Secondary education

Secondary education normally takes place in secondary schools, taking place after primary education and may be followed by higher education or vocational training. In some countries, only primary or basic education is compulsory, but secondary education is included in compulsory education in most countries. In post-Soviet countries it is also known as general education or general middle education.


High school in Bratislava, Slovakia (Gamča)

Secondary schools may be called high schools, academies, gymnasia, lyceums, middle schools, sixth-form, sixth-form colleges, vocational schools, or preparatory schools, and the exact meaning of any of these varies among the countries.

By country


The school system is free and mandatory.


School is compulsory in Australia between the ages of five/six to fifteen/sixteen/seventeen, depending on the state, with, in recent years, over three-quarters of people staying on until their thirteenth year in school. Government schools educate about two-thirds of Australian students, with the other third in independent schools. Government schools are free although most schools charge what are known as "voluntary contributions" or "tax levies", while independent schools, both religious and secular, charge fees as well as levies. Regardless of what whether a school is government or independent, it is required to adhere to the same curriculum frameworks. Most school students, whether in government or independent school, usually wear uniforms,[1] although there are varying expectations and a few school exceptions.

Each state and territory has its own format of Year 12 matriculation:


For more details see Education in Belgium - Secondary education.

The Belgian school has a three-tier education system, with each stage divided into various levels:


In Brazil, since 1996 high school is officially called Ensino Médio (formerly Segundo Grau). Until 1971, ensino médio had three different names: curso científico, curso normal and curso clássico ("classic"). As a result, the course was changed after and called colegial, also divided, with the first three years were the same for everyone and anyone who would subsequently make the old normal and clássico, had to do another year.

Historically, in Brazil, is called secondary what is now the second part of primary school (from the sixth year to the ninth year), plus high school.

It is the last phase to basic education. Brazilian high school lasts three years, attempting to deepen what students have learned in the Ensino Fundamental. Brazilian high school students are referenced by their year – 1st, 2nd and 3rd years.

Unlike other countries, Brazilian students don't have a final test to conclude studies. Their approval depends only on their final grade on each subject. Each university elaborates its own test to select new students – this test, the vestibular, generally happens once a year. Enem, a non-mandatory national exam, evaluates high school students in Brazil and is used to rank both private and public schools.

Best scores are usually achieved by students on public universities. Despite lack of funds and historical and social problems contribute to poor attendance from the students, especially those in public schools, those Universities usually are recognized as academically excellent.

Private establishments, on the other hand, may be recognized as academically excellent or merely as investments in social networking. Schedules vary from school to school. The subjects taught, however, are conceived by the Ministério da Educação (Ministry of Education) which emphasises the hard sciences.

The educational year begins in February and finishes in December, often having July as a break; institutions are permitted to define their own actual start and end dates. They must, however, provide at least 200 days of classes per year.

Universities are also divided into public and private. At this level, public ones are considered excellent and their vestibular exam is highly competitive (the exam for med school in UNICAMP may hit 300 candidates per place). For better preparation, therefore, many students take a curso pré-vestibular (university preparation course), which is offered by large private high schools.


Main article: Education in Colombia

Secondary education in Colombia is divided into two; basic secondary that goes from years 6 to 9, and mid secondary that are grades 10 and 11. In Colombia, education has always been mandatory but it wasn't until 2012 that all education for kids and teens was made free of charge at any public institution.[2]


Main article: Education in Croatia

Secondary education is currently optional, although most political parties now advocate the stance that it should also become compulsory.

Secondary schools in Croatia are subdivided into:

Gymnasiums, schools of economics and schools of engineering take four years. There are also some vocational schools that last only three years.

Secondary schools supply students with primary subjects needed for the necessary work environment in Croatia. People who completed secondary school are classified as "medium expertise" (srednja stručna sprema or SSS).

There are currently around 90 gymnasiums and some 300 vocational schools in Croatia. The public secondary schools are under the jurisdiction of regional government, the counties.


1.1 General overview of education stages Cyprus has a three-tier educational system, each stage being divided into specific levels:

Czech Republic

Due to historic reasons, the Czech school system is almost the same as the German school system. The school system is free and mandatory until age 15. After the Základní škola (elementary school) at age 15, students are directed to three different optional secondary education schools:

The maturita is required for study in university. The Abitur from gymnasium is better for a humanistic pointed university and SOŠ Abitur is better for a technical pointed university.


