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A public school, has two distinct meanings: elementary or secondary school supported and administered by state and local officials or in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, a private boarding school, generally not coeducational, that prepares students for the university.
In most English-speaking countries, a public school is financed and operated by an agency of government which does not charge tuition fees; instead, financing is obtained through taxes or other government-collected revenues. This is in contrast to a private school (also known as an independent school). Here, the word "public" is used in the same sense as in "public library", that is, provided for the public at public expense. These public schools range in classes from kindergarten to four years of high school or secondary school, normally taking pupils up to the age of seventeen or eighteen.
In some countries, including England, Wales, and Northern Ireland (where public schools are independent schools that are open to any fee paying member of the public irrespecitve of religion, citizenship, etc) the term state school is used instead. In Hong Kong the term is government schools.
Given that most, if not all, public-school users benefit from government subsidies in attending public schools, thus incurring a lower cost to attend public schools than do their tuition-paying private-school counterparts to attend private schools, and given the existence, support for, and proliferation of private schools, at present it remains indeterminate whether public schools are a government entitlement program, or a feature of the welfare state. The issue is particularly contentious in the United States, wherein public-school curricula are fundamentally limited by principles of Constitutional law.
United States of America
Public-school education in the United States is provided mainly by local governments, with control and funding coming from three levels: federal, state, and local. Curricula, funding, teaching, and other policies are set through locally elected school boards by jurisdiction over school districts. The school districts are special-purpose districts authorized by provisions of state law. Generally, state governments can and most, if not all, do set minimum standards relating to almost all activities of primary and secondary schools, as well as funding and authorization to enact local school taxes to support the schools -- primarily through real property taxes. The federal government funds aid to states and school districts that meet minimum federal standards. School accreditation decisions are made by voluntary regional associations. The first tax-supported public school in America was in Dedham, Massachusetts.
Public-school education in the United States is distinguished from public-school education in other developed nations in that under the United States Constitution most aspects of religious education are forbidden by law to public schools and public-school pupils.
Modern high school in USA
Public school is normally split up into three stages: primary (elementary) school (kindergarten to 4th or 5th or 6th grade), junior high (also "intermediate", or "middle") school (5th or 6th or 7th to 8th) and high school (9th to 12th, somewhat archaically also called "secondary school"), with some less populated communities incorporating high school as 7th to 12th. Some Junior High Schools (Intermediate Schools) contain 7th to 9th grades or 7th and 8th, in which case the High School is 10th to 12th or 9th to 12th respectively. The middle school format is increasing in popularity, in which the Elementary School contains kindergarten through 5th grade and the Middle School contains 6th through 8th grade. In addition, some elementary schools are splitting into two levels, sometimes in separate buildings: Primary (usually K-2) and Intermediate (3-4 or 3-5).
In the United States, institutions of higher education that are subsidized by U.S. states are also referred to as "public." However, unlike public secondary schools, public universities charge tuition, though these fees are subsidized, particularly for "in-state" students, and are usually lower than those charged by private universities. Community colleges are examples of public institutions of higher education, although there are many highly-regarded universities that are deemed 'public', both due to their subsidized tuition for "in-state" students, and due to the fact that the administrations of many of these universities are elected via the general electoral ballot.
Queen Elizabeth School in Canada
Public-school education in Canada is a provincial responsibility and, as such, there are many variations between the provinces. Junior Kindergarten (or equivalent) exists as an official program in some, but not most, places. Kindergarten (or equivalent) is available in every province, but provincial funding and the level of hours provided varies widely. Starting at grade one, at about age five, there is universal publicly-funded access up to grade twelve (or equivalent). Schools are generally divided into Elementary or Primary school (Kindergarten to Grade 4, 5 or 6), Intermediate, Middle school or Junior High School (Grade 5, 6 or 7 to Grade 8 or 9), and Secondary, or High School (Grade 9 or 10 to 12). In some schools, particularly in rural areas, the elementary and middle levels can be combined into one school. Commencing in 2003, Grade 13, or OAC, was eliminated in Ontario. It had previously been required only for students who intended to go on to university. Children are required to attend school until the age of sixteen.
Some Canadian provinces offer segregated-by-religious-choice, but nonetheless publicly-funded and publicly-regulated, religiously-based education. In Ontario, for example, Roman Catholic schools are known as "Catholic School", not "Public School", although these are, by definition, no less 'public' than their secular counterparts.
