cours moyen 2)(10 years old)


Main article Education in Germany

The first school for German children is called Grundschule. It takes usually four years, the pupils are between six and ten years old. The education consists of learning to read, write, basic math and general knowledge. In some schools, a first foreign language is introduced, usually English. In the final year of primary school, children receive a recommendation as to which further school they can attend.

  • Kindergarten: 3–6 years
  • Grade 1: 6–7 years
  • Grade 2: 7–8 years
  • Grade 3: 8–9 years
  • Grade 4: 9–10 years
  • Grade 5: 10-11 years (Berlin and Brandenburg only)
  • Grade 6: 11-12 years (Berlin and Brandenburg only)

Depending on the recommendation they received from their teacher, children proceed to their mandatory secondary education in either Hauptschule (Grades 5-9, sometimes 10th grade is added which is then called "Werkrealschule"), Realschule (Grades 5-10), or Gymnasium (Grades 5-12). Upon the successful completion of Grades 11 and 12 in the Gymnasium, students receive the Abitur, a diploma with the permission to enter post-secondary education (similar to the A-level or High School Diploma). The Abitur will not be received at the end of Haupt- and Realschule, but graduating students are eligible to enter the 11th Grade of the Gymnasium if they wish to obtain the Abitur.


Main article Education in Hungary

Primary School education for children in Hungary takes 8 years.

  • 1st grade: 6–7 years
  • 2nd grade: 7–8 years
  • 3rd grade: 8–9 years
  • 4th grade: 9–10 years
  • 5th grade: 10–11 years
  • 6th grade: 11–12 years
  • 7th grade: 12–13 years
  • 8th grade: 13–14 years


Main article Education in Iceland

In Iceland, 10 years of primary school (Grunnskóli) are compulsory.

Primary school teaching in Iceland consists of 10 grade levels. These are:

  • 1st grade: 6–7 years
  • 2nd grade: 7–8 years
  • 3rd grade: 8–9 years
  • 4th grade: 9–10 years
  • 5th grade: 10–11 years
  • 6th grade: 11–12 years
  • 7th grade: 12–13 years
  • 8th grade: 13–14 years
  • 9th grade: 14–15 years
  • 10th grade: 15–16 years


Main article Education in India

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is the apex body for school education in India.[1] The NCERT provides support and technical assistance to a number of schools in India and oversees many aspects of enforcement of education policies.[2] In India, the various bodies governing school education system are:

Primary school teaching in India consists of 12 grade (classes) levels. These are:

  • Kindergarten: nursery - 3 years, Lower Kindergarten (LKG) -4 years, Upper Kindergarten (UKG) - 5 years
  • 1st class: 6 years
  • 2nd class: 7 years
  • 3rd class: 8 years
  • 4th class: 9 years
  • 5th class: 10 years
  • 6th class: 11 years
  • 7th class: 12 years
  • 8th class: 13 years
  • 9th class: 14 years
  • 10th class: 15 years
  • 11th class: 16 years
  • 12th class: 17 years


Main article Education in Iran


Main article Education in the Republic of Ireland

Primary school teaching in Republic of Ireland consists of 8 class levels. These are:

  • Junior Infants (4–5 years)
  • Senior Infants (5–6 years)
  • 1st class (6–7 years)
  • 2nd class (7–8 years)
  • 3rd class (8–9 years)
  • 4th class (9–10 years)
  • 5th class (10–11 years)
  • 6th class (11–12 years)

Junior and Senior infants correspond to Kindergarten.

The subjects mainly taught in primary school are:

  • English
  • Maths
  • Irish
  • History
  • Geography
  • Science
  • PE (Physical Education),
  • Art
  • Drama
  • Music
  • SPHE (Social, Personal, Health Education),
  • Religion

The content of the Religion course taught depends on the management of the school. Many schools are managed and owned by the Roman Catholic Church, with a lesser number belonging to the Church of Ireland and to the Multi Denominational Group Educate Together and a handful run by other religions such as Muslims. Each school body decides on the emphasis of its religious instruction. In Catholic schools 2nd and 6th class prepare children for Holy Communion and Confirmation respectively. In the Church of Ireland this preparation is done when the pupil is aged about 14 years, and is in secondary school.