Main article: Education in Denmark

In Denmark it is mandatory to receive education answering to the basic school syllabus until the 10th year of school education, which likewise extends to compulsory pre-schooling since 2009. Pupils can choose an 11th year of school. After the basic school the majority of pupils between ages 15–19 usually choose to go through the three-year "Gymnasium", which is university-preparatory or high school. Adolescents not attending the Gymnasium most commonly attend vocational training. There are over 100 different vocational courses in Denmark.


The secondary school, known as Thanawya Amma (ثانوية عامة), is a three-year program after which the student, according to his score in the final year, can join a higher level of education in a university or, when the score is lower, an institution of education that issues a degree not equal with the university one.

The main defect of such a system that it depends on the final written exam to determine the student's higher education regardless of any activities.


Main article: Education in Finland

The Finnish education system is a comparatively egalitarian Nordic system. This means for example no tuition fees for full-time students, and free meals are served to pupils.

The second level education is not compulsory, but an overwhelming majority attends. There is a choice between upper secondary school (lukio, gymnasium) and vocational school (ammatillinen oppilaitos, yrkesinstitut). Graduates of both upper secondary school and vocational school can apply to study in further education (university and polytechnics).

Upper secondary school, unlike vocational school, concludes with a nationally graded final examination (ylioppilastutkinto, studentexamen). Passing the test is a de facto prerequisite for further education. The system is designed so that approximately the lowest scoring 5% fails and also 5% get the best grade. The exam allows for a limited degree of specialization in either natural sciences or social sciences. The graduation is an important and formal family event, like christenings, weddings, and funerals.

In the OECD's international assessment of student performance, PISA, Finland has consistently been among the highest scorers worldwide; in 2003, Finnish 15-year-olds came first in reading literacy, science, and mathematics; and second in problem solving, worldwide. The World Economic Forum ranks Finland's tertiary education #1 in the world."The Global Competitiveness Report 2006–2007: Country Highlights". World Economic Forum. Retrieved 2007-01-22. 


Main article: Education in France


Main article: Education in Germany

The German school system is free and attendance is compulsory for all children until 9th grade. After the Grundschule (primary/elementary school lasting four, in some states six years), teachers recommend each student for one of three different types of secondary school. Whether this recommendation is binding or can be overruled by parents depends on the state.[3]

The Gesamtschule is a comprehensive school which unifies at least two of the three types of secondary schools and confers the same school leaving certificates. The German dual education system, which combines apprenticeships with attendance of a vocational school (Berufsschule), is open to graduates of all three types of schools. However, it is the most common for graduates with Hauptschulabschluss or Mittlere Reife.

Students with special needs (severe physical or mental disabilities) are assigned to Förderschule.

Hong Kong

secondary school (中學, Cantonese: jung1 hok6), college (書院)

Secondary education in Hong Kong is largely based on the British education system. Secondary school starts in the seventh year, or Form One, of formal education, after Primary Six. Students normally spend five years in secondary schools, of which the first three years (Forms One to Three) are compulsory like primary education. Forms Four and Five students prepare for the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE), which takes place after Form Five. Students obtaining a satisfactory grade will be promoted to Form Six. They then prepare for the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE) (colloquially the A-levels), which is to be taken after Form Seven. The HKALE and HKCEE results will be considered by universities for admission. Some secondary schools in Hong Kong are called 'colleges'. In some schools, Form Six and Form Seven are also called Lower Six and Upper Six respectively.

The HKCEE is equivalent to the British GCSE and HKALE is equivalent to the British A-level.

As of October 2004, there has been heated discussion on proposed changes in the education system, which includes (amongst others) reduction of the duration of secondary education from seven years to six years, and merging the two exams HKCEE and HKALE into one exam, Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE). The proposed changes will take effect in 2009.

The secondary education system of Hong Kong, just as other East Asian countries, is examination-oriented. This does the strong but controversial post-school tutorial education industry a favor.


Main article: Education in India

There are Four important Indian school boards:

The Ninety-third Amendment Bill, 2002, renumbered as the Constitution (86th Amendment) Act, 2002, passed on 12 December 2002. Art.21A. declares "The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine."


Indonesia follows the historical Dutch education system, where the secondary education consists of junior high school (Sekolah Menengah Pertama or SMP) and senior high school (Sekolah Menengah Atas or SMA); each takes three years. Usually a student continues to SMP at age 12 and starts SMA at age 15.