The Act of Parliament which brought Alberta into Confederation stipulates that each school district in the province must have both a public school system and a separate school system. (Despite their names, both school systems are considered "public" in the greater scope of the term, as both are funded by taxpayers.) In districts where the majority of taxpayers are Roman Catholics, the public school system is run by the Roman Catholic school board. In districts where the majority of taxpayers are not Roman Catholic, the separate school system is run by the Roman Catholic school board. A certain proportion of property taxes are allocated to schools; each taxpayer chooses which school system he or she wishes to support, and is allowed to vote for school trustees based on their choice. As of 2006 only one school district, St. Albert, has a majority of Roman Catholic taxpayers, but many districts (including St. Paul and Bonnyville) have been majority Roman Catholic at one time or another. In Calgary, Jewish, Sikh, and Hindu public schools are also supported by the separate school system.
It is uncommon for Canadians to refer to grades as the "nth Grade". The more common syntax is "Grade n".
In some countries, such as Brazil and Mexico, the adjective "public" is used to denote education institutions owned by the federal, state, or city governments. They never charge tuition. Public schools exist in all levels of education, from the very beginning through post-secondary studies. The later years of schooling would be comparable to the state university systems in most US states.
The Danish School system is supported today by the public from day care to higher education. To read more about the history of the Danish public school system, go to Education in Denmark.
Today, education in Denmark is broken down into six age groups:
- Pre-School Education
- Folkeskole Education
- Secondary Education
- Higher Education
- Adult Education
Pre-school is a type of school in Denmark covering the time before children enter compulsory education. Preschool is the time most students enter the Danish education system.
The Folkeskole is one type of school in Denmark, covering the entire period of compulsory education. This form of education cannot, as in the case of many other nations' education systems, be divided into primary and secondary education. The Folkeskole consists of a voluntary pre-school class, the 9-year obligatory course and a voluntary 10th year. It thus caters for pupils aged 6 to 17.
The historical overview of general upper secondary education is divided into four headings, one covering the three-year Gymnasium, one covering the two-year Higher Preparatory Examination (HF), one covering the 3-year Higher Commercial Examination Programme (HHX), and one covering the three-year Higher Technical Examination Programme (HTX).
Higher and Adult Education is managed by Universities which follow international convention. Students from the age of 18 can go to college on government grants. This grant is called SU.
England, Wales and Northern Ireland
One of the schools in England
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the term "public school" refers to fee-charging independent secondary schools. The earliest known reference to a "public school" dates from 1364 when the Bishop of Winchester wrote concerning "the public school" at Kingston, which was then part of the diocese of Winchester.  In the 19th century the term was used to refer to a select group of nine old English independent schools in the Public Schools Act 1868, but many similar schools were soon to be established, and they were later joined by a number of ancient grammar schools that conformed to the ethos of the nine schools named in the Act. These schools were (and are) 'public' in the sense of being open to all students without any geographical or religious restriction -- at the time of their founding most existing schools were run by the Church and only open to members of the same denomination. The most important remaining restriction was (and is) the ability to afford the considerable fees for tuition and room and board. The term "public" once distinguished between education in a school and education by private tutors, which was once usual in royal and aristocratic families.
The term "public school" is generally used now in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to refer to any school that is a member of the Headmasters Conference: see the article Independent school (UK) for that sense of the term. The schools and their representative associations prefer the term "independent schools", but the news media in England and common usage often refer to them by the traditional name of "public schools". The term "private school" means the same as it does in other English-speaking countries.
In the United Kingdom the term "school" is not generally used to describe institutions of further or higher education, although it is used to denote academic and administrative divisions of learning within a university, such as a medical school or a school of engineering or political science, for example. It is otherwise restricted to primary and secondary schools. See School.
One of the schools in France
One of the schools in France
The French educational system is highly centralized, organized, and ramified. It is divided into three stages:
- primary education (enseignement primaire);
- secondary education (enseignement secondaire);
- tertiary or college education (enseignement supérieur)
Primary Schooling in France is mandatory as of age 6, the first year of primary school. Many parents start sending their children earlier though, around age 3 as kindergarten classes (maternelle) are usually affiliated to a borough's (commune) primary school. Some even start earlier at age 2 in pré-maternelle or garderie class, which is essentially a daycare facility.