Children may start at primary school at any age between four and six years of age. Most children finish primary school at or around twelve years of age.


Primary school teaching in Italy consists of 5 grades. Before the First Grade, there is the kindergarten (scuola materna in Italian), but it's not compulsory.


First Grade (6–7 years)
Second Grade (7–8 years)
Third Grade (8–9 years)
Fourth Grade (9–10 years)
Fifth Grade (10–11 years)

Schools used to have a six day school week, Monday to Saturday. Lately, as of 2008, most elementary and middle schools have reduced the school week to five days, with high schools remaining with six.[3]


Main article Education in Israel


Main article Elementary schools in Japan

English has become a compulsory subject at primary schools in Japan, since April 2011 in order to compete with other Asian countries in English proficiency; Japanese students have among the lowest English TOEFL scores in Asia. [1]


Primary education is compulsory in Malaysia. Children usually spend 6 years in primary school. In Year 6, students sit for a standardized test, the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR, Primary School Assessment Examination).

Year 1 : age 6 - 7
Year 2 : age 7 - 8
Year 3 : age 8 - 9
Year 4 : age 9 - 10
Year 5 : age 10 - 11
Year 6 : age 11 - 12

For the secondary school: Form 1 : age 13 Form 2 : age 14 Form 3 : age 15 (Standardized test, Penilaian Menengah Rendah) Form 4 : age 16 Form 5 : age 17

Matriculation(1 years) or Centre of Foundation Studies (1 or 2 years) or Pre-University : Form Lower 6 and Upper 6(2 years)

Based on program/course taken. University Diploma (2 or 3 years) University Degree (3,4 or 5 years)


Main article Education in Mexico


See List of Morocco-related topics:Education


Main article Education in the Netherlands

Children in the Netherlands must be at least four years old to enter primary education. Almost all 4-year-olds (99.3%) in the Netherlands indeed attend primary school, although this is not compulsory until children reach the age of 5. Primary school is free of charge. In most schools, children are grouped by age in mixed ability classes, with one teacher for all subjects. Primary school consists of 8 groups (thus 8 years of schooling). During the first two years (both kindergarten), children receive an average of 22 hours of education, during the last 6 years children receive an average of 25 hours per week. Schools are open 5 days a week, but all children have a half day on Wednesdays (ending at noon). At the end of primary school, in group 8, schools advice on secondary school choice. Most schools use a national test to support this advice, for instance the 'Citotoets', a test developed by the Central Institute for Test development.

  • group 1: age 4-5 (kindergarten)
  • group 2: age 5-6 (kindergarten)
  • group 3: age 6-7 (school curriculum starts with writing, reading, etc.)
  • group 4: age 7-8
  • group 5: age 8-9
  • group 6: age 9-10
  • group 7: age 10-11
  • group 8: age 11-12 (last school year with advice on secondary school choice)

For more information: [2]


Main article Education in Poland

Primary School:

  • 0th - 5-6 years old
  • 1st - 6-7 years old
  • 2nd - 7-8 years old
  • 3rd - 8-9 years old
  • 4th - 9-10 years old
  • 5th - 10-11 years old
  • 6th - 11-12 years old

Secondary School:

  • 1st 12-13 years old
  • 2nd 13-14 years old
  • 3rd 14-15 years old

Higher school (college): 18 and over Children may end their schooling after passing secondary school if desired.


Main article Education in Portugal

In Portugal, the primary education (ensino primário) used to include the first four years of compulsory education (1ª classe, 2ª classe, 3ª classe and 4ª classe), their pupils being children between six and ten years old. After the education reform of 1986, the former primary education became the 1st cycle of the basic education (1º ciclo do ensino básico).