In the second year (grade 11) of high school (SMA), students can choose one of three majors: Natural Science, Social Science and Literature. At the end of the third year (grade 12), students are required to follow the National Examination (formerly EBTANAS) that affect students' graduation. High school graduates can continue their education to college or go straight to work.

Senior high education is not included in the compulsory government program, only the 6-years primary education and junior high education are, even though since 2005 there is en effort to make high school education compulsory in some areas, for example in the Bantul Regency of Yogyakarta.

ISCE Dutch colonial education Indonesian system
1 Primary Education Europeesche Lagere School
Hollandsch-Chineesche School
Hollandsch-Inlandsche School
Sekolah Dasar
2 Lower Secondary Education Hogere Burgerschool
Meer Uitgebreid Lager Onderwijs
Sekolah Menengah Pertama
3 Upper Secondary Education Hogere Burgerschool
Algemeene Middelbare School
Sekolah Menengah Atas
Sekolah Menengah Kejuruan
5 Short-cycle Tertiary Education Technische Hoogeschool
Geneeskundige Hoogeschool
Faculteit der Letteren en Wijsbegeerte
Faculteit der Landbouwwetenschap
Sekolah Tinggi
6 Bachelor
7 Master
8 Doctoral


Main article: Education in Iraq
Girls at a secondary school in Iraq


In Ireland secondary school starts at the age of 12, and lasts three or optionally five or six years. The main types of secondary school are: community schools, comprehensive schools, colleges (though this term is more usually applied to third-level institutions like universities), vocational schools, voluntary secondary schools and meánscoileanna (secondary schools that teach all subjects through Irish). After three years (age 14-16), every student takes a compulsory state exam known as the Junior Certificate. Typically a student will sit exams in 9 to 11 subjects; English (L1), Irish (L2) and Mathematics are compulsory.

After completing the Junior Certificate, a student may continue for two years to take a second state exam, the Leaving Certificate, around age 17-18. Students typically take 6-8 subjects. Except in exceptional circumstances, subjects taken must include Irish (L1), English (L2) and Mathematics. Leaving Certificate results directly determine admission to university via a ranking system managed by the CAO. More than 80% of students who complete the Junior Certificate continue to the Leaving Certificate.

There is an optional year in many secondary schools in Ireland known as Transition Year, which some students choose to take after completing the Junior Certificate, and before starting the Leaving Certificate. Focusing on broadening horizons, the year is often structured around student projects such as producing a magazine, charity work, or running a small business. Regular classes may be mixed with classes on music, drama, public speaking, etc. Transition year is not formally examined but student progress is monitored by teachers on a continuous basis. Programs vary from school to school. This year also focuses on giving the children an insight into the working world through work experience placements.

In addition to the main school system, Ireland has a parallel system of vocational schools, which place less focus on academic subjects and more on vocational and technical skills - around 25% of students attend these. Many vocational schools also offer night classes to adults. There is also a prominent movement known as Gaelscoileanna where every subject is taught through the Irish language, and these are growing fast in number.


A high school in Palermo, the Liceo classico Vittorio Emanuele II, right next to the cathedral

Secondary school (Scuola secondaria) starts at age 11, after 5 years of primary school, and lasts 8 years. Secondary school is divided into 3 + 5 years, according to the following scheme:

All kinds of second-grade secondary schools end with an examination (Esame di Stato, "state exam", but usually still called by its traditional name Esame di Maturità, "maturity exam") whose contents are defined nationwide and score is on a 100-point scale.


High school in Republic of Macedonia is called средно училиште and its structure is left from the socialist period. Reforms are being instituted with the goal of bringing the education system in line with the global community. In general, there is high school for preparing for every faculty on the university. There are: electro technical high school, mechanical high school, economics high school, pharmaceutical, medical, and natural sciences and linguistics gymnasium. The high school is attended between the years of 14 and 18 and is compulsory.


Main article: Education in Malaysia
A secondary school in Malacca, Malaysia

The national secondary education in Malaysia, modelled after the (historical) English system, consists of five school years referred to as "forms" (tingkatan in Malay). Students begin attending secondary schools in the year they turn 13, after sitting for the UPSR (Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah or Primary School Assessment Examination) at the end of primary school. Students failing the academic requirement in UPSR are required to read an additional year called the Remove (Peralihan) year before they are allowed to proceed to Form 1. Automatic promotion up to Form 5 has been in place since 1996. Some secondary schools offer an additional two years known as "sixth form", divided into "lower sixth" and "upper sixth".