French secondary education is divided into two schools:
- the collège (somewhat comparable to U.S. junior high school) for the first four years directly following primary school;
- the lycée (comparable to a U.S. high school) for the next three years.
The completion of secondary studies leads to the baccalauréat.
- For more details on this topic, see Baccalauréat.
The baccalauréat (also known as bac) is the end-of-lycée diploma students sit for in order to enter university, a classe préparatoire, or professional life. The term baccalauréat refers to the diploma and the examinations themselves. It is comparable to British A-Levels, American SATs, the Irish Leaving Certificate and German Abitur.
Most students sit for the baccalauréat général which is divided into 3 streams of study, called séries. The série scientifique (S) is concerned with mathematics and natural sciences, the série économique et sociale (ES) with economics and social sciences, and the série littéraire (L) focuses on French and foreign languages and philosophy.
One of the schools in France
A striking trait of higher education in France, compared to other countries such as the United States, is the small size and multiplicity of establishments, each specialized in a more or less broad spectrum of disciplines. A middle-sized French city, such as Grenoble or Nancy, may have 2 or 3 universities (for instance: science / humanities), and also a number of engineering and other specialized higher education establishments. For instance, in Paris and suburbs, there are 13 universities, most of which are specialized on one area or the other, and a large number of smaller institutions.
- Grandes écoles & classes préparatoires (CPGE)
The Grandes écoles of France are higher education establishments outside the mainstream framework of the public universities. They are generally focused on a single subject area, such as engineering, have a moderate size, and are often quite selective in their admission of students. They are widely regarded as prestigious, and traditionally have produced most of France's scientifists and executives.
one of the schools in Germany
Education in Germany is provided to a large extent by the government, with control coming from state level, (Länder) and funding coming from two levels: federal and state. Curricula, funding, teaching, and other policies are set through the respective states ministry of education. Decisions about the acknowledgment of private schools (the German equivalent to accreditation in the US) are also made by these ministries. However, public schools are automatically recognised, since these schools are supervised directly by the ministry of education bureaucracy.
Kindergartens are not part of the German public school system. (Although the worldwide first Kindergarten was opened in 1840 by Friedrich Wilhelm August Fröbel in the German town of Bad Blankenburg, and the term Kindergarten is even a loanword from the German language). Article 7 Paragraph 6 of the German constitution (the Grundgesetz) abolished pre-school as part of the German school system. However, Kindergartens exist all over Germany, particularly in former East Germany, where many of these institutions actually are public, but these Kindergartens are controlled by local authorities, charging tuition fees and are likewise not considered to be part of the public school system.
School named after goethe
A German public school does not charge tuition fees. The first stage of the German public school system is the Grundschule. (Primary School - 1st to 4th grade or, in Berlin and Brandenburg, 1st to 6th grade) After Grundschule (at 10 or 12 years of age), there are basically four options as to public secondary schooling:
- Hauptschule (the least academic, much like a modernized Volksschule) until grade 9 or, in Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia until 10th Grade.
- Realschule (formerly Mittelschule) until grade 10.
- Gymnasium (High School) until grade 12 or 13 (with Abitur as exit exam, qualifying for admission to university).
- Gesamtschule (comprehensive school) with all the options of the three "tracks" above.
A Gesamtschule largely corresponds to an American high school. However, it offers the same school leaving certificates as the other three types of German secondary schools - the Hauptschulabschluss (school leaving certificate of a Hauptschule after 9th Grade or in Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia after 10th Grade), the Realschulabschluss, also called Mittlere Reife, (school leaving certificate of a Realschule after 10th Grade) and Abitur, also called Hochschulreife, after 13th or seldom after 12th Grade. Students who graduate from Hauptschule or Realschule continue their schooling at a vocational school until they have full job qualifications. This type of German school, the Berufsschule, is generally an upper-secondary public vocational school, controlled by the German federal government. It is part of Germany's dual education system. Students who graduate from a vocational school and students who graduate with good GPA from a Realschule can continue their schooling at an other type of German public secondary school, the Fachoberschule, a vocational high school. The school leaving exam of this type of school, the Fachhochschulreife, enables the graduate to start studying at a Fachhochschule (polytechnic), and in Hesse also at a university within the state. The Abitur from a Gesamtschule or Gymnasium enables the graduate to start studying at a polytechnic or at a university in all states of Germany.
