A primary school is an institution in which children receive the first stage of compulsory education known as primary or elementary education. Primary school is the preferred term in the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth Nations, and in most publications of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).In some countries, and especially in North America, the term elementary school is preferred. Children generally attend primary school from around the age of four or five until the age of eleven or twelve.
An elementary school is an institution where children receive the first stage of compulsory education known as elementary or primary education. Elementary school is the preferred term in some countries, particularly those in North America. Primary school is the preferred term in the United Kingdom, India, Ireland, Pakistan, Australia, Latin America, South Africa and New Zealand and in most publications of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The elementary school has always been the main point of delivery for primary education; and the (senior) high school has always been the focal point of secondary education. Originally, elementary school was synonymous with primary education, taking children from Kindergarten through grade 8; and secondary school was entirely coextensive with the high school grades 9 - 12. This system was the norm in America until the years following World War I, because most children in most parts of what was then the mostly rural United States could go no further than Grade 8. Even when the high schools were available, they were often not accessible.
As the population grew and became increasingly urban and suburban instead of rural, the one-room schoolhouse gave way to the multi-room schoolhouse, which became multiple schools. This produced the third genre of school - the junior high school - which was designed to provide transitional preparation from primary school to secondary school, thus serving as a bridge between the elementary school and the high school. Elementary schools typically operated grades Kindergarten through 6; the junior high school, often housed in the same building as the senior high school, then covered grades 7 through 9; and the senior high school operated grades 10 through 12.
It was typical during this period for state departments of education to certify (in California, "credential") teachers to work in either primary or secondary education. A Primary School Certificate qualified the holder to teach any subject in grades K through 8, and his/her major and minor subjects in grade 9. A Secondary School Certificate qualified the holder to teach any subject in grades 7 and 8, and his/her major and minor subjects in grades 9 through 12. Certain subjects, such as music, art, physical, and special education were or could be conferred as K through 12 Teaching Certificates.
By the late 1960s, the lines of transition between primary and secondary education began to blur, and the junior high school started to get replaced by the middle school. This change typically saw reassignment of grade 9 to the (senior) high school, with grade 6 reassigned to the middle school with grades 7 and 8. Subsequent decades in many states have also seen the realignment of teacher certification, with grade 6 frequently now included on the secondary teaching certificate. Thus, whereas 20th century American education began with the elementary school finishing at grade 8, the 21st century begins with the American elementary school finishing at grade 5 in many jurisdictions.
Nevertheless, the older systems do persist in many jurisdictions. While they are in the minority today, there are still school districts which, instead of adopting the "middle school", still distinguish between junior and senior high schools. Thus, high schools can be either 9-12, which is most common, or 10-12.