Forms 1 to 3 are known as Lower Secondary (Menengah Rendah), while Forms 4 and 5 are known as Upper Secondary (Menengah Tinggi). Streaming into Art, Science or Commerce streams is done at the beginning of the Upper Secondary stage. Students sit for a standardised test at the end of both stages; Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) for Lower Secondary, and Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM, equivalent to the O-Level examination) for Upper Secondary. At the end of the sixth form, students sit for the Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia or the Malaysian Higher School Certificate (equivalent to the A levels). The language of instruction in national secondary schools is Malay except for language, science and mathematics subjects. Science and mathematics subjects are taught in English since 2003, but Malay will be reintroduced in stages from 2012.


Main article: Education in Mexico

Lower-secondary education (three years) is considered part of basic education in Mexico and is compulsory. For entry, students are required to have successfully completed six years of primary education. The next stage (three years), upper-secondary education or preparation school (preparatoria), has been compulsory since 2012. It has three pathways: general upper-secondary, technical professional education, and technological upper-secondary. As it has been called bachillerato it has been frequently confused with the US' "bachelor's level", which is called "Licenciatura o Ingeniería" in Latin American countries (though not all, as in Venezuela, the US' bachelor's level is referred to as "doctor").[4]


Main article: Education in Nepal

Nepal ranks 11th in quality education in the world.

Tribhuwan International University is a world-known institution.

Secondary education Nepal was 7even years in duration as of 2012. Its highest value over the past 42 years was seven years in 2012, while its lowest value was five years in 1970.


In the Netherlands, high school is called middelbare school (literally "middle-level school") and starts right after the 6th grade of primary school (group 8). Pupils who start at a high school are around age 12. Because education in the Netherlands is compulsory between the ages of 4 and 16 (and partially compulsory between the ages of 16 and 18), all pupils must attend high school.

The high schools are part of the voortgezet onderwijs (literally: "continued education"). The voortgezet onderwijs consists of three main streams: VMBO, which has 4 grades and is subdivided over several levels; HAVO, which has 5 grades, and VWO, which has six grades. The choice for a particular stream is made based on the scores of an aptitude test (most commonly the CITO test), the advice of the grade 6 teacher, and the opinion of the pupil's parents or caretakers. It is possible to switch between streams. After completing a particular stream, a pupil can continue in the penultimate year of the next stream, from VMBO to HAVO, and from HAVO to VWO.

Successfully completing a particular stream grants access to different levels of tertiary education. After VMBO, a pupil can continue training at the MBO ("middle-level applied education"). A HAVO diploma allows for admission to the HBO ("higher professional education"), which are universities of professional education. Only with a VWO graduation can a pupil enter a research university.

New Zealand

In New Zealand students attend secondary school from the ages from about 13 to 18 (though it is possible to be 12). Formerly known as Forms 3 to 7, these grades are now known as Years 9 to 13. Schooling is compulsory until the student's 16th birthday. Historically secondary schools are named as either a high school or a college with no differentiation between the two types. NCEA is the Government-supported school qualification. New Zealand also has intermediate schools, but these cover the last two years of primary education (years 7 and 8) and are not secondary schools.


Main article: Education in Pakistan

Secondary education in Pakistan begins from grade 9 and lasts for four years. Upon completion of grade 10, students are expected to take a standardised test administered by a regional Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISE). Upon successful completion of this examination, they are awarded a Secondary School Certificate (SSC). This is locally called the "matriculation certificate" or "matric". Students then enter a college and complete grades 11 and 12. Upon completion of grade 12, they again take a standardised test which is also administered by the regional boards. Upon successful completion of this test, students are awarded the Higher Secondary (School) Certificate (HSC). This level of education is also called the F.Sc./F.A/ICS or "intermediate". There are many streams students can choose for their 11 and 12 grades, such as pre-medical, pre-engineering, humanities (or social sciences), computer science and commerce. Some technical streams have recently been introduced for grades 11 and 12.