More modern school in Germany
In Germany, most institutions of higher education are subsidized by German states and are therefore also referred to as staatliche Hochschulen. (public universities) Most German public universities and polytechnics do not charge for tuition, though fees for guest or graduate students are charged by many universities. However, many German states plan to introduce general tuition fees for all students at public institutions of higher education in the near future.
See the article Education in Germany for more details on public schools in Germany.
In Scotland, public schools, often called "state schools", are schools run or financed by the government. Children start primary school aged between four and a half and five and a half depending on when the child's birthday falls. As the Scottish school year means all those born between March and February of the following year may be in the same year group. Children born between March and August would start school at five years old and those born between September and February start school at age four-and-a-half. Pupils remain at primary school for seven years completing Primary One to Seven. Then aged eleven or twelve, they start secondary school for a compulsory four years with the final two years being optional. In Scotland, school pupils sit Standard Grade exams at the age of fifteen/sixteen, sometimes earlier, for up to eight subjects including compulsory exams in English, mathematics, a foreign language, a science subject and a social subject; it is now required by the Scottish Parliament to have two hours of physical education a week. Each school may vary these compulsory combinations. The school leaving age is generally sixteen (after completion of standard grade), after which students may choose to remain at school and study for Access, Intermediate or Higher Grade and Advanced Higher exams.
The schools which the rest of the UK calls public schools are usually called Independent Schools. A small number of students at certain private, independent schools may follow the English system and study towards GCSEs instead of Standard Grades, and towards A and AS-Levels instead of Higher Grade and Advanced Higher exams. Occasionally, due to their English educational influences, schools such as Gordonstoun, Fettes College, Loretto College and Strathallan School are often wrongly referred to as "public schools".
Education in Australia follows a three tier model: primary, secondary and tertiary education. Education is primarily regulated by the individual state governments, not the federal government. Education is compulsory up to an age specified by legislation; this age varies but is generally 15 or 16, that is prior to completing secondary education.
Under the Australian Government’s Schools Assistance (Learning Together – Achievement Through Choice and Opportunity) Act 2004, all education authorities, including non-government schools, have now committed to implement a common school starting age by 1 January 2010 and a common description (nomenclature) for the year before Year 1 and the two years before Year 1.
Post-compulsory education is regulated within the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), a unified system of national qualifications in schools, vocational education and training (TAFEs and private providers) and the higher education sector (mainly universities).
Primary and Secondary
A primary school in rural Victoria.
Primary and secondary education may be provided by:
- Government schools (also known as State schools, or public schools)
- Independent schools (the older of these institutions are sometimes called Public School)
There has been a strong drift of students to independent schools during the past decade.
Government schools educate the majority of students and do not charge large tuition fees (most do charge a fee as a contribution to costs). The major part of their costs is met by the relevant State or Territory government. Independent schools, both religious or secular (the latter often with specialisations), may charge much higher fees.
Whilst independent schools are sometimes considered 'public' schools like their English counterparts (as in the Associated Public Schools of Victoria), in some states of Australia, the term 'public school' is usually synonymous with a government school.
Government schools can be divided into two types: open and selective. The open schools accept all students from their government defined catchment areas, while selective schools have high entrance requirements and cater to a much larger area. Entrance to selective schools is often highly competitive. In Victoria, for example, more than 3000 applicants sit the entrance exam each year competing for the 600 available places at Mac.Robertson Girls' High School and Melbourne High School.
Doon School in Dehradun, India
India and Sri Lanka
In India and Sri Lanka, due to the British influence, the term "public schools" implies non-governmental, historically elite educational institutions, often modeled on British public schools.
In Pakistan, the term "public school" has historically been used for British-styled boarding schools such as Abbottabad Public School and Bahawalpur Public School. This has established a strong branding for the term "public school", though most of these schools are private, boarding-centric and non-governmental.
In South Africa, the South African Schools Act of 1996 recognised two categories of schools: public and independent. Independent schools include all private schools and schools that are privately governed. Independent schools with low tuition fees are state-aided and receive a subsidy on a sliding-scale. Traditional private schools that charge high fees receive no state subsidy.
Public schools are all state-owned schools, including section 21 schools (formerly referred to as Model C or semi-private schools) that have a governing body and a degree of budget autonomy, as these are still fully-owned and accountable to the state.
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