Basic education now includes:

  • 1st cycle (1º ciclo) - former primary education
    • 1st year
    • 2nd year
    • 3rd year
    • 4th year
  • 2nd cycle (2º ciclo) - former preparatory education
    • 5th year
    • 6th year
  • 3rd cycle (3º ciclo) -former preparatory education (continuation)
    • 7th year
    • 8th year
    • 9th year
    • 10th year - former general course of the secondary education
    • 11th year
    • 12th year (around 17/18th years old)
    • University three years of studies Bachelor degree
    • University two years of studies Graduation
    • University post-graduation 1 year of studies
    • University two more years of studies master's degree
    • University two more years of studies doctor


Main article Education in Singapore

Primary education in Singapore, normally starting at age six, is a four-year foundation stage (Primary 1 to 4) and a two-year orientation stage (Primary 5 to 6). Primary education is compulsory and free, though there is a fee of up to SGD 13 every month per student to help cover miscellaneous costs.

During the foundation stage, all students are taught English Language as a first language, a mother tongue as a second language and Mathematics. Science is introduced from Primary 3 onwards. In addition to these examinable subjects, lessons in Civics and Moral Education, arts and crafts, music, health education, social studies and physical education are conducted at various levels. Students are also introduced to project work, receive pastoral care and career guidance, and are to participate in Co-Curricular Activities and Community Involvement Programmes. In the orientation stage, weaker students are banded based on their abilities in the four examinable subjects. Known as "Subject-based Banding"[3], they take individual subjects either at the standard or foundation level. Conversely, higher mother tongue is offered for higher ability students.


During the year before children start compulsory school, all children are offered a place in a pre-school class (förskoleklass), which combines the pedagogical methods of the pre-school with those of compulsory school.[4] Between ages 7 and 15, children attend compulsory comprehensive school (grundskola), divided in three stages. The vast majority of schools in Sweden are municipally-run, but there are also independent schools. The education in independent schools has many objectives in common with the municipal school, but it can have an orientation that differs from that of the municipal schools.[5]


Main article Education in Syria

9 years of primary school are compulsory.

Kindergarten (optional): 5–6 years

  • 1st grade: 6–7 years
  • 2nd grade: 7–8 years
  • 3rd grade: 8–9 years
  • 4th grade: 9–10 years
  • 5th grade: 10–11 years
  • 6th grade: 11–12 years
  • 7th grade: 12–13 years
  • 8th grade: 13–14 years
  • 9th grade: 14–15 years

United Kingdom

Main article Education in the United Kingdom

Primary education is provided by state schools run by the government and by independent fee-paying schools. In the state system children are either educated in separate infant and junior schools or in a combined primary school. Schools in the private sector providing primary education are generally known as preparatory schools or prep schools. In the private sector the transfer to the final stage of education often takes place at 14.


Main article Education in England

Children start school either in the year or the term in which they reach five depending upon the policy of the Local Education Authority. All state schools are obliged to follow a centralised National Curriculum. The primary school years are split into Key Stages:

  • Foundation Stage 1 (in a pre-school/childcare environment)
    • Nursery, age 3 to 4
  • Key Stage 1 (in an Infant or Primary school)
    • Year 1, age 5 to 6
    • Year 2, age 6 to 7
  • Key Stage 2 (in Junior or Primary school)
    • Year 3, age 7 to 8
    • Year 4, age 8 to 9
    • Year 5, age 9 to 10
    • Year 6, age 10 to 11

At the end of Key Stage 2 in Year 6 all children in state primary schools are required to take National Curriculum tests in reading and mathematics also called SATs. All state primary schools are under the jurisdiction of the Department for Children, Schools and Families and are required to receive regular inspections by the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED). Private schools are inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate.