Alternative qualifications in Pakistan are also available but not maintained by the BISE but by other examination boards. Most common alternative is the General Certificate of Education (GCE), where SSC and HSC are replaced by Ordinary Level (O Level) and Advanced Level (A Level) respectively. Other qualifications include IGCSE which replaces SSC. GCE O Level, IGCSE and GCE AS/A Levels are managed by British examination boards of CIE of the Cambridge Assessment and Edexcel of the Pearson PLC. Advanced Placement (AP) is an alternative option but much less common than GCE or IGCSE. This replaces the secondary school education as "high school education" instead. AP exams are monitored by a North American examination board, the College Board, and can only be given under supervision of centers which are registered with the College Board, unlike GCE O/AS/A Level and IGCSE which can also be given privately.


In Paraguay, secondary education is called educación media. After nine years of educación escolar básica (primary school), a student can choose to go to either a bachillerato técnico (vocational school) or a bachillerato científico (high school); both are part of the educación media system. These two forms of secondary education last three years, and are usually located in the same campus called colegio.

The bachillerato técnico combines general education with some specific subjects, referred to as pre-vocational education and career orientation. Fields include mechanical, electricity, commerce, construction, and business administration.

After completing secondary education, a student can enter university. It is also possible for a student to choose both técnico and científico schooling.


Main article: Education in Poland


Main article: Education in Portugal

See High School in Portugal


There were around 60,000 general education schools in the 2007–2008 school year;[5] this includes ca. 5,000 advanced learning schools specializing in foreign languages, mathematics etc., and 2,300 advanced general-purpose schools. Those identified as Russian: Гимназии и лицеи, gymnasiums and lycaeums, and 1,800 schools for all categories of disabled children; it does not include vocational technical schools and technicums. Private schools accounted for 0.3% of elementary school enrolment in 2005 and 0.5% in 2005.[6]

According to a 2005 UNESCO report, 96% of the adult population has completed lower secondary schooling and most of them also have an upper secondary education.[7]


Children attend primary school for the first 6 levels, then secondary schools for the next 4/5 levels. This is followed by either junior college for two-year courses or centralised institutes for three-year courses.

Based on results of the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), Singapore's students undergo secondary education in either the Special (abolished in 2008), Express, Normal streams or the Integrated Programme (implemented in 2004). Both the Special and Express are four-year courses leading up to a Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education (GCE) "Ordinary" or "O level" examination. The difference between Special and Express is that the former takes higher mother tongue, which can be used as a first language in exams instead of the subject "mother tongue" that Express students take. However, if some Express students can cope with higher mother tongue, they are allowed to use it as a first language in exams too.

The Normal stream is a four-year course leading up to a Singapore-Cambridge GCE "Normal" - "N" level examination, with the possibility of a 5th year followed by a Singapore-Cambridge GCE "Ordinary" - "O" level examination. It is split into "Normal (Academic)" and "Normal (Technical)" where in the latter students take subjects that are technical in nature, such as design and technology.

The Integrated Programme (IP) is a six-year programme offered to the top 10 percent of the cohort to pass through the O level exams, and go straight to the affiliated JC.

After the second year of a secondary school course, students are typically streamed into a wide range of course combinations, making the total number of subject they have to sit for in "O" level six to ten subjects. This includes science (Physics, Biology and Chemistry), humanities (Elective Geography/History, Pure Geography/History, Social Studies, Literature) and additional mathematics subject at a higher level, or "combined" subject modules.

Some schools have done away with the O level examination, and pupils only sit for the A level examination or the International Baccalaureate at the end of their sixth year (known as Year 6 or Junior College 2).

Co-curricular activities have become compulsory at the secondary level, where all pupils must participate in at least one core CCA, and participation is graded together with other things like leadership throughout the four years of secondary education, in a scoring system. Competitions are organised so that students can have an objective towards which to work, and in the case of musical groups, showcase talents. [8]


Main article: Education in Slovenia

In Slovenia, a variety of high-school institutions for secondary education exists one can choose in accordance with his or her interests, abilities and beliefs. The majority of them are public and government-funded, although there are some diocesan upper secondary schools and a Waldorf upper secondary school, which are private and require tuition to be paid.

Upper secondary schools (gimnazije) are the most elite and the most difficult high-school programmes, intended for the best students who wish to pursue university education. They are further divided into general upper secondary schools, classical upper secondary schools, technical upper secondary schools, upper secondary schools for arts, and upper secondary schools for business. They all last for four years and conclude with a compulsory leaving examination (matura) that is a prerequisite for studying at universities. Their curricula include a wide range of subjects that should deliver a broad general knowledge.

Technical high schools last for four years and cover a wide range of disciplines. They end with a vocational leaving examination and allow pupils to study at vocational or professional colleges.

