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Primary and secondary education

Primary and secondary education
Primary or elementary education consists of the first years of formal, structured education that occurs during childhood. In most countries, it is compulsory for children to receive primary education (though in many jurisdictions it is permissible for parents to provide it). Primary education generally begins when children are four to seven years of age. The division between primary and secondary education is somewhat arbitrary, but it generally occurs at about twelve years of age (adolescence); some educational systems have separate middle schools for that period. Primary and secondary education together are sometimes (in particular, in Canada and the United States) referred to as "K-12" education, (K is for kindergarten, 12 is for twelfth grade).

Typically, primary education is provided in schools, where (in the absence of parental movement or other intervening factors) the child will stay, in steadily advancing classes, until they complete it and move on to secondary schooling. 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 areas, 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. Over the past few decades, schools have been testing various arrangements which break from the one-teacher, one-class mould. Multi-age programs, where children in different years/grades (e.g. Reception/Kindergarten through to year three/second grade) share the same classroom and teachers, is one increasingly popular alternative to traditional elementary instruction. An 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 middle 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.

The major goals of primary education are achieving basic literacy and numeracy amongst all their students, as well as establishing foundations in science, 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.

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

Middle school (also known as intermediate school or junior high school) covers a period of education that straddles primary education and secondary education, serving as a bridge between the two. The terms can be used in different ways in different countries. The concept itself dates back to 1909, with the founding of Indianola Junior High School in Columbus, Ohio.

Junior high schools were schools in the United States that contained seventh through ninth grades. The junior high schools in the United States were mostly replaced with the middle school concept with sixth through eighth grades. The ninth grade was moved to high schools. Many high schools were known as senior high schools when the junior high school concept was popular.

In the United States middle school refers to a distinct form of school organization rather than a general term for the middle level of education. Advocated by groups such as the National Middle School Association, the middle school concept is a relatively new model for the middle-level grades, contrasted with the more traditional junior high concept. North American children at this level are educated either at junior high schools or at middle schools, depending on location.

Middle schools generally include grades 7 to 8 (although many include grade 6, and a few start as early as grade 4, although that is rare) while junior high schools include grades 7 and 8 or 7 through 9 only.

Junior high schools are designed similarly to high schools. The faculty is organized into academic departments which operate more or less independently of one another. This is meant as a hybrid, to ease the transition from elementary school to high school for students. Sometimes they are called Intermediate schools.

The middle school concept, however, involves a group of four to six teachers from different disciplines working as a team with the same group of students of the same grade level, with each teacher teaching a different subject. This format facilitates interdisciplinary units, where the entire team teaches on the same general topic from the perspective of different disciplines.

Sometimes intermediate schools go before middle school, sometimes middle school goes before junior high school, and a few times middle school goes before intermediate school. In most cases, however, the middle school (according to the middle school concept) is seen as an alternative and a replacement to the junior high and intermediate school. The middle school format has now replaced schools using the junior high format by a ratio of about ten to one in the U.S.

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