Northern Ireland

Main article Education in Northern Ireland

Children start school either in the year or the term in which they reach four. All state schools are obliged to follow a centralised National Curriculum. The primary school years are split into Key Stages:

  • Primary education
    • Primary school
      • Foundation Stage
        • Primary 1, age 4 to 5
        • Primary 2, age 5 to 6
      • Key Stage 1
        • Primary 3, age 6 to 7
        • Primary 4, age 7 to 8
      • Key Stage 2
        • Primary 5, age 8 to 9
        • Primary 6, age 9 to 10
        • Primary 7, age 10 to 11 (Transfer procedure exams to determine secondary school placement.)

At the end of Key Stage 2 in P7, all children are offered the voluntary Eleven Plus (also called the transfer procedure) examinations, though the parents of thirty percent of children elect not to, and send their kids to secondary schools instead of grammar schools.[6]

All state primary schools are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education.


Main article Education in Scotland

In Scotland children typically spend seven years in a primary school, whose years are named P1 to P7. Children enter P1 at the age of four or five (according to a combination of birth date and parental choice).

Primary 1 (aged 4-6)
Primary 2 (aged 6-7)
Primary 3 (aged 7-8)
Primary 4 (aged 8-9)
Primary 5 (aged 9-10)
Primary 6 (aged 10-11)
Primary 7 (aged 11-12)

At the age of 11-12 children usually transfer to local State Secondary Schools or Public/Private (fee-paying) Schools,


Main article Primary Education in Wales

Children in Wales spend 7 years at primary school between the ages of 4 and 11.

United States

Main article Education in the United States

In the United States the first stage of compulsory education is generally known as elementary education. It takes place in elementary schools which usually incorporate the first five or six grades and sometimes include a kindergarten. Elementary schools in the US are also known as grade schools or grammar schools. In some schools, teachers utilize a "looping system" where the same teacher teaches the same group of students for two years. For example, a third-grade class may have one teacher who would teach those students for an entire year, then that teacher would teach fourth-grade the next year, and thereby teach the same class again. The teacher would then revert back to the third grade the following year to start the process all over again with a different group of students.

Over the past few decades, schools in the USA have been testing various arrangements which break from the one-teacher, one-class model. Multi-age programs, where children in different grades (e.g. Kindergarten through to second grade) share the same classroom and teachers, is one increasingly popular alternative to traditional elementary instruction. Another alternative is that children might have a main class and go to another teacher's room for one subject, such as science, while the science teacher's main class will go to the other teacher's room for another subject, such as social studies. This could be called a two-teacher, two-class mould, or a rotation, similar to the concept of teams in junior high school. Another method is to have the children have one set of classroom teachers in the first half of the year, and a different set of classroom teachers in the second half of the year.

English as a second language


English as a second language (ESL) by definition refers to the specialized instruction designed for students who are either limited in English proficiency or have a primary language other than English. The government oftentimes refers to EL students as Limited English Proficient (LEP) students.

History of the English language in the United States

During European settlement, early in the history of the United States of America a variety of languages were spoken, not to mention the language of the indigenous peoples who were the first to live in the continent. However, when the United States was forming as a country, it became clear that English would undoubtedly become the language of the country. As influential men such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay strived to establish a distinguished American society and culture, they created an American identity that reflected their own Anglo-Saxon cultural identity. English did not become the official language, but it was the language of schools, the government, and the laws.