Vocational high schools come in two varieties: the dual and in school-based programme. For the former, the apprenticeship is provided by employers, while the practical training for the latter is offered in school. Both of them complete with a final examination. Students may continue their education in the two-year vocational-technical programme (colloquially known as 3+2 programme), which prepares them for vocational leaving exam if they want to pursue higher education.

The leaving exam course is a one-year programme, intended for vocational leaving exam graduates. After completing leaving exam course, they take the leaving examination, which makes the eligible for university education.

The vocational course is a one-year programme provided to upper secondary school students who, for various reasons, do not want to continue their education. It concludes with a final examinations, qualifying the applicants for a selected occupation.


Main article: Education in Spain

Secondary education in Spain is called educación secundaria obligatoria ("compulsory secondary education"), usually known as ESO, and lasts for four years (age 12 to 16). As its name indicates, every Spanish citizen must, by law, attend secondary education when they arrive at the defined age. The state is also committed to guaranteeing every student the possibility of attending it, and also at a state-run school (hence no tuition fees) if so demanded.


Main article: Education in Sweden

Gymnasium school usually starts at 16, and is not mandatory. However, since the 1970s most students attend it.


Main article: Education in Turkey
Robert College in Istanbul

Secondary education includes all of the general, vocational and technical education institutions that provide at least four years of education after primary school. The system for being accepted to a high school changes almost every year. Sometimes private schools have different exams; sometimes there are three exams for three years; sometimes there's only one exam but it is calculated differently; sometimes they only look at a student's school grades. Secondary education aims to give students a good level of common knowledge, and to prepare them for higher education, for a vocation, for life and for business in line with their interests, skills and abilities. In the academic year 2001-2002 2.3 million students were enrolled and 134,800 teachers were employed in 6,000 education institutions.

General secondary education covers the education of children between 15-18 for at least four years after primary education. General secondary education includes high schools, foreign language teaching high schools, Anatolian high schools, high schools of science, Anatolian teacher training high schools, and Anatolian fine arts high schools.

Vocational and technical secondary education involves the institutions that both raise students as manpower in business and other professional areas, prepare them for higher education and meet the objectives of general secondary education. Vocational and technical secondary education includes technical education schools for boys, technical education schools for girls, trade and tourism schools, religious education schools, multi-program high schools, special education schools, private education schools and health education schools.

Secondary education is often referred to as high school education, since the schools are called lyceum (lise).


United Kingdom

Main articles: Education in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom secondary schools offer secondary education covering the later years of schooling. State secondary schools in England and Wales are classed as either (selective) grammar schools, (non-selective) comprehensive schools, city technology colleges or academies. Within Scotland, there are only two types of state-run schools, Roman Catholic or non-denominational. Most secondary schools in England and Wales are comprehensive schools. Grammar schools have been retained in some counties in England. Academies (previously known as city academies) are a new type of school introduced in 2000 by the New Labour government of Tony Blair. Independent secondary schools generally take pupils at age 13.

The table below lists the equivalent secondary school year systems used in the United Kingdom:

Scotland England, Wales Northern Ireland Equivalent ages
Primary 7 Year 7 (First Form) Year 8 (First Form) 11-12
First Year (Secondary 1) Year 8 (Second Form) Year 9 (Second Form) 12-13
Second Year (Secondary 2) Year 9 (Third Form) Year 10 (Third Form) 13-14
Third Year (Secondary 3) Year 10 (Fourth Form) Year 11 (Fourth Form) 14-15
Fourth Year (Secondary 4) Year 11 (Fifth Form) Year 12 (Fifth Form) 15-16
Fifth Year (Secondary 5) Year 12/Lower Sixth/AS/First Year College Year 13 [Post 16] Lower Sixth 16-17
Sixth Year (Secondary 6) Year 13/Upper Sixth/A2/Second Year College Year 14 [Post 16] Upper Sixth 17-18

Private schools in England and Wales generally still refer to years 7-11 as 1st-5th Form, or alternatively privates schools refer to Year 7 as IIIrds (Thirds), Y8 as LIV (Lower Four), Y9 as UIV (Upper Four), Y10 as LV (Lower Fifth), Y11 as UV (Upper Fifth) and then Sixth-Form.