Similarly, throughout the course of United States history, there have been massive immigration into the country that have created communities where the population speaks languages other than English. [4]


  • 6% of all schools in the United States have English as a second language students, with certain states having large numbers of English as a second language students
    • 87% of Arizona schools have ESL students
    • 90% of California schools have ESL students
    • 96% of Hawaii schools have ESL students

Only 18% of all schools offer bilingual education programs and 43% offer ESL programs. However, 27% of these schools find it difficult or impossible to fill these teaching positions with qualified instructors. Therefore, many English as a second language students are inadequately served. [5]


  • 60% of ESL students in California high schools have not achieved written proficiency in the language, even after six years of a U.S. education
  • 1/4 of all public school attendees in California are English-learners — 1.6 million, "the largest bloc of English-learners in the nation" [6]

Unequal access to trained teachers

Students that are learning English as a second language require teachers with specialized training. However, the demand for teachers with specialized training does not meet the amount of ESL students; there is a significantly low percentage of teachers well prepared to teach. Thus, English learners are more likely to be placed in classes that are taught by teachers who are not fully credentialed. According to the 2000 Class Size Reduction (CSR) teacher survey, 53% of English learners enrolled in grades 1-4, in California, during the 1999-2000 school year, were taught by a teacher with prior specialized training. EL students are less likely than their English-speaking peers to have a qualified teacher direct classroom instruction in their classes. This inevitably creates challenges for the EL students as their needs are not met. [7]

Millennium Development Goals

Main article Millennium Development Goals

Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education

By the year 2015, the UN hopes to ensure that children everywhere regardless of race or gender, will be able to complete primary schooling.[8]


According to the United Nations, in 2008, overall enrollment in primary education in developing areas reached 89 percent. This was a major increase from the 83 percent in 2000. Due to the fact that the United Nations is specifically focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, as they are both home to the vast majority of children out of school, they hypothesize that they might not be able to reach their goal by 2015. According to the September 2010 fact sheet, this is because there are still about 69 million school-age children are not in school and almost half of them are in sub-Saharan Africa and more than a quarter are in Southern Asia. [9]

To achieve the goal

In order to achieve the goal by 2015, the United Nations estimates that all children at the official entry age for primary school would have had to be attending classes by 2009. This would depend on the duration of the primary level as well as how well the school schools retain students until the end of the cycle. In half of the sub-Saharan African countries, however, "at least one in four children of primary-school age were out of school in 2008." Also, not only is it important for children to be enrolled but countries will need to ensure that there are a sufficient amount of teachers and classrooms to meet the demand. As of 2010 and 2015, the number of new teachers needed in sub-Saharan Africa alone equals the current teaching force in the region.[10]

Close gender gap

The gender gap in the number of students not in school has also narrowed. Between 1999 and 2008, the number of girls not in school decreased from 57 percent to 53 percent globally. In some regions, however, there is a greater percentage; for example, in Northern Africa, 66 percent of "out-of-school children" are girls. [11]

What has been done

According to the United Nations, there are many things in the regions that have been accomplished. Although enrollment in the sub-Saharan area of Africa continues to be the lowest of all regions, by 2010 "it still increased by 18 percentage points—from 58 per cent to 76 per cent—between 1999 and 2008." There was also progress in both Southern Asia and Northern Africa, where both countries witnessed an increase in enrollment. Southern Asia increased by 11 percentage points and Northern Africa by 8 percentage points over the last decade. Also, major advances have been made even in some of the poorest countries, again the majority of them in the sub-Saharan region of Africa. With the abolition of primary school fees in Burundi, there was an increase in primary-school enrollment since 1999; it reached 99 percent in 2008. The United Republic of Tanzania experienced a similar outcome. The country doubled its enrollment ratio over the same period. Other regions in Latin America such as Guatemala and Nicaragua as well as Zambia in Southern Africa "broke through the 90 percent towards greater access to primary education." [12]

See also


  1. ^ India 2009: A Reference Annual (53rd edition), 233
  2. ^ India 2009: A Reference Annual (53rd edition), 230–234
  3. ^ Deirdré Straughan. Italian Vacation Habits. 2006-09-05. Retrieved 2008-12-26
  4. ^ and
  5. ^ and
  6. ^ Department of Education for Northern Ireland.
  • India 2009: A Reference Annual (53rd edition), New Delhi: Additional Director General (ADG), Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, ISBN 978-81-230-1557-6.

External links

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