England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Education in England, Wales, Northern Ireland

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, students usually transfer from primary school straight to secondary school at age 11. In a few parts of the UK there are middle schools for ages 9 to 13 (similar to American middle schools), and upper schools for ages 13–18. A handful of 8-12 middle schools, and 12-16 or 18 secondary schools still exist. These schools were first introduced in September 1968, and the number rose dramatically during the 1970s, but the number of such schools has declined since the mid-1980s.

It is uncommon, but sometimes secondary schools (particularly in South West Wales) can also be split into 'Upper' (ages 13–16) and 'Lower' secondary schools (ages 11–13).

Education is compulsory up until the end of year 13 (the last Friday in June in the academic year a person turns 18). Traditionally the five years of compulsory secondary schooling from ages 11 to 16 were known as "first year" through to "fifth year," (and still are in the private sector) but from September 1990 these years were renumbered Year 7 through to Year 11 (Year 8 to Year 12 in Northern Ireland) with the coming of the National Curriculum.

After Year 11 a student can opt to remain at school, transfer to a college, or to start an apprenticeship. Those who stay at school enter Years 12 and 13 (Years 13 and 14 in Northern Ireland). These years are traditionally known as the Sixth Form ("Lower Sixth" and "Upper Sixth"), and require students to specialise in three to five subjects for their A Levels. In ever-increasing numbers since the 1990s some students also undertake more vocational courses at college such as a BTEC or other such qualification.

This is an unusually specialised curriculum for this age group by international standards, and recently some moves have been made to increase the number of subjects studied. After attaining the relevant A Level qualifications the student can enter university.


In Scotland, students usually transfer from primary to secondary education at 12 years old, one year later than in the rest of the UK.[9] The first and second years of secondary school (abbreviated to S1 and S2) continues the "Curriculum for Excellence"[10] started in primary school. At age 14, students choose which subjects they wish to study with certain compulsory subjects such as English and Mathematics for S3 and S4. These are called Standard Grades, but some schools use Intermediates which take two years to complete with an exam at the end of S4. At age 16, after Standard Grades or Intermediates, some students leave to gain employment or attend further education colleges, but most students study for Highers, of which five are usually chosen. These take a year to complete. At age 17 some students decide to apply for university or stay on for 6th year, where other Highers are gained, or Advanced Highers are studied. Due to the nature of schooling in Scotland, undergraduate honours degree programmes are four years long as matriculation is normally at the completion of Highers in S5 (age 17), which compares with three years for the rest of the UK from age 18. As well as instruction through the English language education Gaelic medium education is also available throughout Scotland.

United States

As part of education in the United States, the definition of secondary education varies among school districts but generally comprises grades 7, 8, and 9 through 12; grade 5 and grade 6 are also sometimes included. Grades 9 through 12 is the most common grade structure for high school.


Secondary education in Vietnam is optional under the law, however most children choose to receive secondary education, since the school fee is affordable for most working families. It is divided into two levels, secondary (grades 6-9) and tertiary (grades 10-12). Students have 12 compulsory subjects to learn, including but not limited to, Literature, Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, History, Geography, and Foreign language. Starting from tertiary school (grade 10), each of the above-mentioned subject has two levels of study: Basic and Advanced. Students are divided into five groups:

The division into groups is deemed necessary, as until 2014, students who wishes to go to college had to take a University Entrance exam covering three subjects according to those listed groups. Since 2015, the Ministry of Education has started an experimental program to merge the Graduation Exam and University Entrance exam into one.

To continue tertiary level education, students must pass all end-of-year exams at the end of Grade 9. Students will graduate from high school if they pass the Graduation Test (used to cover six subjects). If not, they must wait for a year to retake the test.

An alternative for tertiary education is institutes of vocational training (trung cấp nghề). Students receive specialized training for a specific trade. After 2.5–3 years students are able to apply for jobs.

Names for secondary education by country

See also


  1. "What schooling and training is there for my family and me?". Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Archived from the original on 15 April 2013. Retrieved 16 February 2010.
  3. "Übertritt aufs Gymnasium: Lehrer wählen besser aus" (in German). SPIEGEL ONLINE. 12 December 2013. Retrieved 2016-10-25.
  4. "Education Around The World: Mexico". Retrieved 2011-09-25.
  5. "Statistics (in Russian): number of schools by type and year". Ministry of Education and Science. 2008-10-06.
  6. Education for all by 2015, p. 284
  8. "Co-Curricular Activities". Archived from the original on 2007-08-29. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  9. "A Guide to Education and Training in Scotland". A World of opportunity. Edinburgh: Scottish Government. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
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